Fresh faces in Bollywood


  • Letters
  • Monday, 09 May 2011

Offsprings of established actors who had their break in the film industry in recent years are now slowly making a mark for themselves.

AGE is catching up with the current crop of Bollywood heroes. The Khans – Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir – are all in their 40s, and no longer look pleasing on the eye when romancing damsels half their age on the big screen.

If they still do, and occasionally pull it off at the box-office, it is due to the accumulated goodwill earned over the year.

With youths constituting the core of the cinema-going audiences, film makers per force introduce younger actors in the hope that they will click at the box-office and soon replace the aging stars.

That is why new stars seem to emerge after every decade or so.

Now that the Khans are nearing the end of their unquestioned reign as superstars, a young crop of heroes and heroines are waiting in the wings to take their place.

For instance, Ranbir Kapoor, the 26-year-old son of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, a popular star-pair of the 70s and 80s, seems ready to grab the number one slot in Bollywood.

His pedigree might have ensured the initial break, but it is his talent coupled with immense good looks that have helped him consolidate his position as the brightest prospect among the new heroes.

Sons and daughters of other established actors who have got a break in the industry in recent years are now slowly beginning to make a mark for themselves.

Sons of very talented actors Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah are already seen doing character roles in films.

Prateik, Raj Babbar and the late star Smita Patil’s son, has also done a couple of films.

However, the film industry, when all is said and done, is neither a respecter of talent nor pedigree, but of lady luck alone.

So long as an actor continues to pull in audiences, he is assured of success in Bollywood.

Once his films begin to flop, he is dumped like a hot potato by producers.

Thus, Amitabh Bachchan’s son, Abhishek, despite getting a number of films because of whose son he is, has been dubbed a flop and may find it hard to get work under good banners.

The classic case of box-office success being the predominant factor in any actor’s career is that of the late hero Rajendra Kumar.

In the 60s and 70s, his films did so well that he was nicknamed Silver Jubilee Kumar.

But once he featured in three box-office duds in a row, he found no takers.

Likewise, Rajesh Khanna in the 70s and 80s was the original super star.

However, once lady luck turned against him, he was shunned by producers.

On the other hand, Ranveer Singh, a gangly youth who hit pay-dirt in his very first film, Band Baaja Baaraat (BBB), is the new star on the block.

So is the female lead opposite him in BBB, Anushka Sharma.

The film was a surprise hit of 2010 and catapulted both Ranveer and Anushka to stardom.

Produced under the most prestigious Bollywood banner of Yash Raj Films, BBB’s lead actors have now been signed up for yet another film by it.

Another big new star who emerged last year due to the stupendous success of the Salman Khan-starrer Dabaang is Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter Sonakashi Sinha.

Though Dabaang was a hero-oriented film, Sonakashi’s presence in the film as Salman’s love interest was enough for producers to line up outside her door with new film offers.

It is lady luck, you see.

Since she was the heroine in the biggest hit of last year, even though her role was not very significant, casting her in their films might rub off Dabaang’s success on them, the producers hope.

Also, the basic character of the film industry is undergoing a subtle but significant change.

Thanks to the mushrooming of multi-screen theatres across the country, it is now possible for producers to make niche films, targeted at select audiences.

During the single-screen era, when each theatre seated close to a thousand people, producers felt obliged to cater to the lowest common denominator.

It was financially risky to make meaningful art films.

Then, the accent was on saleable stars, formula story-lines, songs and dance sequences around trees and, generally, on an escapist, feel-good fare.

Now, due to a large educated middle class and growing economic prosperity, film makers are experimenting with esoteric themes and tasting success.

For instance, Peepli, an ironic take on the 24x7 news television, made by a completely new team of directors, writers and actors made a huge splash on the multiplex circuit.

Traditional cine-goers shunned it while the educated middle classes embraced it.

Made on a shoe-string budget, it made pots of money for its producer, actor Aamir Khan.

Small wonder then that a whole new crop of young actors and directors have found acceptability in Bollywood.

Aside from the lead actors of BBB, a number of new faces are set to make their debut this year.

Since the male heroes have a much longer shelf life than their female counterparts, already heroines like Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor are established stars.

Breaking into the citadel of male stars is a tougher task. Among the new male actors are Arjun Kapoor, Nishant Dahiya and Saaqib Saleem.

Given that films remain a very chancy business, the presence of big stars on the marquee is not a guarantee of box office success.

Akshay Kumar, for example, is one of the most pricey and saleable stars. After starring in a string of big hits, he featured in three straight duds, all of them big-budget, big-banner films.

So, casting a newcomer in his place as the male lead is a better prospect because the latter would not cost even a small fraction of the fee and there is an even chance that the film might hit the jackpot.

Unlike earlier times when the Dharmendras and the Manoj Kumars had to struggle hard for that elusive break in films, sleeping on footpaths and generally facing humiliation from producers, present-day aspirants for stardom get to showcase their talent on the myriad general entertainment television channels.

Shah Rukh Khan first got public exposure in a TV serial, Fauji, in the 80s before he got his break in films.

Nowadays, it is routine for wannabe film stars to do television while doing the rounds of producers and directors for that all-important break.

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