Monday, August 13, 2007

Introducing: Low Profile Debuts of Bollywood

Ever since DDLJ became a monster hit, hazaar trivia about the film surfaced, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the casting of the two blokes who played SRK’s friends in the film. The less famous one was Robby, which was played by Arjun Sablok (later going on to direct Na Tum Jano Na Hum and - arrgghh - Neal ‘n’ Nikki). The more famous one was – as everyone knows – Rocky, played by Karan of Koffee fame!
While this bit of trivia is reasonably well spread, equally well spread is the belief that this was Karan’s acting debut as well. Actually, it is not!
Karan Johar’s first acting assignment was in a TV serial of the 1980's called Indradhanush – in which a gang of schoolboys inadvertently builds a time machine. He played a bumbling friend of the hero. In one scene, when the hero was wondering how to make a computer chip, he good-naturedly offered his bag of potato wafers!

A lot of stars from film families have either stood in for others or have been pushed into an insignificant scene to fulfill their desire of being a ‘star’. This is obviously before their ‘launches’ – which, presumably, are better planned and better publicised!

For example, Sanjay Dutt had a brief screen appearance before he made his ‘formal’ debut in Rocky. He appeared in Reshma and Shera (produced by Sunil Dutt) as a sidekick to the main singer in a qawwali. He is seen (with his goofy smile) clapping in the standard qawwali style (open-palms-wide-rotate-palms-in-opposite-directions-clap-delicately).

Aamir Khan’s first movie role was the child version of his youngest uncle (Tariq Hussein) in their home production, Yaadon ki Baraat. He appears in the title song, in which he excuses himself to take a leak. Apparently, the entire family teased him about that for a long time.
At one point of time (when Aamir gave a little more interesting interviews than he does currently), this story cropped up in every single one!

Raj Kapoor’s three children appeared in the song “Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua" song of Shree 420, looking tremendously cute in their raincoats and umbrellas – just as the lyrics momentously declared “Hum na rahenge, tum na rahoge / Phir bhi rahegi yeh nishaniyaan…”.

Of course, Hrithik Roshan’s dancing skills were evident from a very early age as he danced along side Sri Devi and Rajanikanth (wow!) in Bhagwan Dada (and one more movie, whose name I have forgotten).

Even when it is not a home production, if a star-child is present on the location and looks cute enough, the temptation is great for the producer to (a) save money by pushing the kid in and (b) thereby, earn brownie points with daddy!
This is probably what happened when Bobby Deol was requisitioned to play the junior Dharmendra in Manmohan Desai’s Dharam Veer.
Or for that matter, Aryan Khan was recruited to play his daddy’s kiddie version in Kabhi Khushi Khabhie Gham.
This is not restricted to Bollywood only. Sandip Ray made a brief appearance in his father’s classic Kanchenjungha as a little boy on a swing, while the actors (Anubha Gupta and Anil Mukherjee) talk.

It is easy for kids on the periphery of cinema to get these walk-on parts, which eventually get lost in the din of their high-voltage launches and serve no other purpose except to provide grist for the trivia mill!
Surprisingly, a lot of film stars start off by playing a few kiddy roles without any thought of a career but get lured back into tinsel town subsequently.

The super-cute Masoom duo of Jugal Hansraj and Urmila Matondkar went to star in Aa Gale Lag Jaa together – which was Jugal’s adult debut. Masoom was his child debut though I think Urmila had already appeared as a boy (!) in Shyam Benegal’s Kalyug as Parikshit (Rekha and Raj Babbar’s son).

The Mr India gang comprised of at least two later day stars – Aftab Shivdasani (who had earlier been seen as the Farex baby) and Ahmed Khan (who is a choreographer and has directed Fool N Final in recent times). Ahmed showed his promise right at the beginning when he break-danced through his role in Mr India!

Before he achieved fame as yodeling gypsy of Mehbooba, Jalal Agha made a regal debut in one of the greatest epics of Indian cinema as one of the most famous characters of Indian history. He was the young Shahzada Salim in Mughal-e-Azam!

Just as surprising is the kid who played the role of the young Ashok Kumar of the landmark hit of the 1940’s – Kismat. Mehmood debuted and later came back to become one of the most famous comedians of Hindi cinema.

While on the subject of debuts, Rishi Kapoor (thanks to his huge career as a leading man) is credited with presiding over the debuts of 23 heroines, no less! He started with Dimple and expressed regret at not having acted with Twinkle before his roles dried up. This statistic of 23 is unquestionably a record – as Akshay Kumar is probably the only star to have come close.
However, with Chak De India, Shah Rukh just launched 16 heroines ‘opposite’ him. He already has Suchitra Krishnamurthy, Shilpa Shetty, Mahima Chaudhary, Preity Zinta and Gayatri Joshi on his list and Deepika Padukone is coming up.
So, is this an acceptable breaking of Rishi's record?

Coming Soon: Directors in acting roles... in their own movies and others'!
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