The wise say: ‘The more white streaks of hair one has on the head, the more the person is supposed to be matured’. Good quotation, I should say…. particularly in the realm of cinema.
Ever wondered the fact that superstar Harrison Ford was 35 when he transcended like a colossus on the Hollywood center stage with ‘Star Wars’ in 1977. Or crime/thriller icon Robert de Nero was 33 when he first tasted superstardom with ‘Taxi Driver’ in 1976. Compare this with our own Bollywood, which has an uncanny fascination for the young. Here the protagonist of the movie has to be young. Being young is associated with vibrancy and freshness. True to some extent. But then over emphasis on the young factor compromises on the acting prowess, which comes only with the age of an actor.
Just take a look at the Hindi movies being made these days. More than 95% of these have leads, which are young. Or the characters they portray are young in age. Surely you can’t expect these youngsters to come up with versatile performances on the screen. The result is a film with average performances by the cast. When the film comes across as a dud at the BO, the makers cry foul.
Agreed that the failure of a film is attributed to a host of factors such as low production values, non-existent of a storyline ET all, but the low acting and emoting skills plays a significant part in the same.
Even Bollywood has witnessed some antithesis.
Amitabh Bachchan shot into prominence with Zanjeer (1972) when he was 30. His best era started thereafter and continued till 1992. Today, pushing 70, he is the only actor in Hindi cinema for which exclusive scripts are being written.
Dharmendra gave some of his memorable performances after attaining the age of 35. Ditto withRajesh Khanna.
The above instances prove the fact that acting is like wine, the more it grows old; the more it gets intensified and refined. Acting gets chiseled with time. One has the time to work upon his/her weaknesses and hone the strong points in acting capabilities.
It is unfair to expect acting miracles from youngsters who are being introduced in Bollywood like vegetables these days. These first timers are so much over burdened with people’s expectations that leave alone excellent their acting even fails to touch the average grade.
This obsession with the young can be traced back to the fact that in Indian society, old age means renunciation from worldly affairs and spending rest of the life under the guardianship of younger children or grand children. Old age is meant for relaxation in our country where the elderly are supposed to reap the fruits of the labor they had done in their younger years. The young years are supposed to be devoted to hard work and toil where you are building a strong base for the future life. Due to this philosophy, the protagonist of a Hindi film, invariably, has to be young.
Contrast this with the West where the age of a person is not a deterrent factor in his/her quest for doing work. So the English film lead can perform the daredevil stunts or enter into love liaisons, even at age 45 or 50. In India, the same portrayal in a film would be seen as hilarious and would be at a risk of being out rightly rejected by the audience. Or we could have a film like ‘Jogger’s Park’. Seen as an unconventional film, ‘Jogger’s Park’, is directed at a very few select urban audiences and is certainly not a film with mass appeal.
So the filmmakers in India are in sort of a dilemma. According to the accepted norms of the masses they cannot depict middle age characters donning the lead mantle in their films. On the other hand if they do such a thing they are in the risk of being labeled ‘parallel cinema directors’ and their films would entertain only a handful of urbanites.
The need of the hour is to sit and think of original scripts. The scripts that would have a balance between the situations discussed above. After all till when the Indian moviegoer will be subjected to mindless college romances and teenybopper, sugar coated sagas?