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Fame that lasts for 15 minutes

In these celebrity-obsessed times, fame comes fast – and goes just as fast. But what happens to people after their 15 minutes of fame are over? A few bruised individuals tell us.

entertainment Updated: May 07, 2011 16:43 IST
Ajay Khullar

In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes
- Andy Warhol, pop artist, 1968

Fame perhaps does not smile on everyone, but it is true that often enough it lasts those fleeting 15 minutes. This story is not an obituary; for nothing is final in the world of showbiz and we have time and again witnessed phoenix-like acts by stars such as Shilpa Shetty and Amitabh Bachchan.

This story is about those who came onto the horizon like bright stars – but the night was just too short and they faded from the scene as fast as they had appeared. The starry, starry night might or might not come again, but we could at least pretend that their star is once again rising – ladies and gentlemen, we give you your 16th minute.

Baba Sehgal
The rapper whose song slowed down
Baba Sehgal sat in front of the television set thinking of ways of reinventing himself. The sales of his first two albums had been nothing to write home about and he knew he would himself be homeward bound to Lucknow if something drastic didn’t happen. Something drastic did happen, right that moment. As Baba watched Vanilla Ice sing or rather rap Ice Ice Baby on MTV Asia, inspiration hit and Thanda Thanda Pani was born.

The New York Times did a story on Baba, calling him the Indian voice of rap. The Indian media labelled him the ‘King of Rap’. A music video with Pooja Bedi had people mobbing him for autographs and suddenly Baba was being equated with film stars in terms of popularity. “Girls hounding you for autographs... it was very nice. There was a lot of excitement, people wanted to know about your private life. I loved that... I enjoyed every moment of it,” Baba recalls.

Today, a decade-and-a-half later, life has come full circle for Baba as he is once again faced with the challenge of reinventing himself. The shelf life of most music artistes is limited to a few years but that, Baba feels, was not his biggest problem. He points out that post 2000, most music labels stopped promoting pop singers and shifted focus to film music. So Baba too was forced to shift focus – he had already dabbled in movies and television and during the last decade, after a brief stint in the US, Baba returned to India to television. He even featured on Bigg Boss, but did he in the bargain lose his identity as a rap artiste? “It is because of my identity as a rapper that I got these shows... what can a man do? But it helped me regain my confidence, I realised I was still wanted,” he says.

Work never stopped for Baba as he began to belt out hits for the southern film industry but in all fairness he was no more the star he once was. He regrets nothing except the fact “that when fans ask you when you are coming out with an album you have no answers.” But now Baba has an answer. After a gap of many years he is at last coming out with a new album. Baba’s stars may not be on song anymore, but at least he’s still rapping.

When the ice melts
“You have to live with it; that your fan following is not the same, the craze is not the same, you have to prove yourself again. With the goodwill I have earned I think will be successful once again,” says Baba about his second stint.

They were here too
Though the 16th minute has ticked by for them, here are some people we’d like to see again

Sagrika: Shaan’s older sibling, she re-introduced the ’90s to the cult pop hit Disco Deewane and settled for marriage soon after. Though she did collaborate with Talvin Singh for a tour a few years later, it was never the same again.

Sneha Ullal: Touted as the next Aishwarya Rai, her debut opposite Salman Khan had tongues wagging about how similar both looked. But a few not-so-successful movies and item numbers later, her star refused to rise again.

Indian Idol Season one
Winners: With their rags-to-riches tales played out to the masses, Abhijeet Sawant and Amit Sana hit the big time. But while Sawant managed some fame, Sana was only seen singing in reality shows.
Falguni Pathak: With her boyish charm and honeyed voice, her numerous garba and dandiya hits, the Navratras assumed a new meaning. But post 2000, both her and the memorable videos for her songs have disappeared.
Band of Boys: Handpicked by music maestros, this bunch of lookers was India’s first boy band. Even as the band began losing members, they managed to be visible with stage shows and TV performances till the last decade.

The Chak De! India girls
The Match Goes On

Chake De! The match goes on

During the post production of

Chak De! India

, the writer of the film, Jaideep Sahni, had turned to the cast and said, “After the release of the film you all will be so famous, you’ll have to wear a burqa.” Prophetic words.

Chak De!

was a big hit.

“The audience went in to see Shah Rukh and they came out loving all of us,” chirps Vidya Malvade, who played the goalkeeper and captain in the film.“It was a great high, I remember someone told me he had seen the movie five evenings in a row and would watch it again! It was all so good. An old couple one day came up to me and said, ‘You saved us, you actually made India win.’ It was an overnight sensation. Our lives just changed,” Vidya adds.

The lives of the girls did change, overnight. Many of them were small-town girls on whom fame had smiled. Chitrashi Rawat, a junior-level national hockey player, who played the spunky Komal Chautala in the movie, recalls, “People were dying for my autograph, the media was dying for a byte, it was pretty cool. People used to ask me to say dialogues from the film.”

Tanya Abrol, who played the tomboyish Balbir Kaur in the film, says she received a similar reaction. “Girls would come running to me and say wow, look at you, you look so beautiful (laughs). I had lost a lot of weight after the movie. I enjoyed all the attention.”

