Can Stars Act?

first_imgIt’s a timeless, endless and relentless controversy that began the day performers and performances came into being. Stars consider actors a dull, theatrical lot, desperate to play the “realism” card to prove to the world that great acting comes from being natural and real life, which to them is a lot like death-warmed-up! Actors view stars as corny and laughable cardboard cut-outs, forever engaged in hamming and posturing for their end objective of successfully catering to the lowest common denominator, who wouldn’t recognize real acting performance if it stared them in the face or bit their behind.Not all of this is true … or false. In terms of sheer acting, Naseeruddin Shah, Om, Pankaj Kapoor, Irfaan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Rahul Bose or Sahana Goswami undoubtedly represent mind blowing fare, but do they go across a fraction as big as the stars? The killer Khan clan, Hrithik, Akshay, Ranbir or Kat, Bips, Kareena and Priyanka may not have the histrionic fire-power of the above list, but their glamor, charisma, electric presence and sex appeal mesmerizes. Amitabh Bachchan in Paa Agreed, say the critics, but popularity is not excellence. These dumb award ceremonies played out in different parts of the world, are silly, ego-boosting shows pandering to dumbed-down, glamor-starved, Bolly-crazy NRIs, neither interested nor knowledgeable about the real thing, they insist. Can these stars, earning mind-blowing pay-checks, act to save their life?Loaded question, but the answer has to be: If given the scope, opportunity, motivation, inspiration and mentoring, yes! Examples? Here goes …Let’s start with King Khan. Shahrukh Khan has always — not without reason — been perceived, first and last, as a star. Tashan, and mannerisms define his screen persona as the ultimate, romantic lover-boy, whose pairing with Kajol, is rated as the biggest wow of the generation. Sling in comedy, dance, action and drama and Shahrukh offers the most lethally entertaining package in B-town. It’s not great acting, say his critics, but hamming and doing the same damn thing over and over again. Maybe, says the cool dude, but if a zillion fans all over planet earth are okay with it, who am I to quarrel with it, boss? On a more serious note, didn’t lover boy Khan deliver in super style in Swadesh and later Chak De? And didn’t the recent My Name is Khan prove his ability to push the envelope one more time? Remember Shahid Kapoor (the poor man’s SRK?) constantly flashing his cute, lover-boy, dancing-star image in film after film after film? And then came Kaminey and blew the hell out of this image, right? Playing a double role — disabled — the cutie pie socked home a solid thumper!Same with dancing freak, Greek God looking Hrithik Roshan. After his sensational Kaho Naa … he was the new hot star on the block, remember? A couple of bombs later, playing a guy with a child-like personality, Roshan junior risked his all to come up trumps in Koi… Mil Gaya. Risky as hell — one false move and it would turn out to be a caricature — Duggu leapt in and rocked, big time!  Aamir Khan at a press conference for Ghajini What about the metrosexual and uber-cool dude Saif Ali Khan? After a zillion bombs, he was “discovered” by Farhan Akhtar in Dil Chahta Hai and took off from there. However, the first sign of a real, stark risk-taking move was his deadly negative role in Ek Haseena Thi. The film may not have romanced the charts, but it clearly served notice to anyone who cared to note that here was a talent clearly beyond the image. Omkara confirmed it in an amazingly, chilling manner. He played Langda Tyagi so convincingly that one forgot he is really the Chhote Nawab of B-town! And can one ever forget dud actor Abhishek Bachchan transforming into a fine performer in Yuva and later Guru? It took the perceptive Mani Ratnam to figure out the real strengths of Amitabh Bachchan’s baby and boy, did he exploit them to the full in both movie.! Ever since, Abhi has indeed moved on … and away from his dad’s giant-sized shadow! Aamir Khan actually doesn’t need to be listed in this group, because, if there is one star who has consistently dared to tilt at windmills — from Lagaan to 3 idiots — to demonstrate his urge to portray different roles, characters and personas, it is this pocket-sized dynamo of talent.   Shahid Kapoor in KamineySo, these are some of the major hot n’ happening stars who have risen to the bait, when it came their way. Hey? What about the Big B, you ask? Sure, with Paa and a host of character roles — Sarkar, Cheeni Kum, Baghban, KANK — he does qualify, but not, in my book, in quite as convincing a way as, say, Aamir. Because at his peak (in the 1970s and early 1980s), he never ever attempted anything that disturbed his image, or rocked the boat. Pity, as he was one star who could have given both, his outstanding talent and the small film movement of that time, a dynamic momentum. Ah well, better late than never, I guess …Cut to the perpetually dismissed, neglected, taunted and patronized constituency — Bollywood heroines! Barbie Dolls, sexy, glamorous props inserted to provide the hero with a “love interest” and the drooling, voyeuristic mobs a deadly peek show. While it is true that beauty queens and hot models are invading the biz in droves, there are enough examples to demonstrate that these so-called mannequins can sometimes startle and stun the biggest cynic. See for yourself …Let’s start with the celebrated ice maiden, Ash Rai Bachchan. For a long time, she was the butt of jokes relating to acting, remember? A doll in a showcase, cosmetic queen … Then came Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and more significantly, Rituparno Ghosh’s Chokher Bali and later Raincoat. In recent times, Guru reaffirmed what people never knew about the beauty — she had talent. What she needed was a director and a vehicle to showcase it with passion, inspiration and confidence.   