A new set of matinee idols 

From Madhubala in ‘Mahal’ to Madhuri Dixit in ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun…’,so many actors have acquired star-stature. With star-kids and non-star-kids, a new generation of matinee idols is visible

A new set of matinee idols 

Subhash K Jha

Do you remember that first time? I wasn’t there when, in 1949, the world heard Lata Mangeshkar sing Hawaa Mein Udta Jaye and Aayega Aanewala…But I was here to hear Himani Kapoor sing Jab Jab Saiyan for composer Aadesh Shrivastava in Kalpana Lajmi’s tale of the fallen ‘fraulein’ Chingari. Sadly, Himani’s singing career never took off.

I remember when Ranbir Kapoor rehearsed for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya…or Anil Kapoor’s daughter Sonam Kapoor faced the camera for the first time…or when 19-year old Kangana ripped the screen apart in Gangster and Woh Lamhe…time stops still as those minty montages of emotions move across your ears and eyes in swift swimming motions of spontaneous emotions.

That magical moment when you feel the earth shake beneath your feet, when a newcomer strides stealthily on screen to claim your undivided attention...It’s a moment that defines the motion-picture experience. It happened with Kareena Kapoor in J.P. Dutta’s Refugee. From that moment when Kareena raised the flap of her burqa to splash water on her parched face, she never stopped making a splash. Or Hrithik Roshan...

That moment when he first strode on screen with a guitar in hand, accompanied by the sounds of screaming fans who clapped and cheered from the studio auditoriam...And now I felt the same excitement on seeing Meezaan Jaffry in Malaal. These, I believe, are the best debut performances I’ve seen...comparable with Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali and Dimple Kapadia in Bobby. That moment when Shammi Kapoor first glimpsed the Kashmiri beauty or when Rishi Kapoor reluctantly appeared at his 17th birthday party and saw this timid, awkward beauty in a short dress standing among the gaudily dressed party guests in Bobby…these are keep-sake movie montages. Like Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham came in from the cold.

“I knew absolutely no one when I came. My folks see two films a year. Now those two films are mine,” jokes Sammir. But he’ll have to contend with the looming presence of golden star-kid Ranbir who has it in his genes…

That’s one thing the average, or not so average, wannabe (or are they now called wanna-beefs?) from within the industry cannot claim. And there are so many of them being readied for a rollicking debut. And let me tell you they are all worthy heir-apparents who are pucca star material. Imagine what pains their moneyed privileged producer-dads would take over their son’s intro-appearance!

So how does a wannabe from the outside get a foot into filmdom? Very frankly, it’s next to impossible. Either you get yourself a daddy or a sugar daddy...

Rajesh Khanna, the greatest superstar ever, was almost shooed out of the industry. His first three films - Raaz, Aurat and Baharon Ke Sapne - were disasters. Then Aradhana happened. And a star was born! It happens once in while…We saw that magical moment unfurl when Jaya Bhaduri as Guddi rushed into the school prayers singing Humko Man Ki Shakti Dena… And when Mumtaz (belatedly after years of struggle) pirouetted provocatively on screen to the sound of Bindiya Chamkegi in Do Raaste.

Songs and music are an essential part of star-birth. From Madhubala in Mahal to Madhuri Dixit in Hum Aapke Hain Koun…so many stars have acquired star-stature through Lataji’s singing. When and how that combustive moment occurs, when a star is born, is beyond anyone’s lucid comprehension. Was it the moment when Ajay Devgan zoomed into sight, striding two motor-cycles simultaneously in Phool Aur Kante... Or was it the moment when Kumar Gaurav sang Dekho Meine Dekha Hai Ek Sapna to Vijayta Pundit in Love Story...

Ajay’s co-star Madhoo and Gaurav’s singing-romancing partner Vijayta are long retired and happily married. Strange, but between the debut-making lead pair, only one aspirant gets a chance to be successful. It was Madhuri Dixit and not Tapas Paul in Abodh, Karisma and not Hareesh in Prem Qaidi, Kajol and not Kamal Sadanah in Bekhudi, Salman Khan and not Bhagyashree in Maine Pyar Kiya. Fortune favours a few. With star-kids and non-star-kids...a new generation of matinee idols is visible. Popcorn please?

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