Only a few, bounce back like a phoenix rising from the ashes while others surrender to the backlash of their destiny.
Limiting the landscape of this letter to the Super Stars of Indian cinema, I wish to list down few instances where one has excelled in his core profession but burnt their hands trying to showcase their supremacy in untested waters.
1. Rajesh (Jatin) Khanna the first super star of Hindi movies redefined the cult status of a movie actor. While the Big 3 of the golden era (Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar & Dev Anand) were stars in their own right, the title “SUPER STAR” was coined after the stupendous success of Rajesh Khanna. But he tasted the bitterness of failure when he tried his hand in politics (Congress) and business.
2. Natashekar Super Star (Siva Rama) KRISHNA who cut into NTR’s mass following and revolutionized the Telugu commercial cinema was restricted to a mute politician in the Congress bandwagon. His comeback in movies neither had the crowd pulling capacity nor had the fire to face the fierce competition of the Big 4 (Chiru, NBK, Nag, Venky) in 1990’s. While his solo hits during 90s like Number One and Amma Donga brought in moolah to its producers, but his goodwill as an actor took a beating from his critics.
NTR and MGR might be the only two Super Stars who tasted the epitome of success in 2 lethal professions – Movies & Politics, but cannot be termed as exceptions.
While MGR did not hold the highest position in the state overnight. He worked as a treasurer in DMK party for 4 years, then split from it to build his own cadre for next 4 years before contesting in elections. He hit the bull’s eye by becoming the CM of TN in 1977 only after real efforts put in.
The political dynamics in AP was completely different in early 1980’s. Huge political vacuum with no clear opposition for Congress and the senior state leaders were mere puppets in the hands of the center, which created a solid pitch for NTR to bat in state politics. While he had backstabbers to pull him down time and again, but the party he founded never got a beating. Nadella Bhaskar Rao definitely played an instrumental role in building the TDP ideology and Chandrababu Naidu took it to the next level.
If we plug in the same case study for Konidella Shiva Shankar Varaprasad viz. CHIRANJEEVI, who is considered as the biggest crowd puller after NTR in the Telugu movies, had nothing in his favor to prove his mettle in Politics.
Neither was there any political vacuum in 2008 nor did he have a strong team to build his party from the grass root level. There are a million reasons for his failure in politics including his own lack of leadership skills, but that is not the scope or intent of this letter.
Failing or Falling is never questioned by his hard core fans or admirers like me, but what is appalling is not learning from past mistakes.
The actual intent is to show him one classic example of an actor who saw the zenith of stardom and the nadir of failure. Amitabh Bachchan the first Mega Star of Indian Cinema. While all the Super Stars of the Indian contemporary cinema consider him as the Star of the stars when it comes to movies, he saw the worst crisis when he ventured in to politics (was into a tangled web during Bofors Scam) and when he tried his luck in the Big Bad Bloody Corporate World he filed bankruptcy with his ABCL.
His multiple come backs backfired because he was under the illusion that his fans will welcome him with open hands if he tries to repeat his old magic. He tagged along with his hit makers Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai post politics and fell flat with movies like Toofan, Jaadugar etc.
Again after his debacle in business, the aging super star tried to pair with his daughter aged heroines like Manisha Koirala, Shilpa Shetty in movies like Lal Baadshah, Mrityudhata only to face humiliation from the critics and movie goers.
“Self-Introspection” led him to face the reality. He came out of his illusion and realized that people will buy a ticket to watch him on the Silver screen not because of his past glory but because of his acting skills which can sync with the current audience and critics sensibilities. With all humility and modesty he came out in public and confessed his failures. He gracefully accepted that the current applause will go to the 3 Khans who are ruling the roast and bowed his head down to the natural phenomena – The AGE and the TIME.
He understood that he can still create place in the current times with his age and hence collaborated with the younger generation to connect with the target audience. This led to his debut on Television for Kaun Banega Crorepati and movies like Mohabatein which suited his age. He has hit back with a vengeance and this time roared louder than ever before. Being yourself will reflect the transparency to exhibit your core competency. That is exactly what he did. His actual acting skills was tapped during his 3rd innings as an actor which is post 2000’s. 3 out of 4 National Awards, Padma Bhushan and Vibhushan, 6 out of 7 doctorates, 60% of his Filmfare trophies came in last 15 years (post his 60 years of age).
