The untimely demise of actor Inder Kumar, who succumbed to cardiac arrest at 43 on Friday, exposes Bollywood’s dark underbelly, which is lined with countless stories of despair born out of professional disillusions. According to friends, the late actor who had rubbed shoulders with Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Sanjay Dutt on screen in early 2000s, was battling alcohol and substance abuse even as he underwent treatment for depression. However, his wife, Pallavi Sarraf, who oversaw the last rites on Friday evening, asserts that he had been working on two comeback films – ‘Who Is The First Wife Of My Father?’ and a yet-untitled bilingual – and wasn’t depressed.
“He went away too early, too soon,” she said. In 1995, at 22, Inder left Kolkata with little money and no familial support to chase Bollywood dreams. He bunked with four aspiring actors in Lokhandwala, dashing from one audition to another for two months. Then, Dhirubhai, an executive producer with Times Music, cast him in a number of music videos and after six months, introduced him to his filmmaker friend Mahesh Kothare who was working on the Hindi remake of his Marathi hit ‘Maza Chakula’. Inder was signed opposite Ayesha Jhulka. ‘Masoom’ was a surprise hit.
While shooting for his second film, ‘Ghoonghat’, he impressed Chinni Prakash with his dance moves and the choreographer extended his portions in all the film’s tracks. ‘Tirchi Topiwale’ (1998) brought him close to Monica Bedi. They attended Bollywood soirees together and developed a circle of mutual friends who would come to Inder’s aid in later years. One of them, Raju Kariya worked as Inder’s publicist-manager till 2009. He’d also given his blessing to the marital alliance between Inder and his daughter, Sonal. “He was like a son to me. He’d call me baba,” said an emotional Raju.
Inder also caught the eye of Salman Khan and they bonded over films, fitness and food. Salman got him a role in ‘Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye’ and then a part in buddy Sanjay Dutt’s ‘Baaghi’ in 2000. A year later, they reunited for ‘Tumko Na Bhool Payenge’. Around the time, filmmaker-siblings Saeed and Aziz Mirza paired him with Isha Koppikar in ‘Ek Tha Dil, Ek Thi Dhadkan’. “The film never saw light of day but Inder and Isha started dating and were soon inseparable,” informed Raju.
Inder was on the rise when a knee injury in 2002 triggered a downward spiral. While filming Partho Ghosh’s ‘Maseeha’, Inder insisted on doing his own stunts against the advice of action directors Ravi Shinde and S Kamoo. A miscalculated jump from a helicopter damaged both his knees and he couldn’t walk for six months. “He only resumed work after two years and in Bollywood out of sight is out of mind. Everyone forgot Inder, so did Isha,” Raju reminisced.
The long period of inactivity took the actor to a psychiatrist’s door. He was put on anti-depressants. Inder moved in with Raju and Sonal began to look after him. “I was surprised when he told me he wanted to marry Sonal because I’d assumed he was still seeing Isha,” Raju admitted. On October 2, 2003, Salman hosted the wedding at Sea Princess Hotel. Ronit Roy who had replaced Inder as Mihir Virani in Ekta Kapoor’s ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’, stayed close to him through the night.
Soon after, Sujit Guha offered Inder the Bengali thriller, ‘Agnipath’. The film tanked, so did ‘Ek Aur Amar Premm’. The disappointments led to substance abuse and Sonal filed for divorce. “Inder saw their daughter Khushi for the last time at the final court hearing in 2005. Sonal moved to Nagpur with her and never returned,” Raju sighed.
Back on his own again, Inder learnt that Sahil Khan had bagged a parallel lead in Sohail Khan’s ‘Aaryan’ and went to the Khans. He trained hard but the film flopped. In the end, only industry friends Rahul Prakash and Keshav Arora remained by his side. Inder’s day would begin with a drink and he’d smoke two-three packets of cigarettes through it, informs a friend.
Two years later, in 2007, at a Holi party at filmmaker Sanjay Gupta’s residence, he rekindled his romance with Isha. But they broke up again and Isha went on to marry restaurateur Timmy Narang in 2009 while Inder suddenly announced that he was marrying Punjabi model-actress Kamaljeet Kaur. The same year, Salman gave him one last break in Prabhudheva’s Wanted. The film was a blockbuster and Salman was back. But Inder was still stuck with smallbudget films. His second marriage ended after a year.
He found love for the third time in 2013, when he met Pallavi, a model, at a party.They got married after a year of dating and had a daughter a year later. Inder thought it was the right time to turn producer.
But on April 25, 2014, he was arrested after a model accused him of rape and assault. He was charged under Sections 376 for rape, 324 for causing grievous hurt, and 506 for criminal intimidation. On May 9, medical reports supported the woman’s claims but Inder equivocally denied the allegations, arguing that it had been a consensual relationship. Pallavi vouched for her husband but Inder was found guilty.
After being in jail for five months he was granted bail on June 10. “It was during this time that all the friends he’d made during his association with Monica Bedi came in handy and he came out of the jail looking fitter and better. Excited about his upcoming releases, he had called me last week to say that it had been a long time since we met. ‘Come, let’s party’ he urged. We had plans of a reunion on August 3. But the party, like his dreams to become a star, will remain unfulfilled,” sobbed Raju.