Second Acts

Dusty alcoves of memory are where many of yesteryear talents are junked and only the rarest of the rare hope to return to the glories of yesteryears.


No country for ex, veteran or has-been stars can be an appropriate label for the Bollywood industry, with little time and lesser interest in stars who don’t fall within today’s dazzling radar. Past records, roles and achievements are irrelevant in a time and space celebrating instant gratification. You are there or you are not. Period. No ifs, buts, perhaps, maybes or remember?

Dusty alcoves of memory are where many of yesteryear talents are junked and only the rarest of the rare hope to return to the glories of yesteryears. While the entire world will cheer your rise n’ shine, your fall — frequently for reasons unknown — will see a chillingly lonely nose-dive followed by polite lip service, but no remote help to organize or rationalize what went wrong, or effort to pick you up from the ashes. Result? Collective amnesia and hard focus only on the new sexy hunks and heart-stoppers rocking the block.

Gifted, attractive, determined as ever and passionately committed to the pursuit of excellence, what happens to these talented stars and actors once they leave center-stage? Can they never hope for a comeback? Well, they can try …

It seems to be comeback season, with at least half a dozen actors endeavoring a return journey. Will they succeed?

Heading the list is yesterday’s Queen of Hearts, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The just-turned 41 beauty has been busy attending to her daughter and fulfilling some prestigious, high-net-worth modeling assignments, but she has been out of the main frame for a while.

She is all set to return with an off-beat film directed by Sanjay Gupta, Jazbaa (along with some new scripts she has green-lighted). Sharing the screen with her will be veteran actress Shabana Azmi and brilliant actor Irfaan Khan. While the stunningly gorgeous looker is back to her old shape — no mommy flab — can she distract today’s audience gaze from the tantalizing trio of Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor? Let’s wait and watch.

Insanely choosy Tabu, who must have lost it while doing the dumbest cameo of her life in the recent Salman Khan film Jai Ho, returns in a magnificent film portraying a magnificent role that only her brilliance as a consummate actress could pull off: Ghazala in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider. A chillingly true and cathartic tale placing the Bard’s troubled Prince in terror-torn Kashmir, Tabu’s superb interpretation of the flawed mother, seduced by the canny, corrupt brother-in-law, once again reminds us what a fabulous actress she is and how, consistently, Bollywood has failed to offer her roles that challenge her scary talent.

Will Haider get the youth-obsessed dumbo’s to do a re-think and fast-track Tabu’s comeback?

Another excellent actor Kay Kay Menon continues to suffer. Despite top-drawer performances as the corrupt and immoral husband in Life in a Metro and arrogant, wayward son of the Godfather in Sarkar, Menon continues to rot in the wings, resting on early efforts in Hazaron Khwaishe, Gulaal and corny masala films like Raja Natwarlal and ABCD. Will his superlative performance as Khurram, the razor-sharp politician and incestuous lover of the widowed sister-in-law in Haider, pull him out from the oblivion and get him centre-stage. Que Sera Sera …

And now to three ex-dynamites who not very long ago, were the darling of the masses. Let’s start with the hugely popular, sadakchaap, Go-Go-Go-Govinda. In the early 1990s, this Jhatka-king ruled as Entertainer No. l. Then the law of averages caught up with the Khans exploding, his brand of wit and dance steps took a bad hit. He was fat, old and un-funny. Period.

Result? All his desperate attempts to return — Holiday, Naughty at 40, Do Knot Disturb, Raavan — had to be peeled off the ceiling. Outdated crap! Today can he manage to at least grab some kind of limelight in his forthcoming starrers, Kill Dil (where he plays villain) or Saif Ali Khan’s Happy Ending where he re-shakes a leg, Govinda-style?

Today’s audiences are unfamiliar with his rustic, slapstick comedy and quirky dance moves, so will the Govinda Aala Re … war cry echo again?

Aage aage dekhiyo, hota hai kya!

Remember the super-hot hero of the eighties, Jackie Shroff? Remember his last semi-decent role a decade ago as Chunnibabu, a role immortalized by the late Motilal in the Bimal Roy, Dilip Kumar original of the 1950s in the Sanjay Bhansali, Shahrukh Khan-headlined Devdas? Thereafter … phussss!

In recent times, Gang of Ghosts, Dhoom 3, Aurangzeb … pathetic!

Can the recent bad man role in Happy New Year get him even a modicum of the glow he once enjoyed?

Saving the last for the best, we bring to you … the one and only Rekha!

The ultimate swoon-inducing seductress who, in her time, drove sane men nuts and women envious as hell, projecting a diva-image as few before or since, who can forget her fabled team with Amitabh Bachchan or her show-stopping jhatkas in Suhaag, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Mr. Natwarlal, Khoon Pasina and of course … Silsila?

Even today, her (botoxed?) glam image coupled with her Garbo-esque silence renders her a unique, enigmatic aura in the B-town universe.

Sadly, her attempts at comebacks — Bachke Rehna Re Baba, Kudiyon Ka Hain Zamana, Yatra, Sadiyaan — sank without a trace, conflicting hugely with her image profile factored into those projects. Now she returns in Super Nani — a world beyond her mom and grandmom portrayals in Koi Mil Gaya — an author-backed role designed to bring out both her histrionic abilities and deathless glam quotient. Will the portrayal of a fun, glam, sexy Granny work?

On the cards is an ambitious adaptation of Charles Dickens classic (Great Expectations), Fitoor, where she plays the legendary Miss Havesham’s role and the most awaited role of her life — a re-teaming with the Big B in Shamitabh. Can these films restore at least a little of the power n’ glory of the tantalizing siren of the 1980s and 1990s?

In all truth, the answer in these three cases at least, has mostly to be a regrettable no! While miracles do happen and exceptions have a funny way of defying everything and popping up, chances of success for Govinda, Jackie or Rekha appear remote. There are too many cool, young, super dancers — Hrithik Roshan heading the list — to go ga-ga over Govinda’s dated jhatkas or his corny over-acting. Jackie is neither here nor there and the odd role could get him some kind of attention, nothing more. In short, the audiences are not dying to see him. As for the once-divine Rekha Jaan, sure her role and presence will evoke curiosity, but excitement, thrill and buzz, leading to the theatre footfalls? Unlikely. Despite her well-marketed and ageless glamor quotient and privacy, she remains a yesterday creature competing with today’s heart-stoppers, who are young, talented, glamorous and sexy with a huge pre-sold fan base.

Sure, she is a diva they admire and idolize, but will today’s audiences, hooked on today’s glam babes go oooh and aaah for a pancaked, 60-something lady determined to play Femme Fatale?

Let’s hope the come-backs work and the new avatars present them a rewarding second innings

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