I am not a big fan of the new-fangled reality shows on Indian TV but give me a film awards function and I will happily stay in on Sunday evening and watch it from start to finish. Yes, all the way from the cheesy interviews of stars on the red carpet (“What are you wearing?” “How are you feeling?”) to the many ‘scintillating’ performances by stars who have been paid enormous amounts of money to shake their booty, interspersed with the awards themselves.
Despite the bad jokes, the tacky costumes, the snarky commentary and the corny comedy routines, there is something fun about these evenings. And I love every moment, even though there is a certain predictability about the entire exercise.You know that Shah Rukh Khan will make snide comments about his co-stars and then apologise laughingly in the next breath. You know that Karan Johar will get a bit teary at some point or the other. You know that the camera will focus lovingly on Rekha when Amitabh Bachchan is on stage and vice versa (they had an affair a quarter of a century ago; get over it, people!). And so on.
But last week, as I sat down to watch the Zee Cine Awards, there was a surprise in store for me – and the many millions watching across the world. Doing his tried-and-tested ‘Gosh I am so witty’ routine Shah Rukh invited Hrithik on stage. There was the usual banter between the stars on the lines of how Khan had taught Roshan everything. But now, said Shah Rukh, it was time to teach Hrithik how to treat his wife. And for that, he needed the ‘lovely’ Sussanne Roshan on stage.
Sitting pretty in the front row, Sussanne went all pink with embarrassment, then stood up gamely and went on stage much to the delight of the delirious crowd. But then, as the routine unfolded, it became clear that this was no impromptu interlude but a well-rehearsed item that the stars had put together well before hand. Sussanne entered into the spirit readily enough, going on her knees to say “I love you” to a ‘stupefied’ Hrithik. And as they traipsed happily off the stage, Shah Rukh announced to the delighted audience: “This has never happened at any awards show before this.”
He’s probably right about that. But what’s the betting that this kind of stuff will become routine as this decade unfolds? That star wives will become part of the entertainment instead of just sitting in the audience and clapping madly with fixed smiles on their faces? Yes, the writing is pretty much on the autocue on that one. Star wives are no longer content to sit on the sidelines, basking in the reflected glory of their husbands. They want to be stars in their own right, thank you very much.
We’ve come a long time from the days when stars like Dharmendra kept their wives (well, in his case, only the first) locked up at home. Or when heroes married in secret – Aamir Khan to his first wife, Reena – so that their sex appeal at the box-office remained intact. Or when even the most dedicated reader of Stardust couldn’t pick out Jeetendra’s wife from a line-up.
Even heroines at the peak of their careers had to go into hibernation once they got married. Dimple was whisked away into the shadows once she married Rajesh Khanna, re-emerging only once her marriage broke down. Jaya Bhaduri went into retirement after marrying Amitabh Bachchan, only to be coaxed back to do Silsila with the other woman in this triangle, Rekha (okay, okay, I know it was a long time ago; sorry to bring it up again).
Today’s star wives are not the retiring creatures of old. Like Gauri Khan (for Vogue and various other glossies) they are cover girls in their own right, flaunting the latest designer outfits on their gym-fit bodies. They appear on Koffee with Karan with their other halves, poking gentle fun at their husbands, all shiny and sparkling with confidence. They sit majestically in the front row at fashion shows, bona fide style stars in their right.
They have their own Twitter accounts; their own fan following; sometimes even their own ad campaigns. Twinkle Khanna stars in one featuring a mobile phone even though she retired from the movies nearly a decade ago after marrying Akshay Kumar. And Gauri Khan co-stars with husband Shah Rukh in an ad for a home decor company (she is, apparently, its brand ambassadress).
Over the last month, we have seen wall-to-wall coverage of the release of Dhobi Ghat, with the husband-wife team of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao (lead actor and director respectively) giving joint interviews to anyone who turned up with a microphone and a camera. And while I am sure that Kiran Rao is an immensely talented woman who has made a very worthwhile movie, there is simply no denying that the publicity whirl around her is down to who she is married to. She gets all this attention because she is a star wife not because she is a brilliant first-time director.
Whichever way you look at it, one thing seems clear. Star wives are finally striking out for a bit of stardom in their own right. And in our celebrity-obsessed world, it looks as if they will get it.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
From HT Brunch, February 6
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