The prince and the show-girl


Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s death on September 22 brought to an end an enduring romance. When Sharmila Tagore tied the knot with the erstwhile royal 42 years ago, it was not only a marriage of cricket and cinema, but also one that broke many stereotypes.
He was a Nawab from a well-known Muslim family and she was a Hindu who belonged to the illustrious Tagore family. As she was to admit many times in later years, Pataudi, popularly known as Tiger, proved to be an exceptionally liberal companion.
Be it her wearing a bikini in ‘An Evening In Paris’ in 1967, when they were courting, or taking up glamorous roles after marriage in 1969 and later motherhood – he always stood by her, always the ideal partner.
She once said in an interview, “I haven’t given up anything (after marrying Tiger). He is very liberal in his views. I’ve gained a lot of experience and gained another culture, cuisine, and way of dressing. I’ve benefited a lot.”
Their marriage was not expected to last – she converted, becoming Ayesha Sultana – but they proved naysayers wrong.
She once told a reporter, “If Tiger and I make attempts to promote harmony, I do not know how far we will succeed. People will say that I am not a Muslim and that Tiger is a fanatic.”
The couple had three children – Saif, Saba and Soha – but Tiger never stopped her from carrying on in showbiz. In fact, she gave most of her hits after marriage and motherhood.
Many years down the line, when he was arrested for poaching, the actress stood by her husband like a rock.
Death may have snatched away the man from the woman, but like an advertisement they did together, in popular imagination – Tiger and Sharmila will live on together.