The attention in some degree is probably still there, for no one forgets completely, though your face might become like a faded photograph in an album at which you have to look twice to recognise yourself. “The thing with attention or even your youth or success is that it doesn’t last forever. For Shah Rukh Khan or Madhuri Dixit it’s a lifelong, but for mere models like us, you just have to enjoy the moment,” says Vidya.

The movie is now four years old. Since then most of the girls have moved on to voicing new dialogues in major Bollywood movies – with no major impact. “Personally and professionally I thought that once you do a good job, all jobs are done. But ironically, that’s not the truth of our industry. Nevertheless that’s the only truth I believe in. I am grateful to God for giving me

Chak De

. But I am more and beyond,” says Shilpa Shukla who played Shah Rukh’s adversary in the film. The match is not nearly lost for this bunch of sporty girls, but undoubtedly their finest moment came when they picked up the hockey stick for Team India on celluloid.

Savouring the flavour

“You have to enjoy it while it lasts. The thing with attention or even your youth or success is that it doesn’t last forever,” says Vidya Malvade philosophically about her few minutes of fame post the release of

Chak De! India.

Shefali Zariwala
The Show Must Go On

Shefali Zariwala: The show must go on

It’s strange when something as innocuous as a thong changes the course of your life. That’s what happened to Shefali Zariwala, an introverted girl from a middle class family, who enjoyed studying and used to take the train every morning to college. She wanted to finish her engineering, go abroad for an MBA, find a nice NRI boy and settle down. She was a simple girl with simple plans.

But as she stood outside her college one day, a music video director came to her with the promise that she would change Shefali’s life forever. “I’m happy with the way things are, I don’t want to change my life,” Shefali told her, but when the director persisted Shefali reluctantly gave in and let her life be changed by a music video that was called

Kaanta Laga.

It is said that when fame comes, it comes like a hurricane. On January 7, 2002, teasers of the music video were released on TV and on January 8 Shefali got a call for a show. A star was born. “I started seeing a lot of fame, a lot of glamour, a lot of luxury,” Shefali says, admitting that she had to pay a price for it though.


Kaanta Laga

released there was this whole controversy of the song being vulgar. People were talking ill about me and I didn’t take that very well,” she says. Her friends too didn’t know how to react to her as she was now a star. With all the attention and the money pouring in, Shefali was unsure of how to conduct herself, but the director of her music video pointed out that she had got more fame with one song than most people get in a lifetime. That intensity of fame however didn’t last a lifetime.

As she herself admits, she had no plans and wasn’t very ambitious. A cameo in a Bollywood movie, a couple of forgettable music videos, a failed marriage – and soon Shefali was forced to stop and think. “I began to learn dancing and that’s when I began to take my career very seriously. I started working out and I got back into action. I started receiving offers from the South which I never considered earlier.” She says she’s in a happy place right now, with a good bank balance and good work. But in all fairness she is living in the shadow of the fame that came with

Kaanta Laga.

All in that one moment
“I was not normal then. I was not an ordinary girl going to college. I had started seeing a lot of fame, a lot of glamour, a lot of luxury,” admits one-item-song-wonder Shefali.

Atul Bedade
The Man With The Mighty Six

One evening during a party in Sharjah in 1994, the then wicket-keeper of the Pakistan cricket team Rashid Latif had some advice for a newcomer to the Indian side. “You are being impatient. This is international cricket. You have to settle down first and then play the way you want,” Latif told the Indian batsman who was known to hit the ball hard.

The next morning, as Atul Bedade walked in to bat against Pakistan in the final of the Australasia Cup, the advice was considered and then ignored. As Atul began to go after the Pakistani bowlers, hitting them for four sixes, Latif turned to his teammates in disbelief: “I’m the one who told him to go slow yesterday and now look at the way he’s thrashing us.”

Though there were critics of Atul’s unorthodox no-holds-barred approach, the public and media began to look at him as someone who could turn the match around and he revelled in the attention. But he couldn’t turn the matches around or maybe his fate had turned and he was dropped from the side after the West Indies series, despite averaging 70 in the series. Hurt was obvious, and even as Atul struggled to return to the Indian side, he came down with a finger injury. The finger healed in seven months and by now so had the hurt.

Atul once again picked up his bat and began to play in the Hong Kong and Malaysia Super Sixes as well as minor counties in England. But he never got to wear the blue jersey again. Does he miss the attention and adulation that comes with being an Indian cricketer? “It’s part and parcel of the game. I accept it. Everyone goes through it,” says Atul philosophically.

Post retirement Atul has worn many different hats – dabbling in politics, running a successful cricket academy, commentating for ESPN, and running a business. But he would probably have preferred to have been playing cricket. Atul says that he was criticised for his style where he would go in and just try and whack the ball over the boundary and now everyone seems to be doing just that. His reference of course is to the Indian Premier League (IPL). “Earlier they would throw you out for trying to hit the ball over the boundary, and now they pay you for it,” he laughs.

Ahead of his Time
“Earlier they would throw you out for trying to hit the ball over the boundary, now they pay you for it,” rues the former hard-hitting batsman Atul Bedade about the latest format of playing in the IPL.

- From HT Brunch, May 8
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