Maverick music composer and singer Himesh Reshammiya's debut film Aap Kaa Surroor has done phenomenal business in India, sparking speculations that he might become a successful singer-actor that Bollywood has been deprived of for decades.
Bollywood produced its first big singer-actor when K.L. Saigal stepped into the industry, acted in around 30 films and enthralled masses with his acclaimed flicks like Devdas and Parwana. After him, it was Talat Mahmood who tried his luck in acting but was greeted with mixed response. Talat did 13 films.
Bollywood's best singer-actor was Kishore Kumar, who galloped to stardom not only with his voice but also with his acting. Kishore Kumar starred in around 80 films and was appreciated by the masses for his performance in movies like Half Ticket, Shreeman Funtoosh and Padosan.
After Kishore Kumar, many renowned singers like Sonu Nigam, Kumar Sanu, Shaan and others tried their hands at acting but met with disastrous box-office results.
Himesh's film, on the contrary, has landed a hit by collecting over Rs.90 million in the domestic box office and around Rs.8.1 million in cash counters in Britain.
Bollywood scholars feel star singers have failed to become acting sensations over the years because modern audiences wanted to see trained actors doing the job rather than spend money to see just anyone acting.<b1>
"In the past people had to be singers to act in movies due to technological constraints," said Derek Bose, a veteran film scholar. "When Saigal was acting, everyone had to be a singer-actor because there was no scope for dubbing or playback like today. Among these bunch of people, Saigal was the best no doubt.
"Then if you talk about the others like Kishore (Kumar) and Lata, they came to Bollywood to act but ended up becoming singers. Earlier, it was easy for a singer to become an actor because unlike today, the audiences were compromising and forgiving.
"But now with people watching quality acting, it's very difficult for an untrained person to make it big in the industry because all actors, even mediocre ones, have gone through some training. So singers have not been able to match up to them over the years," Bose noted.
Analysts feel that Bollywood can expect Himesh to emerge as a good singer-actor but add that his consistency of landing hits is still to be tested.
"Himesh's real test begins now. Though he has done well in his debut, it should be remembered that it was backed by his close set of people," said Suleman Mobhani, co-founder of IndiaFm, a Bollywood trade website.
"It is to be seen whether other producers and directors approach him with roles," he said.
"One thing is for sure - Himesh is loved by the masses but it will be interesting to see how he acts in multiple star cast films and roles that are more challenging. Also, he should act in multiple genres like comedies to prove how versatile he is. He has got what it takes to become successful."