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Not with ‘senior’ heroes?

Statesman News Service |

Shraddha Kapoor apparently has courage of conviction, so she fearlessly says what she feels about pairing off with someone not of her age group. But most young actresses who have yet to rise to the top won’t benefit from that lead, writes ac tuli
IF your entry into the film industry as actor is comparatively of recent origin and you’re still to make your mark in order to enter the charmed circle of top stars, you’re of course always wary about what you say to the press lest you make a slip that could harm your career. But this is not what actress Shraddha Kapoor thinks. It appears the young woman has courage of conviction, so she fearlessly says what she feels. She recently signed for Mohit Suri&’s film, Villain, in which her co-star is Siddharth Malhotra. She is reported to have refused to be part of Umesh Shukla&’s next film, in which Abhishek Bachchan is the leading man. Kapoor says she is more interested in working with comparatively young heroes like Siddharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Ayushmaan Khurraana and Ranbir Kapoor than with a “senior” actor like Abhishek Bachchan.
Curiously, if Kapoor thinks the 37-year-old Abhishek Bachchan is a “senior” actor, one wonders what adjective she would use for Bollywood&’s three most popular Khans. Would it be “veterans” or “venerable oldies”? Anyhow, it would be rather unfair to find fault with Kapoor for being so candid about the choice of actors she would like to be paired with in films.
She says she “doesn’t want to tread the same path as other actresses”. By “other actresses” she obviously means Sonakshi Sinha, Asin, Anushka Sharma, Kangana Ranaut and a few more. All of them have been paired with actors almost twice their age. But then one may ask: Is it not a calculated risk for an actress, who is still in the initial stage of her career, to decide to only do films with young but as yet not so well known actors? And especially when she knows that the star system, good or bad, is so firmly entrenched in our film industry that it would be naïve on the part of a new entrant to ignore its power and fascination. Doubtless, a budding starlet benefits if she gets the opportunity to work in a film with a big star and that film becomes a big box office hit.
For instance, Sonakshi Sinha began with Dabangg opposite Salman Khan, who is almost a quarter century older than her. In fact, she was just a one-year-old toddler when Salman Khan made his debut in films with Biwi Ho To Aisee (1988). But her pairing with Salman Khan in Dabangg proved very lucky for her because the film was a superhit of 2010 and Sonakshi achieved star status with her very first venture. Now imagine if she had refused to sign for Dabangg because Salman was a “senior” actor and she preferred to work with someone of her age group. Would she have reached where she is today?
Anushka Sharma&’s debut in Aditya Chopra&’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) opposite Shah Rukh Khan proved a landmark for her. Even though the film was not exactly a smashing box office hit, it gave a big fillip to her budding career as an actress. It was obviously because of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi that she went on to work in films opposite other big stars of Bollywood. Aditya Chopra was so impressed with her performance that he once againcast her opposite Shah Rukh Khan in his film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
What proved a boon for Sonakshi Sinha and Anushka Sharma naturally stood Asin in good stead when she came to work in Hindi films. Her entry commenced with Aamir Khan&’s Ghajini, which was a box office superhit. It was obviously her pairing with Aamir Khan in this film that later paved the way for her pairing with Salman Khan in Ready, also a box office hit. Had she been finicky about the age of “senior” actors and made an off-the-cuff statement that she preferred working with heroes of her own age group, it is doubtful she would ever have emerged from the obscurity of anonymity to live forever in the sunshine of popularity.
Now, whatever we may say in praise of “senior” actors and their charisma, the truth is the truth and it is futile to deny it. It is, of course, natural for an actress of 20-something to feel far more comfortable working with an actor who is of her age group than with a “senior” who might have started acting in films before she was born. Here are a few instances to illustrate the point. Hema Malini was born in 1948 and made her debut with Raj Kapoor in Sapnon Ka Saudagar (1968). Raj Kapoor, born in 1924, made his debut as a hero in Kidar Sharma&’s Neel Kamal, which was released in 1947. Similarly, Kangana Ranaut, born in 1987, has now been paired with Sunny Deol in I Love New Year, which is to be released shortly. Sunny Deol, born in 1956, began his career in films with Betaab, which was released in 1982.
So this younger-heroine-much-older-hero phenomenon is not of recent origin. In fact, it has been the reality of Bollywood right from the inception of talkies in India. For instance, the three top heroes of the ’50s and ’60s — Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor — were often cast opposite actresses much, much younger than they were. Similarly, in the late ’70s and ’80s, Sridevi was perhaps not very comfortable opposite actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna and others who were two decades older than she was. But she was shrewd enough to understand that it was only when she was cast opposite such top actors that she could achieve stardom. And she did.
Similarly, Dharmendra also appeared opposite actresses like Mumtaz, Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Sadhana and others, who were much younger than he was. But what was far more important than Dharmendra&’s age was the box office success of films in which he worked with these young heroines. Most of these films were box office hits that earned mega bucks for their makers.
So, taken all in all, this fuss about “senior” actors is not going to benefit young actresses who have yet to rise to the top. If working with young heroes of their age group appears to them a very comfortable idea, they have to be professional and hard-headed enough to willingly work with “seniors” too when the chance for doing so comes their way.
But when all has been said about stars and their undeniable box office pull, one must concede that Shraddha Kapoor does have a point when she says she is interested in working with young actors rather than with “seniors”. In fact, it is not unnatural for a 20-something actress if she, in her quiet and solitary moments, is slightly perturbed by a passing thought that the man who is romancing her in films could very well have been her father&’s classmate if both of them had lived in the same town and gone to the same school.