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The newsmakers of Bollywood

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

Mumbai, Dec 25 (IANS) Here are the top 10 stars who made a splash in 2003:

Amitabh Bachchan: To no one's surprise he continued to be the foremost newsmaker in Indian cinema. Having proved himself the most long-lasting superstar of Bollywood, 61-year-old Bachchan made waves.

Whether going raunchy in "Boom" or ruminative in "Baghbaan" or announcing the revival of AB Corp Ltd on his birthday, he remained a head-turner throughout the year. The coming year has him teaming up with the mighty Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Vivek Oberoi-Aishwarya Rai-Salman Khan: On April 1, Vivek Oberoi announced a press meet to make a startling disclosure - alleged threat calls from Salman Khan.

For almost five hours non-stop, Vivek went live on air to give graphic details of his colleague's colourful descriptions of what Salman thought of the former's alleged liaison with Aishwarya Rai. With this incident, Indian cinema gave moviegoers its first real-life soap.

Later in the year, Vivek fractured his leg and Aishwarya cracked her foot while shooting for Mani Rathnam's "Yuva" and Raj Santoshi's "Khakee" respectively. Both events made headlines.

Prakash Jha: One must hand it to him for being media savvy. Until a week before the film's release, "GangaaJal" looked like just another routine honest-cop-versus-fetid-establishment film. Suddenly the issue of a villain being named after a member of Bihar's ruling party cropped up...and voila, "GangaaJal" became a hit!

Regrettably the film's killer message hit home in more ways than expected. After the film showed over-zealous cops pouring acid into criminal's eyes, several similar incidents were reported from various parts of rural Bihar.

Shah Rukh Khan: Even with a bad back and a pain in the neck, "King Khan" ruled the Indian box office like very few other stars in recent or remote times. Both his releases this year, "Chalte Chalte" and "Kal Ho Naa Ho" were massive hits both in India and overseas.

Overseas he is king. In London, the queues for "Kal Ho Naa Ho" were as long as those for the latest Hollywood romantic comedy. And when Urmila Matondkar visited Pakistan she was invariably asked about one Indian star. No prizes for guessing who.

Karisma Kapoor: Her serial "Karishma: The Miracle of Destiny" didn't take off the way it was expected to. But Karisma Kapoor's wedding with Delhi entrepreneur Sanjay Kapur was the most avidly recorded Bollywood event after Vivek Oberoi's anti-Salman tirade.

Though the press wasn't invited, the paparazzi swarmed the ancestral Kapoor residence in suburban Mumbai to catch a glimpse of the blushing bride. In comparison, Pooja Bhatt's wedding was a bit of a non-event.

Kareena Kapoor: The ultimate head-turner, whether it was for Sooraj Barajatya's "Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon" or S.J. Surya's "Khushi", or for not doing "Kal Ho Naa Ho" or for playing a realistic sex worker in Sudhir Mishra's "Chameli". Kareena just had to blink to be written about.

Without a single box office success during the year, Kareena continued to command a staggering fee of over Rs.10 million even for the small-budget "Chameli". A youth icon, the Indian urban moviegoers see in her a sensuous arrogance. As for the non-metro audience, she's the new-age Madhubala.

Sushmita Sen: Her one release during the year, "Samay", where she played a female Clint Eastwood sank without a trace. But Sushmita remained in the news when she sued a Cola company's executive for "sexual harassment" and made the company cough up damages. One has to hand it to the lady for spunk.

Urmila Matondkar: By the Chinese calendar, 2003 would be deemed the year of the feline femme fatale. Urmila Matondkar had three performance-driven releases in "Bhoot", "Pinjar" and "Tehzeeb". She then made waves across the subcontinent by playing the peace ambassador to Pakistan. Her visit to Lahore thrilled the Pakistanis.

Rakesh/Hrithik Roshan: That mainstream Hindi cinema needn't only be about dancing women and cavorting contortionists was proven by the success of "Koi...Mil Gaya".

Shunning the pot-boiler mode, Rakesh Roshan dared to push the lines to tell a story that shuffled the conventional cards. Hrithik actually dared to play a mentally challenged character.

Ajay Devgan/Preity Zinta: Quietly, and without the active support of the media machinery, Ajay consolidated his position in 2003 as the most dependable star-actor of the film industry. From the spooked husband in "Bhoot" to the upright cop in "GangaaJal" to the crime fighter in "Qayamat", his range of roles and performances and the volume of success during 2003 were quite simply staggering.

He now plans to move unostentatiously from a J.P. Dutta to an Aparna Sen, seeking middle ground between popular appeal and performing satisfaction.

As for Preity Zinta, her cautious career manoeuvres landed her in the two biggest hits of the year.


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