Shah Rukh Khan on the set of My Name Is Khan with director Karan JoharLikewise, the lovely Kareena Kapoor zonked one and all by going de-glam and socking out one helluva performance early in Chameli, in which she played the role of a sex-worker. Rani Mukherjee, at her peak, had the guts and confidence to play a deaf, blind girl in Sanjay Leela Bansari’s path-breaking Black. Unforgettable, huh? And beauty queen Priyanka Chopra in the role of the sexually aggressive other woman in Aitraaz and later doing two astonishing turns in Kaminey and What’s Your Rashee. Amazing, naa? As we go into print, the reigning diva Katrina Kaif makes her debut in this list with Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti, where she plays a female politician. At the end of the day, we should remember a couple of things. One, despite the frenzied star craze in our land, a film is ultimately a director’s product. It is he and he alone, through his vision, talent, and sensitivity who can extract the best out of his performers. Which is exactly why, despite having the biggest marquee draws, several big films bomb and smaller films click. Secondly, most stars are mostly clueless about their own strength and talent-bandwidth and if properly motivated and driven they can, and do, achieve wonders.So, can stars act? Yes, they can — if and when challenged by the right set of circumstances. But come on, why bother if just looking hot and posturing can excite their drooling fans and secure them paychecks to wake the dead?HERO AS ZERO!B-towns new obsession with de-glam stars.Once upon a time, the hero was handsome, brave, noble, honest, God-fearing and tread the path of virtue with all his mental and physical faculties. The heroine was beautiful, virtuous, sacrificial, ever-giving and never ever strayed from the straight and narrow. Not any more, guys. Suddenly, it is cool to be imperfect in Bollywood. Check it out …  Aamir KhanWhat better example to kick-off than Bollywood’s Ace of Hearts Shahrukh Khan — the quintessential Mr. Romantic — playing a character suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, in his last release My Name is Khan; a guy who can neither say a simple “I love you” to his lovely wife (Kajol) nor make eye contact. Earlier he limped his way into several hearts as a disgruntled, frustrated and injured footballer in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. A couple of years earlier, another superstar Aamir Khan did his number in Ghajini, playing a hero who suffered from short term memory loss. Earlier yet, chocolate boy Shahid Kapoor hit the disability button real hard in Kaminey, essaying a double role in which one stutters while the other lisps.Cut to Rani Mukherjee, who played a deaf-mute in Black. Kajol was blind in Fanaa and suffered Alzheimer’s in U, Me Aur Hum. Hubby Ajay Devgan, played a developmentally challenged father in Main Aisa Hi Hoon. As we go to print, rumor has it that in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest movie Guzarish, Hrithik plays a paraplegic. No big deal, remember his brilliant turn as an overgrown child in Koi… Mil Gaya? And of course the Amitabh Bachchan’s astonishing portrayal in Paa was something else. If reports are to be believed, many more “disabled” roles are in the offing.And the stars are grabbing! Good heavens, wassup guys? Whatever happened to the glamor-glycerine breed, the cosmetic, conscious, image-fixated dudes and dolls? After all, the heavy-duty gyming and beauty-parlor kills, this? Critics are not surprised. They point to Hollywood which has pushed this envelope, big time. Whether it is Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Jamie Fox in Ray, and Al Pacino in Scent Of a Woman — these guys have never hesitated to storm into the blood n’ marrow of these roles, making them come alive … and image, be damned! Bollywood too seems to be heading that way. “In terms of histrionic challenge for stars it is certainly very potent, visible and tempting. Besides, audiences too seem to be cool with the disabled hero/heroine. An exciting churn is on and in this scenario, anything that is engaging, fresh, novel and impactive is … on!” says film critic Saibal Chatterjee. So, the age of the perfect hero and gorgeous heroine is under challenge — and B-town and audiences are the richer for it.— ML  Related Itemslast_img read more

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