Which Bollywood celebs play high-stakes on Diwali

Purnima Lamchhane

Mumbai, Nov. 10 -- No one celebrates Diwali better than the film industry does. This season is the time of late night celebrations and groggy mornings in B-town. These festive parties are not only the perfect opportunities to build contacts, but they also give our stars a chance to dress traditionally, indulge in mouthwatering delicacies and gamble without guilt.

Apparently, it was Bollywood's original showman Raj Kapoor, who started the trend of card parties. His brother Shashi Kapoor and he, threw the most lavish Diwali parties every year, where A-listers got together, played cards and feasted on sumptuous food and flowing wine.

Rajesh Khanna ushered in a new era when Dimple Kapadia and he started hosting smaller group sessions with a select set of pals. These parties put an end to the era during which the entire industry fraternised under one roof. Now it was about comfort levels and friendship among equals. This is where the 'camps' began - which continue to this day. You could tell which actor belonged to which camp depending on which party he or she got invited to.

So who belongs to which camp today? Here's a list. (There might be a few free floaters amongst them who belong to no set groups, but the stars and filmmakers usually stick to their own gangs.) And while the stakes they play for may just be hearsay, their friendships certainly stand true.

The loyal band of brothers

Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan, Rishi Kapoor, Prem Chopra and the late actor, Surjit, were inseparable pals. According to rumours, in the 1980s they used to play high stakes running into Rs. 5 lakh a game. And they continue to be high rollers of the film industry. Insiders claim that of the five, Jeetendra was the lucky one and Rishi Kapoor - not so much. Believe it or faint - we're told that the highest amount ever lost (and therefore won) in the three decades of their friendship was a whopping Rs. 50 lakh.

The shagun gang

Hrithik and Sussanne Roshan, Zayed and Fardeen Khan, Esha Deol, Dia Mirza, Riya and Raima Sen are said to be a pretty

regular Diwali group. By industry standards, they are the shagun players. On an average, in a single night, their wins and losses could average between Rs. 1 to Rs. 2 lakh. Zayed is apparently quite the bluff master. He plays boldly, maintaining a poker face.

Playing it safe

Aamir Khan's card games reflect his personality. If insiders are to be believed, Aamir is as cautious at the card table as he is at work. He never goes wild, even when he has a good hand. The regulars at his card table are his cousins and Dharmesh Darshan, Anil Thadani and Girish Dhamija.

Regulars only club

Everyone's mannat is to be invited to SRK's parties. After all, wife Gauri throws the most lavish dos at their house. An invitation to their Diwali party, we hear, is the most coveted one. The regulars, of course, remain the same every year - Karan Johar, Sabina Khan, Chunky and Bhavna Pandey, Sanjay Kapoor, Maheep Kapoor, Kajal Anand and a select few other invitees. Shah Rukh, we hear, has no set style of playing. He plays according to his mood. And he sets the stakes according to whom he's playing against.

With his star friends, he plays big stakes, but regular Joes need not worry. With them, he sets small enough stakes so that everyone can afford to play at his home during Diwali.

His friends claim he loves to bet on who will win a particular hand, and the wager is always a simple Rs. 10, so everyone can bet with SRK.

High rollers

Sajid Khan, we hear, hosts a table of high rollers and is said to be super-bold and open-handed when it comes to cards. His guests come prepared with enough moolah. Farah Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Sajid Nandiadwala, Arbaaz and Malaika Arora Khan and Amrita Arora Ladak are some of the regulars at his table.

The lucky Kumar

His friends call Akshay Kumar a magician. Apparently, he has the luck of the devil when it comes to cards, and rarely loses. Some claim he is so good with cards that he can even predict who has winning hands at a table! The usual guests at his home include Bobby Deol, Vipul Shah and Anees Bazmee from the film industry. Other guests are non-filmi friends.

A birdie tells us that unlike his friend Akshay, Bobby Deol has just no luck in cards. Apparently he has not won a single game, ever.

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Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna

No limits

Kishen Kumar of T Series fame is yet another high roller. Guests at his Diwali parties are mainly from the music world, including Sonu Niigaam, Shaan and Mika. Kishen, we hear, has two sets of tables - one where the shagun players can indulge in small-stake games and the other. well, he presides over the no-limits set.

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Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.