SCOOP: THE NAMRATA SHIRODKAR - MAHESH MANJREKAR LOVE STORY!

By a Film Correspondent

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It doesn't take long for simpletons to become 'filmis.' After a stint in Marathi theatre, Mahesh Manjrekar decided to direct films for the sheer passion of cinema. He made a humble beginning with "Vaastav" which turned out to be a semi-hit. Thereafter, he was signed by Jackie Shroff to direct "Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai" and offers began streaming in.

"Vaastav" celebrated 100 days, Sanjay Dutt bagged the "Best Actor" award, and Universal threw a party to release the audio of JDMGRH. A couple of celebrations up and Mahesh Manjrekar suddenly became a name to reckon with. His "Astitva", lying unreleased for want of buyers, suddenly found a dozen takers. His puppy fat and torn hat were replaced by smart suits, spectacles (to give that erudite look), streaked locks and a tiny ponytail. Mahesh Manjrekar had arrived. With one's arrival into filmdom, comes the paraphernalia of controversies and link-ups, and he was no exception.

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After several actresses thumbed down the female lead in "Vaastav", he signed Namrata Shirodkar. During the shooting, they had a great rapport going between them. It was the start of a serious friendship. But at this time, Namrata was already living in with her steady boyfriend, restaurateur Deepak Shetty. (In fact, rumours have it that they had secretly married.) Unfortunately, matters between Namrata and her beau turned sour, culminating in a tragic split.

At this stage, Namrata needed a mentor cum godfather to resuscitate her sagging career. (She had hardly benefited from "Vaastav".) Mahesh and she eventually found love in each other. He even gave her a role in "Astitva" with Tabu. As of now, Mahesh and Namrata are pretty serious about each other. (Rumouredly, she is even living in with him.)

The director and actress have been seen together at several film parties. In fact, at the audio release of "Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai" in Taj, the guests were surprised to see Namrata making an entry around midnight with Bharat Shah and Raj Santoshi. Then when the JDMGRH crew went to Nanded (in Maharashtra) for a charity function, Namrata had even accompanied Mahesh to the airport. Apparently, Namrata (who is away for a series of stage shows to the States) is in constant touch with Mahesh in Mumbai.

One hears that Mahesh's wife is aware of her husband's extra-marital affair but has decided not to react.

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