However far life or Fridays fling ‘em, stars are just a comeback away.
I was twelve when Karisma Kapoor ‘scandalised’ the nation with a song called Sexy Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bole. It was a rage and, even as the censors tweaked the Sexys (nonsensically and, to be fair, disturbingly) into Babys, we whispergiggled about it often that season, finding underage thrill in weak lyric. Like our definition of scandal, things have changed since. A schoolmate we called Tinni, senior by a year, acted opposite that Khuddar actress this Friday in a film called Dangerous Ishq, and I must assume he — in short pants and amused by a 1993 Lolo giving it her all — didn’t see it coming.
Tinni’s formally called Rajneesh Duggal, and — while I watched the movie more for ol’ Don Bosco solidarity than any masochistic hope in Vikram Bhatt’s oeuvre — I must concede Karisma looks rather fetching. She shows up first on Manish Malhotra’s ramp, strutting across the stage with natural confidence, working the whole catwalk-pause-pose-smile routine like a pro. It looks good (except for the cardboard 3D work) but then she must dismount and, um, act. With her career more lauded for inspiring her contemporaries to hit the gym than for any actual performance, here too Karisma displays the acting range of a waxwork, and the film emerges laughably disastrous. Tinni, poor chap, merely looks bewildered throughout.
It seems open season on the Bollywood comeback. Sridevi’s poised to return to screens this year with Amitabh Bachchan in a comedy called English Vinglish, but Aamir Khan’s nation-altering television show gave us an unexpected glimpse of her this Sunday. The Twitterverse immediately broke into a chorus of nasty, scurrilous (and only occasionally funny) nose-jibes. Judging from spontaneous public sentiment — and the way Mrs Kapoor’s suddenly-pert proboscis distracted even from Khan’s subject — the waters might not be conducive for that comeback-stroke just yet.
Ah, but her rival struggles as well. Following a failed return five years ago in Aaja Nachle, The Lady With The Smile is braving it out again and has picked herself a fine, suitably challenging vehicle, Abhishek Chaubey’s Dedh Ishqiya, which should provide her a meaty female part opposite strong actors. Right now, however, Madhuri Dixit’s popping up in a spree of ads for a dance show, promos where she flounders as she gyrates to songs alien to her. One in particular, where she tackles Sridevi’s Kaante Nahin Kat Te, is particularly embarrassing. For the first time, the effort is visible on her face, and she looks less like the goddess from the Sailaab song and more like a winsome auntie at a well-lit Ladies Sangeet.
And then, to commandingly cap this bit about ill-advised returns to the marquee, there’s Rajesh Khanna. In a commercial for ceiling fans, a cadaverous Khanna walks into a hall full of whirring fans and says something about how he still has fans. Fans, not admirers. Oblivious to the irony, the septagenarian cocks a scarily sallow head and laughs, inexplicably even nudging the Big Babumoshai. All that’s left is for him to pull on a Riddler costume.
The commercial does the legend far more disservice than even that tacky Wafaa film from a couple of years ago, simply because nobody saw that. This one’s being shoved down our throats. And is leaving a lamentably horrid taste.
Originally published Mumbai Mirror, May 16, 2012