Ladies films around the corner

Jun 15, 2005 Subhash K Jha, Jun 15


Mumbai, June 15 (IANS) Get ready for two ladies' films this week.

Though Khalid Mohamed's sonorous-sounding "Silsilay" has Rahul Bose, Jimmy Shergil and Ashmit Patel as the male leads, the ladies - Tabu, Bhoomika Chawla, Celina Jaitley and Riya Sen - clearly take the front seat in journalist-turned-director Khalid Mohamed's third directorial venture.

Those who have seen his earlier films "Fiza" and "Tehzeeb" wouldn't be surprised by the predominance of the ladies in his plot. Even the films that Khalid wrote for Shyam Benegal ("Mammo", "Zubeida") had the women at the forefront.

Is the audience up to watching a film that tells episodic tales of three love affairs? The elusive Tabu, undoubtedly one of the finest actresses we have, returns after a longish gap. A product of the Nargis-Meena Kumari-Shabana Azmi school of dramatics, things haven't been going as well for Tabu as they should have.

Her mentor Gulzar had once said Tabu had the potential to usher in a new kind of heroine, like Jaya Bhaduri. Alas Tabu's potential has been smothered. Suffering a mid-career crisis, she now counts on Khalid's "Silsilay" and Mira Nair's "Namesake" to bail her out.

The other ladies in Khalid's film aren't quite marquee names either. Bhoomika Chawla made a promising start in "Tere Naam" but got caught in some wrong films like "Dil Ne Jissey Apna Kahaa" thereafter.

The only one in the news - for all the wrong reasons - is Riya Sen. But would she be able to usher audiences into theatres in large droves?

Unusually, Rahul Bose goes commercial in "Silsilay". So far, he has never been seen in a mainstream film except Govind Nihalani's "Thakshak", where he starred as a villain. In "Silsilay", Rahul is a lover-boy. "Devdas" has swift competition.

The other film is "Bachke Rehna Re Baba" by director Govind Menon, who repackaged the flop actress Reema Lamba from Vashu Bhagnani's "Jeena Sirrf Terre Liye" into Mallika Sherawat in "Khwahish".

Last year, he fashioned a flop farce "Kiss Kiss Ki Kismat" with the spunky Sherawat, who had the visibly embarrassed veteran Dharmendra for company.

Now Menon has cast his favourite actress with the supremely sultry Rekha in the con caper that "Bachke Rehna Re Baba" is. Like "Silsilay", it's a chick flick. It tries to bring the Hollywood girlie capers like "Charlie's Angels" and "Thelma & Louise" into a desi context.

Will it work? Rekha, who was seen last week burning up the screen with her smouldering item number in "Parineeta" has always been a pro at comedy.

Remember her in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Khubsoorat"? Or more recently "Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao" where she did Bette Midler's role from "Ruthless People" with arresting, though alas abortive, élan.

As for the astounding Sherawat, she's funny even when she is not.

Ladies pictures have faced bleak prospects at the box office in the past few years. Apart from Madhur Bhandarkar's "Chandni Bar", no female-centric film - not even outstanding ones like Sudhir Mishra's "Chameli" and Mahesh Dattani's "Morning Raga" - has done well.

With two feminine flicks in the theatres this Friday, it's time to wonder. Are the days of "Bandini" and "Parineeta" behind us?

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