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Gujaratis catching up with Punjabis in Bollywood
Subhash K. Jha, May 9  [ Mon, May 9, 2005 ]

  • Mumbai, May 9 (IANS) The Chopras, Khannas and Kapoors who have ruled Hindi cinema for long have reason to feel threatened. Suddenly Bollywood is no longer the domain of Punjabis, as Gujaratis seem to be catching up fast.

    Topping the list of Gujaratis is Sanjay Leela Bhansali. This creative artiste completely turned around the perception of the film industry and the audience to Gujaratis.

    Before Bhansali, Gujarati directors like Mehul Kumar and Indra Kumar, though highly successful, appeared to be too downmarket to compete with the competition that the relatively sophisticated Chopras, Johars and Sippys posed.

    Bhansali, however, with his versatility, magician's vision and aesthetic sense changed the general perception. With four films, he re-invented the Gujarati presence in the industry.

    "It's the dhokla factor in the industry," quips another Gujarati director, Hansal Mehta, whose thriller "Chhal" and sex comedy "Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai" redefined pop-entertainment.

    Then there's Vipul Shah who made the mildly successful heist drama "Aankhen". His new film "Waqt" is a worldwide success. The Gujarati humour of the plot seems to have gone down well with audiences who enjoyed the light banter and repartees between Amitabh Bachchan, Boman Irani and Rajpal Yadav.

    Now, just a week after "Waqt", another Shah has made an impact. Soham Shah's shiver giver "Kaal" has shocked everyone.

    Says Vivek Oberoi: "It's hard to believe that this nice innocent Gujarati boy whom all the Gujju girls eye as a potential husband is actually capable of coming up with a film as scary as 'Kaal'. I also loved 'Waqt'. That's the kind of masala cinema I like."

    So have the Gujaratis finally caught up with the Punjabis?

    "Sanjay Bhansali is definitely a director to reckon with. How I wish he was around when I was a leading lady," says Asha Parekh, the first superstar heroine from Gujarat.

    Also waiting in the wings is Sammir Dattani. Born into a Gujarati business family, Dattani seems destined to do his clan proud. According to most industry watchers he has the potential to be the next big Gujarati in filmdom after Asha Parekh, Sanjeev Kumar and Dimple Kapadia.

    While there haven't been any major male stars from Gujarat except the late Sanjeev Kumar and Jackie Shroff, who's half-Gujarati, Dattani hopes to change that.

    "I really don't see the film industry as being polarised community-wise. But I'm definitely proud to be a Gujarati and if my cultural identity brings a freshness to our cinema, I'm happy."

    Continued on next page...