Over-50 Bollywood heroes rock the age boat

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
2/25/2004 12:00:00 AM
In the weeks and months to come, several star children will occupy screen space. But only time will tell whether they are worth it. 

Manisha Koirala's brother Sidhartha and Sunny and Bobby Deol's cousin Abhay are being introduced this fortnight in "Fun Can Be Dangerous Sometimes" and "Socha Na Tha", respectively. And producer Salim's nephew Samir Aftab is being launched in yet another teenybopper love story "Chand Sa Roshan Chehra".

Samir's the first of the several prodigies from film families being groomed for a launch this year. After Samir, there's producer Romesh Sharma's son Karan in "Dil Jo Bhi Kahey", Harry Baweja's son Harnam, producer Keshu Ramsay's son - all of whom will be seen by year-end.

So where does all this leave the non-film aspirants? "It's a scary thought," says Rajjat Barjatya, the man who last year designed Rajshri Production's teenybopper romance "Uff...Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai".

"We introduced Sammir Dattani in our film. And we still believe he has the makings of a big star. The Rajshris discovered Sammir in the music video "Valentine's Day" six years ago. His focussed attitude to his work is very inspiring. He was always our first choice for 'Uff...Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai', and I'd still choose him as our leading man if we've to make a love story.

"It's really sad that Bollywood chooses to launch star kids over and above really talented kids like Sammir. It's because of the prohibitive costs of making films. One does feel sorry for the star kids because they come with their own baggage and are judged twice as harshly as the newcomer from outside. Initially their pedigree helps star-kids get a launch pad. But ultimately it's talent and hard work that count. Look at Shah Rukh Khan. Isn't he the ultimate outsider who proved to be the ultimate star? Or Amitabh Bachchan for that matter..."

While Barjatya seems hopeful about unconnected youngsters knocking on Bollywood's door, the future does seem pretty bleak for such youngsters.

Says Sammir Dattani: "I'm sure Samir Aftab and Harman Baweja are very talented. But they do have an advantage that newcomers like me from outside the film industry don't. They are launched and re-launched and given very little opportunity to fail, whereas a rank newcomer like me gets one chance to prove himself. I'm lucky to have gone on to my second film. But most newcomers who don't come from film families simply fade away after the first failed attempt at stardom."

The critical question behind these questions of missed opportunities is this: where does the industry go from here? After all, the lineage advantage isn't really a substitute for genuine talent. Hype can be created around newcomers from within the industry. Repeated opportunities can be provided to them. To take two examples of failed female star-kids, Tanisha in "Sshhhh" and Soha Ali Khan in "Dil Mange More". Despite their disastrous debuts, they're flooded with offers from various sources.

And in spite of a totally failed post-debut effort in "Popcorn Khao Mast Ho Jao", Tanisha is being patronised by her brother-in-law Ajay Devgan who not only co-stars with her in the forthcoming "Tango Charlie" but also recommended her to Ram Gopal Varma for a role in "Sarkar".

Varma swears by Tanisha's talent. "She's truly vivacious on camera. Very natural."

But who would have given Tanisha so many chances to prove herself if she wasn't Kajol's sister and Devgan's sister-in-law? A moot point and one that doesn't have any easy solutions.

Those who support the star-kid brigade feel that the children from film families have a marked advantage.

"They're taught from the start to be actors. Their entire personality is shaped accordingly. I'm not denying there're extremely talented newcomers out there. But star-kids will always have that extra edge. If Dhirubhai Ambani's sons can rock the business world why can't Randhir and Babita Kapoor's daughters do the same?" argues Sujoy Ghosh of "Jhankar Beats".