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November 12, 1999


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No Press Calls For Dr Nene

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Aseem Chhabra in New York

The telephone rings four times and the answering machine starts. A man's voice in a crisp, confident, friendly and a clear American accent says:

"You have dialed (he says the phone number). I'm not in right now. Please leave a message with the time and date you called and Ill get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for calling and have a good day."

The machine is on practically at all times. The person who lives in the apartment works long hours and is rarely at home.

The voice belongs to Shriram Madav Nene, the 33-year old Los Angeles-based doctor, who made news last week when it was announced in Bombay that he had married Madhuri Dixit -- Bollywood's leading lady and the star of hit films like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Tezaab.

He did pick up the phone, once, earlier this week. It was 9.30 pm in Los Angeles, but 12.30 am, the next day, in New York. The conversation went something like this:

"Is that Dr. Nene?"


"Are you the same Dr Shriram Nene who married Madhuri Dixit last month?"


But when he was told that the call was a request for an interview, his tone suddenly changed. He seemed uncomfortable.

"Can we talk later?" he said, sounding unsure. "The hospital is beeping me. Can I call you back later."

He took the phone number down and seemed in real rush.

"Look, I really have to go. The hospital is beeping me again."

He hung up with an assurance that he would call back in half an hour. Not surprisingly, he did not call back.

"He is very busy and he is in surgery most of the time, so talking to him is kind of difficult," Dixit's eldest sister, Bharati Adkar, said from her home in Silicon Valley.

"To be honest with you, it is all so new for him," she said alluding to the fact the Nene was not used to being in the limelight and was uncomfortable talking to the press.

"Look if you want an interview with him, you will have talk to Madhuri," said Bharati's husband, Sanjay Adkar. "Or better still, call Rikku (Rakesh Nath who is Dixit's long-time secretary)."

When a call was placed to Nath's office in Bombay, a peon picked up the phone.

"Sahib is not in," he said in Hindi. "He won't be in for the next couple of days. He is out because it's Diwali."

Bharati and Sanjay did not reveal much about Nene, other than that he was born in London, and came to the US with his family in 1973. Bharati described Nene as "a brilliant chap, a brilliant surgeon, and a good human being," who was not fond of Bollywood movies.

The next option was to search for Shriram Nene on the Internet. Most search engines do not bring up any articles or listings on the name Nene.

But Shriram Nene's name can be looked up on the American Medical Associations physicians's database on the Internet. The Chicago-based national organization, has records of all practising doctors in the US.

The record under Nene reveals that he resides in Los Angeles, CA. His phone record (not provided by AMA) shows he lives in Westwood -- the trendy, student neighborhood of Los Angeles. The University of California, Los Angeles campus is located in the Westwood area.

According to AMA, Nene attended the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, one of the top ranking medical schools in the US. He graduated in 1993 and his primary practice speciality is listed as general surgery.

Last year, the Washington University School of Medicine was ranked the number four medical school in the US News magazine that lists the best American graduate institutions. The top three schools were Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and University of Pennsylvania. The same listing gave Washington University the number five ranking in the field of internal medicine.

A call placed to the alumni office at Washington University's School of Medicine did not reveal much information. The woman who answered the phone pulled up his record on her computer.

"I am afraid all we have on Dr Nene is his phone number and home address," she said. "Oh, but we cannot share that information with you. It is confidential. I guess he really hasn't kept in touch with his school," she added.

AMA's database states that Nene currently works as a resident trainee at UCLA's School of Medicine in the area of general surgery. He is supposed to finish his six-year residency next June. Sanjay Adkar earlier said that Nene's specialization had changed to cardiac surgery.

A senior physician at State University of New York's Stony Brook campus said that doctors pursuing their residency in US are normally paid an average annual salary of $ 30,000.

"Maybe since he (Nene) is in the sixth and final year of his residency he makes about $ 35,000," the physician said. "He must be putting in long hours -- 18 to 20 hours a day. They are overworked and underpaid."

That would be quite a contrast from Dixit and her financial status in India.

Although no movie of Dixit has been released in the last two years, at the height of her popularity in the mid-1990s the actress was said to command a salary of several millions of rupees.

So the search for Shriram Nene ended where it began. The very public Madhuri Dixit's mystery man remained elusive, with people around him doing their utmost to protect his privacy.

But he did call back -- albeit three days late. After several messages and even an attempt to beep him at his hospital last night, he left a message on this writer's answering machine.

"Hi, this is Ram Nene," he said in the same crisp, confident, friendly and a clear American accent. "I am sorry I haven't returned your call. Just have not had very much time."

"I just wanted to let you know, I discussed this with Madhuri," he continued.

"Basically, at this point we are not giving any interviews or photos. We are going to have a press conference in December, however. So at that point we will be more than happy to entertain any questions.

"I'll update you as to the whereabouts and the timing of that," he added.

"It should be public anyway. So just check your e-mail or check the wires and you should be able to find out about it.

"I am sorry. I didn't call you sooner. Just have been real busy at work.

"Take care. Bye"

Next: Desi Directors Make History In 3 Continents

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