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Bollywood reopens doors to divas of yore
Priyanka Khanna, Jul 24  [ Sun, Jul 24, 2005 ]
Bollywood reopens doors to divas of yore

  • New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) As the endearingly dimpled and wrinkled face of veteran actress Sharmila Tagore stares back from posters of the film "Viruddh", yet another unwritten rule of the film industry seems set to fall.

    Hitherto, after playing heroine for some time even the most talented actresses would be relegated to roles as mothers or eased out unceremoniously.

    Things are not so different in Hollywood, but there actresses survive better and sometimes scripts are specially written with powerful but mellow actresses in mind, something Bollywood refuses to do.

    In "Viruddh", the mere fact that a veteran actress is being projected as the leading lady of a new release is reason enough to cheer. Posters, songs, still photos and promos feature Sharmila with her co-star Amitabh Bachchan, clearly specifying that the thrust of the Mahesh Manjrekar film is the enduring romance between the two.

    Before this role where she is mother to John Abraham, Sharmila was last seen in "Mann" playing Aamir Khan's grandmother. In between, she did two art house Bengali films - Goutam Ghosh's "Abar Aranye" and Rituparno Ghosh's whodunit "Shubho Muhurat". She went on to win a National Award for her role in the former but the films were seen by only a handful.

    "Viruddh" goes beyond what the makers of "Baghban" tried to achieve with the sixty-plus screen romance between Amitabh and Hema Malini. Though "Baghban" dedicated sizable reel-time to the two veterans, its makers used Salman Khan and Mahima Choudhury in promos to sell the film.

    Clearly, Bollywood is waking up to the latent potential of its veterans and paying tribute to them. Having given the phenomenally talented 63-year-old Amitabh his rightful due and reinstated him as the hottest star at the turnstiles, it is now the turn of the ladies.

    Recently, Rekha was seen swaying at a nightspot song-and-dance sequence in Pradeep Sarkar's period film "Parineeta". Her latent grace made the item number watch-able.

    Though she cut a rather sorry figure in that sad attempt at comedy, Govind Menon's "Bachke Rehna Re Baba", that wasn't entirely her fault. Her upcoming assignments include "Krrish", which is reportedly a sequel to "Koi Mil Gaya".

    A trade observer said: "The change has come with variety emerging as the spice of moviemaking and a degree of realism entering mainstream movies."

    In the recent past, Hema Malini did wonders with "Baghban" and will be back with Amitabh in BR Films' next production, "Babul".

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  • Rati Agnihotri has been getting better roles after she played Amitabh's better half in "Dev". One such role was that of a sophisticated mother to Saif Ali Khan in "Hum Tum".

    Jaya Bachchan is spoilt for choice with films as diverse as "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa", "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum" and "Main Hoon Naa" coming her way.

    We will also soon see Jayaprada romancing a much younger man in a film based on the relationship between a young man and an older woman.

    But alas! The truth is that here too Bollywood's penchant for a workable formula is in process. Most are hoping to recreate the success of Ravi Chopra's "Baghban". The one hit film with Hema Malini has suddenly given a spurt of films with 50-plus actresses who charge less than reigning divas and are easier to handle.

    The onus, therefore, lies with the divas of yore to choose their scripts carefully and avoid getting stereotyped.

    Amitabh can serve as a perfect example. This year he has successfully reinvented himself with a series of remarkable diverse performances. With his last three releases - "Bunty Aur Babli", "Sarkar" and "Viruddh" - he has broken away from the image of a product-plugging and mediocre acting sexagenarian with highlighted hair.

    Waheeda Rehman who is in her 70s seems to have set her eyes on artistic acclaim. Hers will be the next anticipated comeback. She is part of Deepa Mehta's "Water", Rakeysh Mehra's "Rang De Basanti", Aparna's Sen's "15 Park Avenue" and Jahnu Barua's "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara".