Recently in an interview for a television channel, actor and director Parambrata Chatterjee lamented, “We now have a mutual admiration society which meets at premiers of Bengali films. Each pat the others’ backs and shower words of praise. But films are released and vanish without a trace. This was certainly not the scene during the 50s, 60s and 70s the golden era of Bengali cinema.”
The situation is the same in Bollywood. Though the cruel pangs of the Covid pandemic have lessened, a lot of films are flopping on their faces. Memorable films are created. But no one can predict the future of a new release at the box office.
When it comes to speaking truth to power, Bollywood actors seem most spineless and they are a divided lot too. But does their division also impact the movies?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Madhu Bhandarkar, Neeraj Pandey and Rohit Shetty show a picture of union in front of the media. In reality, they are all divided with personal interests gaining prime focus. No one joins hands with the other regarding social, political or issues concerning the film industry.
Voicing concern against the ruling party’s atrocities, legends like Nasiruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi find no supporters. Even the king of Hindi cinema, Amitabh Bachhan always maintains diplomatic silence.
Madhu Bhandarkar opines, he respects seniors, contemporaries as well as juniors. He feels the film fraternity consists of brothers sailing in the same ship with silent regard for each other. Bhandarkar sounds ornamental and avoids controversies. So does Karan Johar and many others.
Veteran Dharmendra says, “I will remember that day in the late 50s when Shashi Kapoor, Manoj Kumar and I were sitting on the same bench of Filmistan Studio eagerly waiting for breaks. We were denied any opportunities that day. With sheer merit and hard work, we achieved our positions. During any hour of need, we were at each other’s sides. Manoj was the most cooperative and encouraging among us. Shashi was a thorough gentleman.”
This quote by the grand old He-Man of the film industry may sound like unreality to the present generation. Dadasaheb Phalke award-winning actress, danseuse, Asha Parekh recalls, “Saira Banu, Sadhana, Helen and myself have been true friends ever since we started our careers. In present times we got together often, shared our feelings and even helped each other secretly without taking any credit. Where are those feelings of togetherness now?”
Not to forget Shammi Kapoor’s noble act of persuading director, Lekh Tandon to give all the existing raw stack of their film, Professor to Satyajit Ray. The icon ran short of material filming Kanchenjungha at Darjeeling. Shammi Kapoor shooting at the same location affirmed Professor could wait, not Manikda.
No doubt Dimple Kapadia and Tabu maintain a safe distance from the film fraternity. A real union of souls like Meena Kumari, Nargis, Geeta Bali and Madhubala along with that of other artists, technicians, lyricists, composers and crooners of yore is what the need of today is.
Many gifted filmmakers, artists and technicians now rule the roost in the Hindi film industry.
But after a long era of friendship and compatibility, the first division among top film personalities was witnessed during the Emergency in 1975. Supporting Indira Gandhi and her stance, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and Manoj Kumar were on one side.
Those who strongly opposed the Emergency were the Anand brothers, Pran, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Kishore Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, Danny Dengzongpa and Sadhana. Dev Anand was courageous enough to float the National Party which he later abandoned due to a lack of integrity and cooperation.
A nostalgic Manoj Kumar remembers, “We had different political ideologies. Yet in 1978, when I threw a grand party in honor of the Pakistani cricket team, Dilip Kumarsaab and Devsaab were together, playing ideal hosts to our guests. Both affectionately called me, Manoj Aja and we formed a trio of admiration and respect.” He laments those days don’t exist anymore.”
Down South in Kollywood, situations are better. Chiranjeevi shares the best of vibes with Kamal Hassan, Rajnikant, Prakash Raj, Mohanlal and Mammotty. Once Kamal Hassan commented, “We are brethren working in motion pictures in different regional languages. We have transcended barriers of vested interests.” No wonder Kamal Hasan and Prakash Raj have openly criticized many activities of the current central government.
A thinking soul laughs at the unity projected by the three Khans– Aamir, Salman and Shahrukh. Akshay Kumar is known as the one who is very close to the present Modi regime. The Canadian citizen’s interview of Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminds people that in real life, he is not a Khiladi, who is fearless but the one who is spineless and bows before power. Has anyone ever seen Madhuri Dixit, Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone and Karishma Kapoor strongly voice any contemporary issue?