Birthday cheer rings aloud though the Malik household in the green and celebrity-ridden locality of Yari Road with a handmade board, streamers, the works. Guests shall arrive in the evening in their finest attire and the party shall begin to celebrate three years of the existence of the star of the show. Happy Birthday Handsome, the Chow Chow, king of the house and ruler of their hearts. With his stylish bow-bib in place, he is all set to welcome his brother, sister and cousins who live nearby to share in his joy. Well, all he has to do is just sit and look handsome really while mum and brothers do the running about.
Enter Armaan Malik, younger son of singer-composer Daboo Malik, defined today by his roaring success at the ripe age of 22. The cute little face on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil’ Champs is today singing away to adult stardom, with more than 10 songs to his credit including Sau Asmaan, Bol Do Na Zara, Hua Hain Aaj Pehli Baar, Wajah Tum Ho and more under Armaan. Soaking it in, yet humble as any graduate student who is juggling a career and touring the country, the world, can be! Having sung with A R Rehman for Robot most recently, Armaan is on top of the moon, yet when we sit with him and collectively fuss over Handsome and the right shot, he is there with us, bending and twisting to not so much ours but younger brother’s tunes more so. Boyish grin on, Armaan exclaims, “If there were ever a lazier dog!” Handsome could care less, the fluffy Chow who stays true to every fibre of his being, his ilk. “It’s just the doorbell and the word ‘drive’ that can get him animated, not much else,” as we are witness to; yet sporting Armaan gets him to ‘smile for the camera’ just when elder brother, stylish and commanding, Amaal Mallik (note the extra L) enters, coiffed and set to get Handsome on his paws. And it works. The only one who can lift the fluff ball, Amaal is all game and there you have it, a shoot that’s rolling, relatively fast-paced, albeit with intermittent ice-cube breaks for the big boy to stay cool and collected. Which brings us to the impending query of keeping a breed like the Chow Chow in a country as ours?
“We have the A/C on all through the day for Handsome and ice chips are a must for him,” shares Amaal, “and he loves drives with dad.” Probably his favourite activity as it keeps the wind in his fur long after, we presume. Just the very mention of a cruise with dad Daboo and Handsome is all set. Or even the sight of the leash in his hand tells him it’s either a drive or a walk, the latter more a cherished activity in the morning with brother Amaal. “Handsome is my first pet and I’m the one who brought him home, into our lives. My mum was, and still is, afraid of other dogs, but Handsome, he is her ladla and she his guardian. I can’t call him my dog anymore!” That’s what mothers do best and for Jyothi, who spends most time with him, it was inevitable. The pretty lady enters, her appearance belying her 27 years as a mother and the first thought she throws at us is, “Shall we put on his bow?” So bow in tow, the birthday boy is set for his third round of shoots while mum continues to play manager, as she does with her boys’ careers, too, ensuring they choose the right track and don’t waver, stay grounded in the frenetic and encapsulating world of fresh stardom.
But today is all about her youngest one, who she dotes over and keeps his grooming in check, a tough task for a breed like the Chow. Jyothi is hands-on with his appearance which includes hair-brushing every day apart from groomer visits. As for his personality, we deduce he is more of a cat, again indicative of his breed. Lord of the house, lazy, and intent solely on his areas of interest, Handsome is a star. With his ‘pawficial’ social media pages on Twitter and Insta @hihandsome08 – 36.2k likes and counting – ever more so. Check out his special Chicken Birthday Cake by Harley’s Corner on the page and you’ll get an idea of the love showered by the Maliks on Handsome.
Right from the moment Amaal laid eyes on him, he knew this one is a Malik. And so home came this ball of fur, a month old, all the way from Poona in a basket, unknowing of the world that lay before him. Recounts Amaal – while birthday boy takes a break and chomps down on his staple, dahi chawal – “After the success of my first song Sooraj Dooba Hain, I had my show in Poona. This trip is where I saw baby Handsome, the only one who walked towards me from the litter. His drive with me home is special as I heard my song for the first time on the radio as well.” The sweet smell of success for the commerce and Trinity College Jazz student, and Handsome to sweeten the memory. Amaal has gone on to win Filmfare, IIFA, Dadasaheb Phalke awards and more, with a repertoire of hits inclusive of Soch Na Sake, Ladki Beautiful Kar Gayi Chull,music for MS Dhoni, Golmaal 4, Badrinath ki Dulhaniya and collaborations with his brother Armaan running from Bol Do Na Zara, Main Rahoon Na Ya Rahoon, Sab Tera and more on the anvil. The young artist who lives in his own studio-cum-apartment says he will always rely on his Chow for the right note. “When Handsome hears a song he likes, he lets me know and that’s my recipe for success. He loves to listen to soothing love songs and dislikes dance music, our zen dog, truly.”
One happy family, the Maliks, with Amaal not being able to stay away for too long, hence choosing to reside two buildings away and the ritual of ice-cream at pet-friendly Café Doolaly staying intact. The 2.5-month vacation to New Zealand recently will remain their highlight of 2017 for it ensured quality time which gets rare for the boys with every rung of the ladder of fame crossed. Not to mention they were conferred with the Young Indian Achievers by then PM of NZ Bill English.
Which is why brothers’ time spent playing late night FIFA, watching movies, chilling with pals and Handsome moments are treasured. His birthday party was certainly an affair to remember, a Chow soiree, yet for the three-year-old fur-boy, all he wanted to do was wrap it up and head to his favourite place. “Handsome, window,” is all Armaan has to shout out and he’s bounding his way to the bedroom window where he sits and watches the day go by, the people pass along, and the serenity keeps him happy.