It looks like my musings about Bollywood continue!
Like every other field, Bollywood has kept its tradition of launching the star kids. The Hindi movies became a more significant business in the 70s and 80s. Till then, the Kapoor and the Dutt family from the acting side and a few other families from the production or directorial team were prominent. They tried to launch their progeny some successfully and others not so successfully. When Shah Rukh was trying to find his footing in Bollywood, Rishi, Randhir and Pinchu Kapoor were already there, and so was Sanjay Dutt.
In the 50s and 60s, most were from Northern part of India or had come from Pakistan after partition. Everyone else joining the films in those days was an “outsider”! Amitabh was a sales executive in a Calcutta company. Rajesh Khanna and Jitendra came from a lower middle class area (there was no higher middle class in those days) of Girgaum, in Mumbai. Jitendra used to live in a building called Ramchandra building- the building still exists- next to Girgaum Portuguese Church!
Red Church and Building on the right is Ramchandra Building!
The “outsiders” came from various hues. Some financially okay but most had tough times in the maximum city, Bombay. Most managed to live off friends and relatives in the initial phase, but many slept on benches and footpath. The urge to join Bollywood was so strong that they would sleep with an empty stomach.
What is it that makes people take lots of risks in attempting to join Bollywood? Glamour? Fame? The simple, understandable urge to graduate from drama stage. Many of the “outsiders” have come from drama background. Rishi and other Kapoors were conventionally good looking, but there were those with unconventional looks like Amitabh, Shah Rukh. With their non-filmy and sometimes non-city backgrounds, they were initially awkward. Amitabh was from a well-known family, but Shah was a typical Dilli ka Chora. Kangana, though good-looking had an awkwardness of not being city-bred. But they all had a fire in their eyes and their belly.
Our own Pune also had its share of people whom Bollywood bug had bitten. The statistically surprising part is that Smita Patil and Rohini Hattangandi were from Jaya’s school; Rohini was Jaya’s classmate. Mohan Agashe is a friend ours from school and college days. Smita Patil was from a rich financial background, but Rohini and Mohan were from families like ours. Smita was considered experimental off-beat movie artist but ended up dancing with Amitabh in a typical Hindi movie rain dance song! It looks like that movie bug and cricket bug have been prevalent in India for a long time.
How many of these outsiders or even insiders make it to the top? I know that the success rate is minimal, but still, people keep on trying. Rajendra Kumar’s son, Dev Anand’s son, are the classic examples of people not making it to the top. Even from the famous Kapoor family, Pinchu went nowhere in his career though he got great opportunities because of Raj Kapoor.
Another route taken by these outsiders was modelling, and beauty pageants; and Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra, Sushmita Sen are some of them. Many others remained on the fringe of stardom. Priyanka Chopra, Sushmita Sen were the winners in the same year, but their careers took the path very similar to that of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. Chopra now fits the idiom, “the world is her Oyster”! She has done so well, and by the time we realised she had become an international personality and swings between Bollywood and Hollywood. Just a small tidbit. She has produced one Marathi film called “Firebrand”!
Years back I was watching a Ranji trophy match on TV. I saw a young guy batting and called Jaya to watch him bat. She said, “Who is this guy?” I said, “He is a guy from Bangalore, called Rahul Dravid but is batting beautifully.” Rest as they say is history. Okay, I am not claiming that I “found” Rahul.
Shah Rukh in “Circus” in 1989
Similarly, I remember watching the DD series “Circus” in olden days. The series was good, but Jaya and I would watch it mainly for Shah Rukh though there were many other good actors in the series. He had some spark, and his boisterousness was seen even in those days.
Another interesting thing that one can see these days is that many of the aspirants have taken at least college-level education. In a few cases, like happened in the case of Sachin, it does not occur. Priyanka Chopra got so busy at an early stage that she could not go to college.
One more aspect we see these days is that all the successful and not so successful, I am talking commercially, actors have good financial consultants. They invest money wisely in most cases. One feels sad to read the story of the famous actor like Bhagwan of Sham Dhale fame living in poverty in the latter part of his life.
Like in normal life, Bollywood gang too has had its share of early deaths. Irfan Khan died at the age of 53. Smita Patil died at the age of 33; she also a child out of wedlock with Raj Babbar. Meena Kumari died at the age of 36 of liver cirrhosis and Madhubala of a heart ailment at a similar age. Amitabh had a near-death experience after an accident on the set of the Movie Coolie!
Some fascinating stuff is done by Bollywood gang currently. During the pandemic, Akshay Kumar, Sharukh, Sonu Sood, Salman and many others are donating tons of money to help the needy. It indicates their gratitude towards the society which has made them rich and famous.
Another outsider Marathi Mulagi who has reached the pinnacle is Madhuri Dixit. She is from a typical Maharashtrian family from Vile Parle, who made it to the top! I am mentioning this because in Maharashtrians going into Hindi movies is not the norm- actors graduate from Marathi movies and TV serials. But Madhuri straightaway started playing Test match cricket without even playing Ranji Trophy match.
One interesting thing that has nothing to do with insiders/outsiders is the risk taken by some of them. In olden times actors like Raj Kapoor would put in personal money to achieve their ambitions and follow their passion. They had kept the homes where they lived as collaterals. Amitabh tried to make films under the banner ABCL and had almost become bankrupt in the early 90s. What saved him was Kaun Banega Crorepati!
There are so many exciting and fascinating anecdotes in Bollywood. One thing is sure; you are as successful as your last film! Whether you are son/daughter of an insider or you are an outsider, it is you and me who decide their fate!