Bollywood Baatein: Friday’s wheel of fortune

“They all say good things at the premiere. It’s the Friday-afternoon crowd’s verdict that makes or breaks you,” a young star wisely said once

A still from 'Saawariya'
A still from 'Saawariya'
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Subhash K Jha

First movies are like first love. The individual can never ever replicate that feeling no matter how many times it happens again. I’ve seen so many stars being born.

I wasn’t a part of Dimple Kapadia’s birth as a star in Bobby. But something equally exciting happened when Kareena Kapoor was introduced in Refugee. And yes, this time I was there, watching this confident, somewhat confused beauty whom J.P. Dutta was going to introduce.

If I had to describe Kareena and Abhishek’s personality in one word before their film’s release it would have to be self-assured and polite, respectively. On the Friday afternoon that changed their life and destiny forever, Kareena and Abhishek were nervous but confident. When Refugee released, Kareena was shooting in Jabalpur for Santosh Sivan’s Ashoka. She was under a lot of personal stress and I don’t think she enjoyed that first flush of success.

Stardom couldn’t change Kareena. There was no room for change. She didn’t have to handle stardom. Stardom just took charge of her life from the time she was born.

In other cases the post-Friday change is inevitable, and often painfully discernible. The trick is to not look while they are changing. It’s amazing how one Friday can rewrite an actor’s destiny. Hrithik Roshan who spoke to me at 12 on the day Kaho Na Pyar Hai released was a nervous, anxious nail-biting wannabe. At 3 he called to tell me scores of hysterical people were pounding on his car windows as he sat in stunned disbelief savouring that moment when stardom hits you for the first.

Bollywood Baatein: Friday’s wheel of fortune

“It’s like the first time you make love,” said Ranbir Kapoor after Saawariya. He should know. His debut film didn’t do well. He did. On the night of the premiere Ranbir and Sonam were nervous enough to look like two teenagers waiting for their exam results to come out. They held each other’s sweaty hands and did not believe a word of the praise that the elite viewers at the premiere showered on them.

“They all say good things at the premiere. It’s the Friday-afternoon crowd’s verdict that makes or breaks you,” Ranbir said wisely.

That Friday-afternoon explosion is hard to explain and even harder to sustain. How does one rationalise the fact that of the two newcomers introduced on the same Friday, only one between Harman Baweja and Imran Khan became an overnight sensation, although both were equally deserving?

That’s why I say, don’t write off the newcomer who fails the first time. The chasm between write-off and right-on could be bridged any time. Harsh things were said about Harman and more lately Luv Sinha. Sure, Luv was awkward in his first film. But so were Rajesh Khanna and Abhishek Bachchan when they first came in. Does anyone remember Rajesh Khanna’s debut in Aaakhri Khat? Or Mr Bachchan in Saat Hindustani? What if Aradhana and Zanjeer were not allowed to happen to their careers? And does anyone remember Shammi Kapoor in his debut film Laila Majnu in 1953?

Please don’t give on an aspirant’s dream, even when the dream turns into a nightmare, as it did in Mallika Sherawat’s case. What happened to her is rather strange. She started out playing Kareena Kapoor’s saheli then wanted to be Kareena Kapoor because both were doing films on the theme of infidelity at the same time. Before I could figure out that logic, Mallika figured that the formula to her success lay in her figure. Murder showed the body beautiful from every conceivable angle.

Bollywood Baatein: Friday’s wheel of fortune

Having left nothing to the imagination Mallika just left. She’s now busy trying to get noticed in LA. The most important aspect to stardom is to know how to hold on it. How you go about handling success is more important than how you get it.

Urmila Matondkar became an overnight star after the Friday when Rangeela released. If it didn’t go to her head it was with good reason. She had seen a longish period of failure and knew success could go away any time.

Today when Vivek says he has been through the process of overnight stardom followed by a long period of failure and won’t allow it to go to his head, we know he means it.

The destination between stardom and oblivion can be covered on one Friday. Ask Deepak Malhotra. One of the top models of the 1980s Deepak was the envy of the beau monde when he was signed opposite Sridevi by Yash Chopra in Lamhe.

Then Deepak opened his mouth on screen.

The first word that he uttered which was Sridevi’s screen name ‘Pallo’ was the last time he dreamt of stardom.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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