Back Again


It is well-established in Bollywood that glam star-pairs are much more loved, adored, remembered and in demand — Dilip Kumar-Madhubala, Raj Kapoor-Nargis, Dev Anand-Waheeda Rahman, Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dikshit, Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol — than the star-director combo. The reason is simple. The latter is a behind-the-scene, non-glam affair, while the star jugalbandi defines glamorous, enchanting, explosive chemistry designed to wake the dead and transport the awe-struck, swooning audiences to another planet! However, since the director is the captain and navigator of the ship, his contribution is immense, frequently, under-rated and de-valued due to the limelight-hogging stars.

While the jo dikhta hai, who bikta hai zinger is the audiences favorite retort, fact remains that, despite everything, it is the bonding, trust, understanding and total surrender of the stars to the director’s magic touch that usually results in the success of the film.

Here, it is worth remembering that despite the bravado, tashan and hi-fi positioning, stars, deep within, are very insecure and anxious creatures fully aware of the pitfalls of their uncertain and unpredictable career graph. Today’s super-star can be tomorrow’s also-ran and day-after’s history. Hence this breed, even while worshipped by their fans and adored by filmmakers are fully cognizant of the real worth and value of directors who recognize and showcase their talent best and have no hesitation in re-embracing them when the occasion, or crap luck, strikes.

It is possibly this thinking that motivated several A-listers to return to their hit-directors (or vice versa) in the hope of rescue from mothballville and revisiting the magic that got them that early success. What better way to start than cite the example of the Shah Rukh Khan-Farah Khan re-union? After a seven year Om Shanti Om break, the duo re-united to usher in a before-time Happy New Year. While SRK has been consistently blasting the charts, the post-OSO years have not been particularly happy for the director. Her two duds — Tees Maar Khan and Joker — with Akshay Kumar could well have forced her to rush back to her mentor and lucky charm SRK, with whom she had a hugely publicized parting of ways.

But all that is history. If the reports are right, Happy New Year is on a record-breaking spree. The Rs. 150 crore star-studded blockbuster, (also re-uniting the fabulous SRK-Deepika Padukone Jodi) is all set to race past their last year’s super-hit Chennai Express, scooping up Rs.75 crores in just three days of its release. Beaming across 5,000 screens word-wide (a new record?) Happy New Year represents a super comeback for the SRK-Farah duo.

Remember Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Saath Saath Hain where the Sooraj Barjatiya-Salman Khan combo worked like a dream, zonking youngistan, big time? In the 15 years that have passed since Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was launched in 1999, Salman Khan has moved from strength to strength to become a mega star with a sexy, seductive, tough guy-bad boy image providing a solid kick to his zillion fans at home and abroad.

Director Sooraj Barjatiya, unfortunately, hasn’t even remotely been able to recapture that golden phase and has been marginalized. Why? The Rajshri template appears to be hopelessly out-of-sync with today’s audience taste, demands and expectations and their brand of squeaky-clean, quaint, virtuous, vegetarian cinema — replete with beatific, glowing smiles, hushed conversation, pranams, jocksticks, mithai & antakshari — has been savagely pushed aside by form and content that is high on action, glamor, sex appeal, romance, naughty item songs and sizzling dances. What better time for an SOS to Bhai, who willingly agreed to step in and attempt damage control. The new Sooraj-Salman project entitled Prem Ratan Dhan Payo sounds scary and continents away from Sallu’s recent releases. Bewildered insiders insist that it could well be the superstars most challenging role ever, truly testing his star-power to bail out a “designer Bharatiya family drama.” Jai Ho!

Where there’s Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan, could Aamir Khan ever be far behind? Mr. Perfectionist returns to team up with ace-director Raj Kumar Hirani to offer the world PK. Who can forget their amazing, record-breaking 3 Idiots five years ago, a spectacular case study of intelligently-crafted entertainment that wowed both the classes and masses. Will PK be an Indian Forrest Gump? Dunno … but as always, Aamir has struck. His scandalous and controversial poster in which he did a full monty with a transistor covering the family jewels, gave the film the required, awesome teaser value and buzz assuring both curiosity and excitement galore.

After the Khans’ news-flashes, all other reports regarding other stars somehow may seem thanda but since re-union is the flavor of the day, let’s take it forward. Amitabh Bachchan and Balki (R Balakrishnan) — after Cheeni Kum and Paa — get back on track again with the weirdly (sycophancy on overdrive?) titled Shamitabh! USP? Rekha!

Greek God Hrithik Roshan leaves his sensational action-packed Bang Bang hi-jinks behind to reconnect with his Jodha Akbar director Ashutosh Gowarikar and go further deep in history, way past the Moghul period, to promise us a glimpse of Mohenjo Daro. New-age heart throb Ranbir Kapoor too re-unites with his Barfi director Anurag Basu to do a comic thriller, Jagga Jasoos. Co-producing the project (his first as a producer) Ranbir is rumored to co-star with his beau, Katrina Kaif, lending the film lots more oomph and sizzle. Akshay Kumar, the Khiladi, for his turn — not to be outdone — does a Hello Again act with favorite, lucky director Vipul Shah in a project no one is breathing a word about. If, however, Aankhen, Waqt, Namastey London and Singh is Kingg are any indication, good times are about to re-visit the duo, again.

So what’s the take-out from these reunions? Old is gold? Best to fly with people who know you and whom you can trust? Avoid unnecessary risks with roles and directors who don’t match your wavelength or can’t recognize and exploit your strong points? Play safe and forget the crap about true achievements being the ones that challenge comfort zones?

Your guess is as good as mine, but can the joy, thrill and excitement of re-grouping, after a few years, with the same guy, who is now more practiced, mature, accomplished and professional, promising a new voyage of discovery, be totally overlooked, rejected or ignored?

Think about it.

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