Now, Chiranjeevi needs to do a self-introspection to place him on a suitable pedestal. Since he lost his opportunity to be tagged with MGR & NTR in the annals of history, he should pick any of the two left out ‘proposed’ options. Go into oblivion like Rajesh Khanna / Krishna or bounce back like Amitabh Bachchan. If he chooses the later then I humbly request him to please follow the 3 Don’ts (Wish someone from his closed coterie puts the following into his ears) :
1. Don’t follow the current rules of the game – This is the generation of YouTube hits and Facebook likes. Gone are the days when fans fought for box office records, number of 100 days centers. 1 million views or dollar mark, 1 great weekend and 1 more steady weekend certifies a movie as a HIT. And the ingredient for such a hit movie is not the acting skills of the lead actors but few instant rules.
Crazy combos with talented technicians, powerful promotion, content to please a section of movie critics to get a 3 on 5 rating, will pull you through 50 crore mark to say your movie is HIT. Please break those rules and exhibit your acting skills which suits your age and stature (as an actor). Bring back the culture of repeat audience to enhance the longevity of a movie running in a cinema hall.
2. Don’t compete with current Stars – You are not here to break Bahubali records nor to prove your stardom against Pawan Kalyan or Mahesh Babu. You are an actor who rose to STARDOM purely on merit as against the current crop of stars whose primary qualifications are not their skills to emote but the tag of their family name.
Stars now have readymade family dynasty followers (6 from within your compound itself), sponsored media to promote a movie and strong family heads to hold / block the maximum theaters to bring home the money in 2 weeks. And a consolation prize thru satellite rights. Instead compete with yourself !
Choose subjects to work with Mahesh Babu, NTR Jr, Surya, Vikram to enrich the acting caliber of a protagonist which we have lost for past several years now. Consider your self in a different league and trust me the current generation will embrace you.
3. Don’t rely on your hardcore fan base and coterie – You have entertained an entire generation of movie goers who were born in 70’s and 80’s. The primary audience who watch movies are from age group of 13 to 30. Your hardcore fans have crossed that age bracket long back. At the most they can tie banners and mint money for you for the premiers and the first weekend, but after the first weekend you cannot rely on your fans but it is only on the word of mouth of the current generation.
I agree Dances & Fights are your USP (unique selling proposition), but accept your age and experiment on your strengths as an actor with dignity. The current movie generation is rational, sensible and practical. They will accept you only if you are realistic as a person which will reflect in your acting.
Your act to seek attention by basking in your past achievements at every movie award function in last 1 year itself shows your desperation to make a grand comeback. Stop being artificial (Eg : Your fake English accent in MeK promos, your unwanted sophistication thru your body language in most of the public appearances is painful).
Your hardcore fans is like your principal amount. But it is the interest which multiples the wealth. Increase the fan base by winning the hearts of the current generation. Come out of the world of Paruchuri Bros, Satyanand, Prabhu Deva, Lawerance, DSP, Manisharma. Encourage new technicians and they will help you to connect with current audience.
My anguish is an outcome of my admiration and adulation to you as an actor. Irrespective of the mismatch star cast (heroine), remake subject for a milestone movie, out of form director, stale music director, I, like many of your million fans will go to the theatre to cheer and whistle for you as it is 9 years that I have seen you on the silver screen for a full 2.5 hours. But please rewind your memory back to Tagore Audio Function in 2003 at Shilpa Kala Vedika to celebrate your 25th year in film industry, where you openly said on the dais that you do NOT like to look back and rely on your achievements as it will make you feel complacent. Instead focus on the road ahead. I am sure Khaidi No 150 will be a feast for fans, but I hope you start your last leg of this amazing journey as an actor with greater success and satisfaction. Annaya Let’s Do Kummudu. Welcome back to the Silver Screen!
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