Can Aishwarya Rai do a Hema Malini at the Box Office?
Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is all set to return on the silver screen in the near future after a hiatus of two years due to her pregnancy and motherhood.
For quite some time, the former Miss World and Bollywood diva’s comeback to the celluloid has dominated the gossip columns everywhere ignoring the bigger question: can she rewrite the history of Bollywood’s comeback queens? At 39, when age is no longer an advantage for her, can Ash still sizzle the Box Office when most others have utterly failed? Or will she give in and compromise with less significant character roles or simply shrine bright?
Ash is not just alone in making comeback this year. Shilpa Shetty and Lara Dutta too are going to hit the screens. What’s going to be their career trajectories post-pregnancy? Will they also get lead actress roles? Are fans unable to appraise real-time mothers as lead actress in a movie?
Film critic Taran Adarsh disagrees that heroines have a shorter shelf life and dismisses that pregnancy plays any role in shaping an actress’ career trajectory. “Gone are the days when it was a prerequisite requirement for an actress to be slim and beautiful to fit into a role and their career used to end post marriage and pregnancy. Nowadays, it all depends on the character the actress is expected to portray”, he says.
However, there are very few cases to support Adarsh’s view that pregnancy doesn’t terminates or at least retards a heroine’s career. Perhaps the most successful comeback queen of Bollywood has been that of Hema Malini and to a lesser extent Kajol. The Dream Girl delivered hits after hits post–pregnancy. Esha Deol was born in the year 1981 and in the same year, Hema Malini gave hits like ‘Kranti’ and ‘Naseeb’. In the subsequent year in 1982, Hema Malini starring along with superstar Amitabh Bachchan deliverd a mega hit ‘Satte Pe Satta’. In all these movies, Hema Malini was the lead actress. In all these movies, Hema Malini was curvy and voluptuous but was still accepted with pleasure among the audience.
Post her marriage to Ajay Devgn in 1999, Kajol returned after a two year break as the chirpy ‘Anglee’ in Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham’ in 2001. She gave birth to her daughter ‘Nysa’ in the year 2003 and after a break of again three years, she returned with the role of a blind Kashmiri girl in ‘Fanaa’ which earned her fourth Filmfare award for the best actress. But Kajol was never the size zero gal and it was her acting skills which won her accolades.
On the other hand, one of the most talked about Bollywood comebacks of all time was a big disaster. After the huge success of ‘Devdas’ in 2002, Madhuri Dixit Nene took a long break of five years and returned with a box-office dud ‘Aaja Nachle’ in 2007. While her acting was appreciated, Madhuri’s hasn’t featured in any other movie since 2007. She is expected to make her mark again in 2013 with ‘Gulaab Gang‘.Sujoy Ghosh, director of movies like Kahani and Jhankaar Beats, suggests that a film’s script is the actual hit BO formula. , “Once the character is written, I go by what the script demands. A film can look beautiful only with a proper content, in the absence of the content, the film has no meaning and the same applies to everybody associated with the film,” Ghosh stresses.
Dismissing the view that a heroine has an obligation towards her fans to look glamorous and beautiful, Ghosh asserts, “Slim, fat, square doesn’t matter, what matters is the story you are trying to tell.”
Ghosh’s view doesn’t hold ground as names as big as Nargis, Jaya Bhaduri and Juhi Chawla have failed to make any impact post-pregnancy. Nargis Dutt almost retired after getting married to Sunil Dutt in the year 1958; she appeared as a silhouette in the final scene of the movie ‘Yaadein’ in 1964 and eventually disappeared from the mainstream roles. The bubbly ‘Jaya Bachchan’ also saw similar fate post her marriage to BigB and post pregnancy. Smily ‘Juhi Chawla’ could never make it to the lead roles after her pregnancy.
Career trajectory of an Indian actress changes with time. Endorsing the fact, trade analyst, Komal Nahata says, “Roles differ with time and it does get limited. As an actress ages with time, she looks for more meaningful and substantive roles which fit into the realm.”