Stars And Their Stars
It is generally, and therefore not wrongly, believed that there is no retirement age for stars in Bollywood. First of all, what is stardom? Well, in celluloid language it means the actor is in demand at the box office, that he or she is draw the viewing public to the theatres on the strength of their box office draw or charisma. There also lies a contradiction and paradox in this definition as well. A hero or a heroine can still enjoy stardom even after they stop being a draw at the box office. They begin to confuse between curiosity, and stardom. There has only been one exception to the rule, that too partially, Amitabh Bachchan. Partially because, although he cannot pull the paying public to the theatres on his own charisma, he can and still is a curiosity factor. He is, undoubtedly a great artiste, and lends strength to a film, like, for instance, he did to Bunty aur Babli which brought about a temporary stability to his son, Abhishek’s still non-existent career. As it has subsequently turned out, that too was like a flash in the pan.
Age catches up fast with the heroines. Many use wisdom, find a partner, and get settled in life while in their prime. Some return to essay character roles. Bollywood is replete with (to limit it to the recent past) glaring examples of Madhuri Dixit, Kajol, Karishma Kapoor—even the Aishwarya Rais to a certain extent to quit—when they continued to be in demand compared with the likes of Asha Parekh, who twiddle their thumbs living lonely lives because they refused to hear the boo-boo calls in the theatres and became butts of jokes even within the film industry. The same holds true of someone, who was once described as the evergreen hero, Dev Anand who continues to confuse his eclipsed charisma with stardom when many of his juniors are content watching landmark films of their hurricane days.
Come 2011 and many of the acclaimed stars of the past few years, who have self assumed a godly status and demanding sky-rocketing prices will lick the dust even before the year is out. It is, however, a different matter even a dead elephant commands a price until rigor mortis sets in. There is no comeback of any kind in the entertainment industry, even though in the privacy of his drawing-room Rajesh Khanna refuses to believe that his days over some 30 years ago. But at a public platform he can still attract a few cat calls, as does a Jeetendra or a Dharmendra. As do the Rekha and the Hema Malini, who have cared to maintain their figures at least, and have continued to be in some sort of a limelight. But who would recognise a Kimi Katkar or even a Shilpa Shirodkar, though there would still be some eyebrow raised amongst the not so young on a passing Deepti Naval or a Neena Gupta even at a purely literary event at something like the Jaipur Literature Festival.
2011 does not foretell great things, even an imminent fall, for the highly-priced Akshay Kumar whose recent string of colossal flops should serve as a warning signal. His line of starrers include Thank You, Desi Boyz, Patiala House, Joker, though the little success Houseful 2 managed despite him.The signs are already flashing on the big screen with the actual fate of year-end release, Tees Maar Khan still being awaited. For that’s how the big have fallen in the past. One, two, three flops in a row, and khalaas, as the Bollywood jargon goes. And if the current box-office infallible God is due for a humpty-dumpty fall can the invincible Shah Rukh Khan be far behind? The June-release of his ambitious multi-billion rupee sci-fi Ra.One will determine whether the later release Don 2 will cut any accumulated ice. Even producer-director Farhan Akhtar is playing safe by announcing another film with another hero for a fall back. Saif Ali Khan has never been known to carry a film on his frail royal shoulders. Dark horse, Ajay Devgun, with a fresh lease of screen life in 2010, will remain in reckoning a little longer than the others, and will be seen in Rascals and three other untitled flicks on the floors. Time is also over for Salman Khan. No clones of Wanted and Dabangg will elongate his second innings at the box office. He will be visible in Ready and home production Bodyguard with Asin and Kareena Kapoor, respectively. He should better willingly leave the stage for more hep and more talented colleagues like Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor. Kites and Guzaarish notwithstanding the fast learner is capable of covering the lost ground with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Agneepath, and home production Krissh 2. Current heart throb Ranbir Kapoor will rock back with Rockstar and Barfee.
With Rani Mukherjee settling down after the long wait and over-worked Kareena Kapoor will thrive in the company of the likes of Sushmita Sen, Bipasha Basu and the ilk. Priyanka Chopra and Vidya Balan will lead the cat parade to the winning post, closely followed by the curvacious newcomer Sonakshi Sinha, and the under-rated Anuksha Sharma, though they too will face a challenge from the likes of non-performers, uncharismatic Deepika Padukones, Sonam Kapoors and others. The present Bollywood horizon is susceptible to inclement weather and global warming even in frosty situations, so also these freak predictions.
But one thing is certain. Bollywood is on the verge of a metamorphosis. The second-half of 2011 and much of 2012 will belong to the non-chocolate-boy-next-door hero, and the not necessarily glamorous heroines of Konkona Sen Gupta variety will find greater acceptance. Talent and quality will matter more than glamour and script-less item-number dominated cinema, which even the front benchers will despise. Meanwhile, ring out the year, pull up your socks and be ready for the out-and-out Priyanka Chopra’s knocking off her seven husbands under Vishal Bhardwaj’s strict vigilance.
By Suresh Kohli