Parmeshwar Godrej & Imran Khan: The story of a soap-opera friendship
Their iconic friendship started around the cusp of the 1970s and 80s.
Khan received the bottle after captaining Pakistan to victory in the 1992 cricket World Cup. Being a teetotaller, he presented it to his famous friend across the border.
Pakistan’s PM- designate has had several friendships in India. But none of them have been as high profile and enduring as with the Godrejs, in particular Parmeshwar Godrej. It started around the cusp of the 1970s and the 80s, when the Pakistan all-rounder was coming into his own as a cricket star and heartthrob, and Godrej was growing into Mumbai’s top hostess with the power to assemble the global elite at her parties.
“There is competition among hosts to get the best guests, and getting Imran was a coup in those days,” says a renowned sports journalist who has covered Khan’s career since its early days.
So there, with Godrej, was Imran at China Garden, sometime in the 80s or 90s, in jeans, blazer and boots, a corpulent Shashi Kapoor in the background.
There he was with Liz Hurley at a party at the Godrej bungalow in Juhu. The music blared beyond deadline time on that occasion, and some neighbour/s complained to the police, leading to the democratic Mumbai sight of blue collar men in khaki asking the gentry to tone it down. Khan was also quick to tweet his tribute to Godrej when she passed away in 2016.
“Devastated by death of close friend, Parmeshwar Godrej, last night: she was always there for me in my most difficult times. May her husband Adhi (sic) and her children find strength to cope with this loss,” he posted.
Devastated by death of close friend, Parmeshwar Godrej, last night: she was always there for me in my most difficult times. 1/2— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) 1476159469000
Calls to the Godrej spokesperson to confirm the whereabouts of the cognac bottle were not answered. But another testament of Khan’s bond with the family surely lives on, and is accessible to the public online. It’s an advertisement he shot in the year 1987 for a Godrej soap.
Filmmaker Shantanu Sheorey and cinematographer Mahesh Aney filmed the commercial in Jaipur. It showed Imran bowling and then freshening himself up with the soap.
Aney says that an India-Pakistan match was to start the day after the shoot. And it wasn’t any match but one imbued with political meaning. The then Pakistan president Zia-ul-Haq was to drop by at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
But the shoot was a day earlier, before the town turned into a mela–fortress.
“It was perhaps the fastest ad I shot in my life,” Aney says. “Imran came to the ground around 8.30 am with Pam (Parmeshwar). He was very easy to work with. Sam Balsara (of ad agency Madison) was also there. We wrapped up by around 10.30 am.”
Parmeshwar Godrej, Aney says, was creatively involved in the campaign. In the subsequent days they also shot Imran in a tux at the Godrej bungalow in Mumbai, but the footage was not used in the final cut. The brief from Godrej, he says, was simple — to make it about cricket and freshness.
“Advertising was very different those days, a lot was left to the filmmaker,” Aney says. “Imran was a huge star and so we showed him bowling and then splashing his face with water.”
Very soon, Khan will be what Zia-ul-Haq was then — the leader of Pakistan. When he scrubs up for his big day, his mind may just travel back to Jaipur 1987 and the Godrejs.