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Bollywood desperate to woo youth

By Priyanka Khanna, IANS

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India's entertainment industry is getting desperate as dream merchants have very little to offer for the 54 percent of the country's one billion population that is below 25 years of age.

India, among the youngest nations in the world, is buzzing with 500-million 15-to-25-year-olds but our leading reel men are pushing 40 and favourite female actors are 30-plus.

While Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor and Sunny Deol are all touching their 40s, screen goddesses Aishwarya Rai, Urmila Matondkar, Tabu and Preity Zinta are 30-plus.

Most stars have long given up college capers but some like Shah Rukh keep coming back to the college campus on some pretext or another to stay in favour with the zippies. The "King Khan", as the most successful star is known, will return to the wonder years of romancing his chemistry teacher in his next release "Main Hoon Na".

Unlike "Mohabbatein" where he masqueraded as a music teacher, this time around he uses the pretext of checking out his kid brother's academic pursuits to justify his presence in a teen flick.

For a film industry that relies heavily on college romances, the lack of young superstars that can arrest the imagination of the youth means doom.

Trade analyst Komal Nahta said: "There are no good younger stars. As a result senior actors and actresses are dominating the industry." In the recent past, Hrithik Roshan, Vivek Oberoi and Abhishek Bachchan have show great potential but their choice of character roles has ruled them out of teenage romantic fables.

Actors like Dino Morea, Karan Nath, Sohail Khan, Tusshar Kapoor and John Abraham have not emerged as the ones with charisma, the ones with a crazy fan following and ones whose films open to packed houses, irrespective of the plot, co-stars, duration, the director, producer or music.

A slew of star hunts announced recently seem to be an outcome of the industry's desperation to find the chosen one who will keep the flickering young audiences from abandoning Bollywood in favour of Hollywood's teen movies.

Observers said a talent hunt by ABCL Corporation had given the industry Arshad Warsi, Chandrachur Singh, Priya Gill and Simran who were cast in "Tere Mere Sapne."

But of these, only Simran made it big in south Indian films. The latest star hunts come from Sahara Manoranjan and Star Television. Such talent hunts are also seen as an instrument to revive the interest of target audiences towards the medium.

Lack of a suitable teen star is not the only barrier Bollywood needs to overcome to entice the youth. Although almost every film has the genesis of a hero-heroine romance and a couple of group songs set in a college campus, a true-blue campus caper is a rare commodity coming out of the Mumbai studios.

Filmmakers in Mumbai know the potential of the teen market but are coming out with poor copies of Hollywood teen flicks - "Excuse Me", "Style", "Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai" and "Raghu More Bachelor Of Hearts."

Though "Dil Chahta Hai" was cool, urban and chic, not many Indian teens live in the splendour depicted in Farhan Akhtar's debut film.

Until then, cine goers will have to contend with poor copies of Hollywood slayer films like "Krishna Cottage" that went on the marquees this week. The film, produced by the celebrated queen of soap operas Ekta Kapoor and directed by Santram Varma, stars Sohail Khan, Isha Koppikar and Natasha and has music by Anu Malik.


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