Bollywood Baatein: Bachchan, Dharmendra and Akshay Kumar show 'tragedy and triumph' of the outsider

All three have succeeded on their own strength. While Amitabh Bachchan did have a letter of introduction, others didn't. Dharmendra, it is said, was paid Rs 51 for his first film, writes Subhash K Jha

Bollywood Baatein: Bachchan, Dharmendra and Akshay Kumar show 'tragedy and triumph' of the outsider
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Subhash K Jha

It is extremely upsetting to see the undeserving get stardom in Bollywood. But it is often the reality. Not all who get success deserve it. Inversely, the failed are not always deserving of failure.

Amitabh Bachchan had only a letter of recommendation from his father, the great Harivansh Rai Bachchan to get him into K A Abbas’ Saat Hindustani. Kartik Aaryan had nothing. He came to Mumbai with just his dreams. Luv Ranjan saw that ‘IT’ quality in Kartik on Facebook.

How do we define the ‘IT’ quality? You either have it or you don’t. No two ways about it. And you need aconnoisseur to recognize that ‘IT’ quality. I remember Amitji once telling me how struggle is not pleasant at all; the humiliation you face when producers look at you with contempt and say, ‘Tujhe kaun hero banayega’ (a producer had actually said this to another outsider Amit Sadh) remains with you forever.

“You never forget the insults. You shouldn’t,” Amitji told me.

Dharmendra came from a village in Punjab. He wanted to be an actor because he hero-worshipped Dilip Kumar. “I had no money, no contacts. It was because I met Arjun Hingorani that I got a break. He gave me my first break in Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere. If he hadn’t signed me for that film, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Everyone needs a helping hand in the beginning. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.Every Bachchan, Dharmendra, Shatrughan Sinha, Akshay Kumar and Kartik Aryan needs someone to believe in him.


I remember Akshay Kumar’s humiliating experiences before stardom hit him. He would sit for hours outside producers’ chambers. Very often they could see him sitting patiently, smirking at his sweaty, hungry predicament.

“But I never minded.I never saw the waiting and the snubs as insults. These were powerful producers. I was a nobody,” Akshay once told me.

Sometimes, this power equation takes a very ugly turn. I had once invited a newcomer home for dinner after he insisted that I meet him. He named a well-known producer who had asked him to strip in his office as part of an “audition”.

“I refused. He got upset. I lost that role. Today if he asked me, I’d do anything he tells me to,” the struggler told me.

My blood froze.I advised him to give it one more year and then quit.There is only one Dharmendra, Akshay or Kartik Aaryan who finally makes it.

What happens to the rest of the dreamers and strugglers? And I am only talking about the male aspirants. I don’t have courage to discuss the women. Some other time maybe.

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