Super stars want some acting respect.
From time immemorial there has always been a silent, unspoken conflict raging between the glam, hot, successful star and the gifted, popular actor. While the much-fantasized dazzlers have never ever publicly condescended to recognize the talent and contribution of a modestly popular but consummate actor, the actor, in turn has always — in private — sneered and ridiculed the stars “attempts at acting” and attributed their success to “good luck” and networking skills. Supernova female dazzlers somewhere within, seem to recognize, realize, understand and know the source of their fan-appeal. Glamor, sex appeal, beauty, dazzling screen presence, great pairing chemistry with a top-hero? Sure! However, seldom — if ever — do the terms “great acting” feature and the top stars, at some point, begin to yearn for that elusive praise.
So what do they do in an environment where “branding” and “image” call the shots, where audience perception is reality and where a shift in screen persona could be suicidal, unless pulled off with great care? Fall back on the oldest trick in the book — go de-glam!
Back in the seventies it was Jeetendra-Hema Malini going seedha-saadha in Gulzar (Khushboo, Kinara) movies; Vinod Khanna following suit in Achanak; Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha did their turn (Bemisaal, Jurmana, Chupke Chupke, Khubsoorat) as also garam Dharam (Chupke Chupke, Satyakam) and of course the biggest of ’em all, Rajesh Khanna with Anand, Namak Haram and Bawarchi soon joined the party. Even the Evening in Paris and Kashmir Ki Kali sizzler, Sharmila Tagore, frequently went “plain” in such projects as Anupama, Satyakaam, and Aavishkar as did Mumtaz in Tere Mere Sapne, among others.
Did it work for them? One has to admit that mostly it did and largely because the director’s intent was focused, pure and not corrupted by commercial considerations. It was a genuine
desire to convert challenge into opportunities for the glam-dolls and cardboard studs, with the helping hand of a caring, sensitive, inspirational, encouraging and gifted director.
What’s the scene today? Same, as it was yesterday, my friend. Hotties like Priyanka Chopra, Kat Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Ash Rai Bachchan and Bipasha Basu have all been driven by the same compulsions and attempted to switch lanes and embrace the elusive art and craft of true-to-life acting as against, hi-decibel, populist, posturing, dramabazi and performing! Ash went heavy-duty, de-glam in Rituparno Ghosh‘s Raincoat and later Mani Ratnam’s Guru and Raavan. Gorgeous Piggy Chops, ages from age 21 to 65 on her mission to murder seven husbands in Vishal Bharadwaj’s latest Saat Khoon Maaf! Stunning, tall Deepika played a blind girl in the just-released Lafangey Parindey and also went low-key in Karthik Calling Karthik. She, however, is all set to hit a new level as a freedom fighter in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s on-the-floor Khele Hum Jee Jaan Sey.
Who can forget the delectable and glamorous reigning queen of hearts Katrina Kaif’s de-glam look in Prakash Jha’s huge hit Raajneeti? And of course, not to miss out on the Bong-shell Bipash Basu’s Kashmiri girl act in the here today–gone today film, Lamha? Rumor has it that after Chameli, lovely Kareena Kapoor is once again projecting a “no-makeup look” in Karan Johar’s just-released local adaptation of the popular Hollywood film Stepmom entitled We Are family. Oh, Sameera Reddy, the sexy starlet (with delusions of grandeur after a stint with a Buddhadev Dasgupta project) too enters the fray with an encore in Anant Mahadevan’s Red Alert, where she plays a feisty tribal girl brutally raped by the cops. Wow!
While the reasons of these stars for accepting roles against their grain is interesting … “It was a challenge to play a role you can’t identify in real life” (Priyanka Chopra); “I am still new and change is good and the right time to experiment” (Deepika Pads); “I signed the film for the credibility of the role” (Bips Basu) and the best, “I yearned to be a part of a film that would be remembered. I hardly ever receive them” (Sam Reddy) … Ultimately, it’s the audience that decides whether the transition worked or not. While Priyanka was amazing in Kaminey and Katrina quite credible and fetching in Raajneeti, Deepika didn’t seem to quite fit in either Lafangey or Karthik, despite very spirited efforts. As for Bips, it was a total flop, if only because of her overwhelming image as a sexy, hot babe! Do we really (yawn) need to bring up the Reddy girl? Nah, give it, a miss, she’s herself not ready for serious stuff!