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'One-Film-At-A-Time' new Bollywood mantra for actors

By Subhash K Jha, IANS

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Raj Kapoor had created a furore 27 years ago when he called his brother Shashi Kapoor a "taxi for hire".

RK had a point.

Shashi Kapoor was constantly climbing in and out of studio sets right through the days when stardom suddenly beckoned him with both hands in the 1970s. Throughout the earlier decade, Shashi struggled for a foothold. When the offers started pouring in after "Chor Machaye Shor" in 1974, he grabbed everything he could lay his hands on - left right and centre.

And when Raj Kapoor wanted to sign Shashi Kapoor for the prestigious "Satyam Shivam Sunderam", the actor had no dates to give for the film!

Just the reverse is happening now, with "One-Film-At-A-Time" seeming to be the new mantra for today's Bollywood stars when compared to their counterparts of yesteryears.

This is almost true for the younger breed of stars like Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra.

Govinda later followed the Shashi Kapoor style of working. After the surprise success of "Ilzaam", the "Virar ka chokra" went berserk, signing films left right and centre.

"I signed almost 28-30 films together," grins Govinda in remembrance.

Apart from the fact he's an MP, he's doing only one film per year and can afford to look back wistfully at those super-hectic days when he would rush from studio to studio "playing a beggar in the morning, a prince in the afternoon and a politician in the evening. It was very disorienting".

Akshay Kumar understands Govinda's way of working only too well.

"When you start working, you suddenly find a queue of producers wanting to sign you. This could be very unsettling for an outsider who had only dreamt of stardom, never thought he see himself fighting, romancing and even crying on screen.

"I went through this phase of signing any and every film that came my way after my debut in 'Saugandh'. I lived to regret it.

"Today, though I've many films on hand, I try to complete one film at a time, though this isn't always possible, specially when several films are on the verge of completion."

But then, the architect of the "One-Film-At-A-Time" streamlined scheduling isn't Aamir Khan, as widely believed.

Long before Aamir, another Khan, Dilip Kumar, made sure there was no overlapping in his histrionic hemisphere. In fact, the fastidious Khan turned down Guru Dutt's "Pyasa" because it clashed in spirit with Bimal Roy's "Devdas".

Years later, Pran refused the plum role of a Pathan in Manoj Kumar's "Shor" as he was already playing one in "Zanjeer". That fiercely focused energy and the determination not to be repetitive vanished in the late 1970s and 1980s when a peculiar take-the-money-and-run attitude seeped into showbiz.

Anybody played everybody as long as the money was right. That "chalta-hai" attitude is blessedly a thing of the past.

Initially, Rani Mukherjee said 'no' to Aziz Mirza's "Chalte Chalte" only because she had just done the disillusioned wife's role in "Saathiya", and never mind if the co-star director and temperament of the two films were totally dissimilar.

A determination to steer clear of redundancy has crept into showbiz.

"I'd rather stay at home, chill out, read, travel and spend time with my wife than do a film that I don't fully believe in," says Hrithik Roshan. "What's the hurry?"

Preity Zinta agrees with her pal. She's by her own admission "unemployed".

Vivek Oberoi, who has just released "Kyun Ho Gaya Na", is busy completing Subhash Ghai's "Kissna" before he goes into his next project.

Yes, there are the overworked round-the-clock shooters like Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra who have to follow the multi-shift pattern of working - but only because many of their assignments are either on the verge of completion or cannot afford to luxury of the lead actor's delay.

Aishwarya Rai, whose schedules suffered a setback after her accident, had to complete "Kyun Ho Gaya Na" while rushing in and out of the country for Gurinder Chadha's "Bride & Prejuduce". In between, she managed to spare eight days for Rituparno Ghosh to complete "Raincoat".

Now she intends to go into one film at a time. She has just returned from Goa, where she has shot for debutante Leena Bajaj's "Shabd".

"This is the only way to work," she sighs even while Kareena Kapoor runs back from another schedule of Dharamesh Darshan's never-ending saga "Bewafaa" to shoot for Abbas-Mustan's "Aitraaz" while Priyanka invites five of her producers to erect sets in the same studio so she can dole out dates to them all.

Oh well, you win some; you over-use some.


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