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Over-50 Bollywood heroes rock the age boat

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

After "Baghban" and its huge success came "Joggers Park" and "Dhoop". Now another film promises to set the screen ablaze with an over-50 protagonist.

Nana Patekar, 55, is set to rock the age-boat with "Ab Tak Chhappan".

The powerful Nana whose career has been under a kind of cloud for some years now plays a cop on a suicidal mission.

Such roles are generally designed for actors far more agile and far less older. But after "Khakee" and "Baghban", the scales seem to have tilted towards the more experienced brigade of actors who, in the words of director Hansal Mehta, have seen life.

"And that quality shows up in their performance. I feel more and more directors will be designing roles for the older actors. I'd personally love to work with Naseeruddin Shah. He has so much more to give," says Mehta.

For years the senior actors have been given a raw deal. But now more and more filmmakers feel the need to exploit autumnal talent.

The 62-year-old Amitabh Bachchan, who figures in several author-backed roles this year, agrees.

"But don't forget the wonderful Ashok Kumar who even at the age of 50 played the lead in that wonderful film 'Aashirwaad'. He continued to get top billing till the end of his life."

In a way, Bachchan in "Baghban" has revived the patriarchal domination of Ashok Kumar in the 1960s and 1970s. Now there are other senior actors playing pivotal roles.

Dharmendra, who has retired to his farm outside Mumbai, returns to play the pivotal role of Mallika Sherawat's father-in-law in Govind Menon's "Kiss Kiss Ki Kismat". Apparently the role was written specially for Dharmendra.

When some years ago, Rajkumar Santoshi made "China Gate", with senior actors like Danny Denzongpa, Amrish Puri and Naseeruddin Shah playing the protagonists, the film didn't find wide acceptance.

Last year the beautifully pitched film about autumnal people, "Sharaarat", about a bunch of optimistic old people, bombed.

But now films about the spirit of greying glory seem to have caught on in Bollywood.

Comments the gifted Arjun Sablok, who is toying with the idea of exploring the anatomy of old age in a film: "Earlier when films about the old were attempted, 40-something actors like Rajesh Khanna in 'Avtar', and Anupam Kher in 'Saaraansh' and Sanjeev Kumar in 'Zindagi' starred in them.

"But after 'Baghban', Bollywood has discovered the virtues of casting actors who belong to the generation they represent (in a film)."

The year 2003-04 will see many such films, some of them featuring Bachchan.

If Nana Patekar's cop act in "Ab Tak Chhappan" clicks, he too would join the ranks of saleable patriarchs.


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