I hate to say this, but I saw it coming. Film Producer Madhu Varma Mantena had been in pain for a while. A week before he told me he has something important to tell me.
Then came the announcement that he and his wife of three years, Masaba Gupta, are bringing their marriage to an end. The announcement came on social media. This is where lives and relationships are made and unmade these days. Long live the sanctity of privacy.
Prior to Madhu, it was another friend, Arjun Rampal, who quit his marriage by “mutual consent”. Arjun told me he and his wife — married for 20 years — had parted “as friends”.
This, I find hard to believe. The effort to make a ruptured, amputated marriage look like a clean split is plainly an eyewash. Filmland marriages want to look squeaky-clean when they break up. But they are like messy murders. You can’t wash away the blood no matter how hard you try.
Hrithik Roshan and his former wife go on vacations with their children even after their marriage ended. It’s just not real. If they wanted to go on family vacations, why break the marriage? And if they did decide to mutually break the marriage, why the show of togetherness with pictures going up on social media even before the vacation has started?
I am pretty sure Madhu won’t go on post-marriage vacations with Masaba. He isn’t the media-friendly type and will refrain from indulging in ironic acts of simulated intimacy in a dead relationship.
Madhu has been gifted in what he has done. He has been involved in production and distribution of films in Hindi, Telugu and Bengali. In 2008, he co-produced “Ghajini”, the year’s highest-grossing Indian film. Since then he has produced “Rakht Charitra” in three languages, a political thriller “Rann” and the Bengali film “Autograph”, which did well.
Madhu co-founded Phantom Films with Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl and Vikramaditya Motwane, which brought out successes such as “Lootera”, “Queen”, “Hasee Toh Phasee” and “Bombay Velvet”. Madhu’s next film, “Super 30” — on the IIT success story — is awaited.
I have to admit, though, that Madhu has been singularly unlucky in love. He was in a very comfortable relationship with actress-author Nandana Sen for nearly eight years.
Madhu, Nandana and I had dinner once in Mumbai where they just couldn’t keep their eyes and hands off one another. When that relationship ended, Madhu, who always gets into relationships thinking they are for keeps, was determined to find love again. He got into another relationship with an author which ended as suddenly as it had begun.
Masaba seemed to be for keeps. Madhu just couldn’t get enough of her. Smothering your partner with love could create serious space problems. It did for Madhu’s marriage. He is now single and not quite ready to mingle. There is a lot of pain in the parting.
Madhu never wanted the marriage to end. But the show business saps you. Only the thick-skinned survive. Star-wives who have successfully managed to forge a life of their own, away from their star-husbands’ shadows have succeeded in keeping their marriages going. You think they don’t know about their husbands’ furtive flings?
Madhu’s marriage with Masaba was a fairytale coming together of two people. It soured because they never found a middle-ground between his targets as a producer and her goals as a dress designer.
Now as things stand, barring one, every one of the partners at Phantom — Anurag, Vikas and Madhu — has a broken marriage behind him.
If I was the fourth partner at Phantom, I’d seriously think about breaking away from the business, before another — a graver — break happens. But then you never know: Vikramaditya may turn out to be an outlier.