Age of debuts

Bollywood witnessed two debuts this week. According to initial reports, debutant Imran Khan seems to have sailed ahead of his rival Harman Baweja with ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa’ eliciting a better response than ‘Love Story 2050’ at the box office. According to trade pundits, the film, which also marks the directorial debut of writer Abbas Tyrewala, had a weekend opening of 80% while the Harman-Priyanka futuristic love story managed a mere 30%, despite the fact that its cost of production is much more than Aamir Khan’s college caper.

Truly, it’s the age of the debutant in the industry today, for never has the Indian audience been so receptive to new talent. Almost every second week, a new actor, director or story-teller hits the marquee and manages to strike gold, either with the masses or with a niche market that is growing sizably with increasing cinema literacy.

In the actors league, there haven’t been too many dream debuts to boast of. Of course, there were two filmmakers who launched their sons in spectacular money spinners: Raj Kapoor who introduced Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia — in ‘Bobby’ and Rakesh Roshan who gave the industry a new singing-dancing sensation with Hrithik Roshan in ‘Kaho Naa Pyar Hai’.

Recently, it was Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone who created a Rishi-Dimple furore, although they starred in separate films, which met with a different fate at the box office. Ranbir’s ‘Saawariya’ may not have scorched the hustings, but his brand equity soared as high as Deepika’s diva act in ‘Om Shanti Om’.

The only other actor who became a star with his first film was Salman Khan, scoring a first-film high with ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. Both Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan had been fringe folks on the art film circuit before hitting big time with ‘Qayamat se Qayamat Tak’ and ‘Deewana’. Aamir made his debut with Ketan Mehta’s ‘Holi’ and SRK leapfrogged from TV to cinema with Mani Kaul’s ‘Idiot’.

Amongst the recent crop of actors, there have been a few other interesting debuts: Neil Nitin Mukesh in ‘Johnny Gaddar’, Shiney Ahuja in ‘Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi’, Vidya Balan in ‘Parineeta’ and Rajeev Khandelwal in ‘Aamir’. The films may not have rewritten box office history, but the debutants did manage to get themselves noticed. Also, there was Shahid Kapoor who scored with his first film, ‘Ishq Vishk’, although we haven’t forgotten his presence in the chorus line in Subhash Ghai’s ‘Taal’.

Interestingly, in contemporary Bollywood, there has been an upsurge of new filmmakers, more than actors, who have made the audience sit up with their first ventures. Beginning with Mansoor Khan (‘Qayamat se Qayamat Tak’), Sooraj Barjatya (‘Maine Pyar Kiya’), Aditya Chopra (‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’) and Karan Johar (‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’), the director’s hat has been increasingly doffed before audience applause.

It augurs well for the entertainment industry if Friday’s have been seeing newer names striking gold at the box office: Nikhil Advani with ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, Sriram Raghavan with ‘Ab Tak Chappan’, Sagar Bellary with ‘Bheja Fry’, Pradeep Sarkar with ‘Parineeta’, Dipankar Banerjee with ‘Khosla ka Ghosla’, Raju Hirani with ‘Munnabhai MBBS’, Aamir Khan with ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and Raj Kumar Gupta with ‘Aamir’. Indeed, Bollywood’s petri dish is currently brewing with newfound ideas. The future could be explosive.

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