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Has Bollywood closed its doors on outsiders?
Subhash K Jha, IANS Sep 18  [ Sat, Sep 18, 2004 ]

  • Mumbai, Sep 18 (IANS): Is Bollywood becoming impervious to acting talent from outside?

    Going by the way star children are being wooed by every filmmaker on the Bollywood block, it would seem as though it's impossible for rank outsiders to get a foothold in the industry.

    From Dilip Kumar to Dharmendra to Rajesh Khanna to Amitabh Bachchan, every major star in the earlier decades came in from the cold. But not any more.

    A young, fairly well-known filmmaker who made an extremely watchable though unsuccessful film with three star kids in the lead sees a frighteningly cloistered situation growing in the industry.

    "I've a script where I want to cast Sammir Dattani in the lead. I saw him in 'Uff Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai'. Though the film was terrible, the boy makes you sit up and notice him. He's genuine star material. But I can't seem to convince my producer to cast him," he says.

    "I'm not denying that some of the star kids like Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan are immensely talented. But all of them are certainly not star material. They're being forced down audiences' gullets just because they have the privilege of being from within the industry.

    "I'm told that Kareena Kapoor is being offered a staggering Rs.25 million to co-star in producer Harry Baweja's son's debut film. This is utterly ridiculous! Kareena for all her talent and beauty has still to prove herself. All her hyped films have gone down the drain. Why should she get this kind of money, and for what purpose?"

    Like it or not the clamour for star kids is growing. Sharmila Tagore's daughter Soha Ali Khan has been seen in only a Bengali film so far. Yet she's being wooed by a dozen-odd filmmakers. Rituparno Ghosh is currently shooting his new Bengali film "Antarmahal" with Soha and Abhishek Bachchan.

    Earlier on he wanted to cast newcomer Vikas Sethi. But found no takers for the idea.

    Sethi has now switched sides to play villain in Mukesh Bhatt's new film that stars the producer's nephew, Emran Hashmi, in the lead.

    "I had no choice. A boy from Delhi with no connections in the film industry...what could I do?" reasons Sethi.

    Such is the growing insulation of Bollywood that star kids are shying away from working with outsiders. Soha was offered the lead opposite Sammir Dattani in producer Masood Ali's "Chicago"-based thriller. But she begged off pleading a date problem.

    Laughs Sammir, "I'm sure she had a genuine date problem. Or maybe she didn't want to work with me...But it's true that more than an assignment crisis, I face a heroine crisis. All the girls who suit me - I'm 22 - want to work with star children, if not Shah Rukh Khan."

    Continued on next page...

  • The most immediate after-effect of this phenomenon is the closure of doors on the faces of newcomers from outside the industry.

    Even Ram Gopal Varma who habitually casts unknown faces to often turn them into overnight traffic-stoppers is now working with Abhishek Bachchan, first in "Naach" and now in "Sarkar".

    Significantly, none of Varma's forthcoming films star newcomers, except "James", which stars Mohit Alawat, who in any case is "well connected". He's the nephew of late music baron Gulshan Kumar.

    Bad is the fate of wannabes from small towns who get into the hands of murky middlemen and are forced to sleep with everyone, from the friendly neighbourhood publicist to the potbellied producer - all of whom promise the moon but deliver nothing.

    The days when a cocky self-assured outsider called Shah Rukh Khan zoomed into sight are over - at least for now.