Actor and HT columnist, who believes the era of God-like superstars is over; today’s stars are demystified by the media, he says...
“Ranbir and I seem to have a mutual admiration society,” laughs Imran Khan when he learns of our Guest Editor’s vote for the Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na star as the young actor to watch out for. “Ranbir has a clear sense of cinema. And I have a clear sense of what will work for me and what I like,” Khan adds.
Coming as he does from a family of filmmakers — his grandfather was Nasir Hussain, Aamir Khan and Mansoor Khan are uncles — 26-year-old Khan has a first-hand perspective on film-making and acting.
“Today’s generation has much more exposure to world cinema and our thoughts and decisions are influenced by that,” he says. Because of those influences, he believes, “We are more interested in the naturalistic style of acting and this is something that each generation of actors has taken further.” And adds a technical point: “Thanks to advanced theatres, projection and sound equipment, acting can be more subtle, natural and real today.”
Another difference he sees is that he and his peers are not fixated on their star status.
“Actors today are a lot more accessible, more human,” he says. “The earlier stars were like gods; the mythology of stars was larger than life. You saw your favourite star only when a film was opening — remember the hysteria when a Rajesh Khanna or Amitabh Bachchan film released?”
That era of superstars, he believes, is over: “Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are the last of the superstars. Thanks to the proliferation of television channels and the media, actors today are demystified. People see us in photos at airports, with pimples, with sweaty armpits.”
Three films down and just two in the bag (Delhi Belly and Punit Malhotra’s film with Sonam Kapoor), choosing projects, he says, is based on a balance between personal likes and commercial concerns.
And he’s willing to take a risk. “Today’s generation is willing to take more chances,” he says.
And speaking for himself, he declares, “I’m attracted to honest filmmaking based on a world, characters, story and sensibilities that I know. You read a script and like it and then commercial concerns kick in. I try to strike a balance.”
Actress who switched from badminton to modelling and then entered Bollywood — on the strength of her own name
It’s the perennial grouse of the outsider who tries to break into the charmed circle of Bollywood: star kids have it easy. But Deepika Padukone, who entered the industry at the same time as insiders Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, has no complaints. “A lot is said about the advantages star kids enjoy, and they do have an edge over rank outsiders in that they are given a great start by their parents. But I was lucky enough to get a dream launch too, in Om Shanti Om,” points out Padukone. “And eventually,” she says, “all of us have to go through the grind, have to struggle our way up the ladder.”
With father Prakash being a badminton superstar, she did try her hand at the game and even played at the national level. Her experiences during that stint prepared her for the hurly-burly of filmdom. “I had some great times travelling second-class by train to tournaments across the country, living in dorms, sharing loos and eating the worst possible food. It made me independent and confident,” she says. Qualities that came in handy when she entered Bollywood.
She says that growing up, she saw only the occasional film — she remembers Chandni, Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, Dil, Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But one year, there was a bonanza: “My dad was on a film award jury and loads of movies came home. Sometimes, my sister Anisha and I got to see a movie too,” she recalls.
Padukone believes she couldn’t have entered the industry at a more opportune time. “Heroines today are better placed, both in terms of remuneration and footage. Who knows, one day, a film may even be sold on my name,” she says hopefully. What she has going for her in these days of Bollywood gone global, she says, is: “I can look both traditional and modern. That’s important because our films are no longer confined to India, they’ve encompassed the world. And that’s one reason director Farah Khan signed me on for Om Shanti Om.”
And she’s not overly worried about the competition. “Newcomers arrive every year. Some fade away, some get married and move on, some stay around. I plan to be around for a long time.”
She set foot on a film set for the first time when she worked as an assistant director on Black. Then came her own films — Saawariya and Delhi 6.
You might think Sonam Kapoor was to the Bollywood manner born, with Anil Kapoor for a father. But, growing up, she never wanted to be an actress. “I wanted to be a teacher, lawyer, artist, social worker, historian, writer, dancer, detective... it was a new career choice every few months,” she laughs.
It was when she went off to Singapore to study that she says she got homesick.
at Hindi cinema through an outsider’s eyes.” And then, “I discovered the greatness of SD Burman and RD Burman. I saw Pakeezah and that did it for me. I was mesmerised by Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi’s artistry. I was seduced. I came back wanting to be a part of the fraternity.”
But not as an actress. She joined Sanjay Leela Bhansali as an assistant director on Black. And remembers: “I loved the smell of paint and polish, the beautiful clothes in the costume room and the cacophony of voices on the crackling loudspeakers. And most of all, the vanity vans into which actors disappeared, looking like normal people and emerged, a few hours later, completely transformed.”
So when Bhansali offered her the lead role in Saawariya, she jumped at the chance because “I would finally get to go inside a vanity van and discover if there was a fairy godmother inside.”
She discovered there wasn’t just one, but many — “gym instructors, stylists, designers and makeup artists who put in so much effort to make you look good.”
How does she see the generational shift in Bollywood? “Each new generation brings changes dictated by the choices it makes. What seems radical today will be staid a decade from now,” she says. “But it would still have set certain benchmarks and turned the wheel before someone else took over. That’s how I approach my work.”