Shah Rukh Khan’s tryst with controversy didn’t start with his ‘intolerance’ comment. Back when he first purchased his now-iconic house, he was facing backlash from heritage committees across Mumbai over changing anything about the building without proper procedure. That’s when Neeta Sinha suggested he name his house something that starts with an ‘M’ (possibly to eliminate all the trouble brewing around the house). That’s how Mumbai’s selfie point came to be known as ‘Mannat’.
Meet the world’s first, and only, astro-architect Neeta Sinha. Sinha insists that her field is expertise is a science, one that believes that the man or woman’s personality affects the space around him and vice versa.
You may dismiss this as cosmic mumbo-jumbo, but there’s no denying that astrology and the study of celestial alignment is incredibly popular, influencing everything from marriage to major business announcements to home decor.
Neeta began researching the relationship between a house and its owner after realizing how even identically-built houses can have different effects on different people. Her work has made her extremely popular with the country’s rich and powerful, including a host of Bollywood stars.
Her association with Bollywood began with Kirron Kher becoming a patron after one single meeting. She recalls how she approached Kirron, when the actor was hosting a television talk show that explored odd and unique professions across the country. “I went up to her to ask her if she could feature me on the show too,” she says, “At that time, people were not aware of Astro-Architecture and its effects, and I felt this could help.” While the show was discontinued before Neeta could make her television debut, it got her a client for life and subsequent connections in Bollywood.
She is aware of the wariness with which people look at astro-science and horoscope studies, but she remains unfazed. “I have faced a lot of cynicism, but I ask them ‘Have you studied this science?’ They’re unaware of how meticulous and scientific this study can be.” She recalls a very popular architect once mocking her research and declaring that he doesn’t believe that changing the position of a door from one wall to another can affect a man’s life. “I told him to place one mirror in his house in a position I suggest and give it one week. He called me after a week saying that he is willing to give it a go only based on my confidence in the science.”
It was this same confidence that had her challenge a wary Amitabh Bachchan to change the name of his house from ‘Mansa’ to ‘Jalsa’ after he was fed up with the barrage of astrological advice he had received from various sources. “I don’t know where that confidence came from, but I just knew that it needed to work.” And apparently it did. According to Neeta, a week later he called and thanked her as he had been signed on as the host for Kaun Banega Crorepati, a move that would go on to become a career-defining one for him.
Astro-Architecture has some rules too. “The person who is listed as the owner of the house in the official paperwork plays a very important role in the astro-architecture of the house,” says Neeta. According to her, she advised Akshay Kumar, whose real name is Rajeev Bhatia, to put his real name on the house papers instead of his screen name to avoid cosmic repercussions, which may or may not include adverse effects on your career, family life and other relationships.
She also recalls telling Hrithik and Suzanne to move out of their master bedroom into another room, as she sensed a rocky future for their relationship. Despite Hrithik’s family’s insistence, the couple didn’t move as they didn’t have any other option at that time. “But the house he has just moved into is absolutely perfect,” assures Neeta. Well, if star alignment could be blamed for one of the most heart-breaking celebrity divorces, so be it.
Neeta has helped out several celebrities when they were just starting out, including Karan Johar (during Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) and Manish Malhotra. According to Neeta, Manish consulted her very early on in his career. She visited his house and instructed him to reposition his bed in one room and only sleep in that room of the house. “After that, whenever we bumped into each other at airports and parties, he assured me that he was still sleeping in that room only,” she bemusedly recounts. Now that the designer has moved houses, she doesn’t know how the vaastu is affecting him. Career-wise, her advice was also once again sought by Shah Rukh Khan, who seems to be an ardent believer in Neeta’s work. He revived his failing production house by renaming it to something that starts with the letter ‘R’, on Neeta’s suggestion.
Essentially, Neeta’s field of study is akin to faith and religion. It is basically putting your belief into something unseen and unknown and letting it decide how you’ll live your life. You would think that it would face derision from the millenials and the younger lot. “No, no. It’s nothing like that,” she says, “I have seen more people of younger generation come to me for consultation than older ones. It is perhaps because of all the exposure they’ve got that has made them more accepting.”
Whether you believe it or not, many celebrities actively seek Neeta’s expertise to dictate whether they should buy that extra set of antique chairs for their house or not. She now has her sights set on a few new names. “Ranbir Kapoor has recently bought a new house that is wrong for him,” she declares, “When he was living with his parents, I was consulted and found everything to be fine with that house (Rishi Kapoor’s). Even though I’ve not been to this house, I can feel that something is off about it.”
Well, Ranbir… are you listening?