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What's keeping these talented newcomers down?

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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Bollywood has not been too kind to newcomers, who despite their abundant talent appear to be languishing as they wait for that crucial break.

Take Nakul Vaid, who made a mark in "Ab Tak Chappan". Sudhir Mishra and Vishal Bhardwaj, two of Bollywood's most acclaimed directors this year, think he's talented. So what's keeping Nakul from hitting the big time?

"I really don't know what it is. Though everyone liked my performance in 'Ab Tak Chappan' I haven't received a single worthwhile offer thereafter," said the talented young actor, who was first noticed in the TV serial "Challenge" five years ago.

"I was given a good break in a Ram Gopal Varma production with Nana Patekar as my co-star. My performance was noticed. Maybe I'm not good with my public relations. Maybe I don't go to the right producers to get noticed. Maybe my attitude sucks.

"Who knows? But I won't give in and do any role that comes my way," asserted Nakul.

His unsung "Ab Tak Chappan" triumph is not a solo lament. Several immensely talented newcomers are still waiting for meaningful roles.

Anuj Sawhney, who was noticed for his comic timing in "Nayee Padosan" and "Fun2shhh", is still waiting for that big break which could push him into the big league.

"The offers I got after these films were loads of movies about male bonding full of double meaning and situational sleaze. I said, thanks but no thanks. I'd rather wait for the right kind of films than do any old thing that comes my way," said Anuj, currently shooting in New Zealand for his third and for now, final film.

"It's hard to make headway in this industry when you aren't well-connected. For the female strugglers, the struggle is easier to bear, for obvious reasons,"
said Vikas Sethi who, after playing Kareena Kapoor's date in Karan Johar's "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham" and the stripper in "Oops", has gone back to TV.

"I'm not saying they've to compromise with their morals. But by the very gender definition a woman would find it easier to convince a producer than a man. What do we do besides wait for hours with our show reels and photographs outside producers' offices?"

But TV isn't an option for Nakul or Anuj. The former started in the medium and the latter never went there.

"I get offers to do serials by the dozens. But that's not what I'm here for. I'm very clear about what I want. And it certainly isn't passable fame on TV," said Anuj.

For those star aspirants who feel the girls have it easier there are so many female wannabes shedding their unwanted lustre in a void.

Take Divya Dutta, the pretty and gifted actress from the acclaimed "Train To Pakistan" who's been repeatedly trapped into playing peripheral roles.

"It's always about a better role in the next film, never the one I'm offered. Each time I fall for it, only to realise there's no next time," said Divya.

"I'm still waiting for that one big film which could put me up there," Divya rued, even as she completed Gurdas Mann's new Punjabi-Hindi film in which Juhi Chawla plays the lead.

"The story of my life," she sighed with a wry smile.

Every year there are hundreds of hopefuls in Bollywood struggling to make a mark. Mahesh Manjrekar, who has just completed an experimental film called "Struggler", says he was afraid to look at these newcomers who follow him around from studio to studio in the hope of a role.

Ram Gopal Varma, the man who discovered many stars, said: "They first plead with you for an appointment. And when you ignore them they get more aggressive, even threatening.

"But how do I make them understand that I can't make a Manoj Bajpai or an Urmila Matondkar out of them? Stars aren't made, they just happen."

But there's a breed beyond strugglers where the Vaids, Sawhneys and Duttas of show world belong. It's a twilight league of youngsters with looks, talent and dedication.

But lacking only in that push from a sugar daddy that can take them to the big league.

"The over-active film press is also to blame if actors like Nakul Vaid aren't getting noticed. They play up a certain group of newcomers each year with no talent, only cheesecake value," said filmmaker Hansal Mehta.

"Then these wanna-shines fade away, to make way for another set of beefcake and pinups girls. Where are the truly deserving? I introduced Aamir Ali in my sex comedy "Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai". Now I've given him an intense career-making role in "Humrahie". We need to take chances to break the star system."

Anuj Sawhney confessed: "I guess I do feel left behind when I see star kids doing roles that I know I could've handled far better. But there's favouritism and nepotism in every walk of life, so why not in showbiz?"

Said Nakul Vaid: "I got 'Ab Tak Chappan' on Nana Patekar's recommendation. But I can't keep depending on his word. At some point everyone has to break loose of the umbilical cord. My time has come but I'm yet to move forward. I know I'll get there.

He seemed to be echoing the sentiments of many youngsters who seem to lack nothing, except luck.


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