Bollywood Baatein: Bollywood’s malaise of Role Bragging

What do actresses get by talking about roles they didn’t do and which went on to become extremely popular?

Mandakini in 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili'
Mandakini in 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili'
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Subhash K Jha

In a recent interview Padmini Kolhapure says she was offered Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili, which she didn’t do. She hints that the nudity quotient in the film prevented her from doing the film. She then goes on to state that the Showman came back to offer her the role after shooting for 45 days for Ram Teri Ganga Maili with Mandakini.

This is a startling revelation with far-reaching implications. Firstly, Ms Kolhapure’s claim puts a question mark on the discretionary powers of one of Indian cinema’s greatest directors. If after shooting for 45 days, Raj Saab went back to his Prem Rog actress, then it can only mean one thing: the Showman was not happy with his discovery Mandakini whom he groomed for the eponymous role of Ganga in Ram Teri Ganga Maili.

Most lovers of Raj Saab’s cinema thought Mandakini had done a fine job. Why would the Showman want to scrap her role and sign another actress? This sounds insulting and brings me to a prevalent malaise in Hindi cinema.

Role bragging. Rather, bragging about roles that actors didn’t do and which went on to become extremely popular. So many actresses in Bollywood (not too many of their male counterparts do this) make sure they mention the big opportunities that they missed out on, at least once every six months in their interviews. Sharmila Tagore mentioned turning down Shakti Samanta’s Kati Patang repeatedly. The role that fetched Asha Parekh her first Filmfare award. Mumtaz has spoken about saying no to Seeta Aur Geeta. It got Hema Malini her first Filmfare award.


I remember Saira Banu speaking to me at length on how she lost Vijay Anand’s Guide which immortalized Waheeda Rehman. After the interview came out, Waheedaji asked one of her closest friends, “Abb yeh baat kar ke kya haasil hoga (what does she get out of talking about this?).”

I agree with Waheedaji. What do actresses get by talking about roles they didn’t do? Except to show the filmmaker in a bad light and to snatch away glory from the actress who finally played the role, what does an actress get by talking about the roles they turned down? Have we ever heard Meryl Streep talking about the roles she didn’t do?

Curiously our male actors don’t do much of this back-patting at other actors’ expense. Have you heard Dilip Kumar talking about turning down Omar Sharif’s role in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia? Or Abhishek Bachchan talking about turning down Lagaan repeatedly?

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