Superstar gallery

Superstar gallery

Compiling a list of top 20 superstars in Hindi cinema is doubtless an onerous task considering the fact that the industry is nearly 100-years-old and the icons who have captivated the hearts and minds of the public are certainly one too many. Bhaichand Patel, a regular writer on cinema, has edited Bollywood’s Top 20 — Superstars of Indian Cinema, profiling the biggest and the best in Hindi cinema down the ages. Ten
heroes and as many heroines have made it to this august list and co-incidentally, half of them have shed their mortal coils and departed to the world beyond, the last being the once dashing and debonair Dev Anand.

Some of the omissions are glaring and a few of the inclusions too are debatable. Salman Khan has been elbowed out with the editor defending the exclusion stating that while Aamir is today’s Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh the generation’s Amitabh Bachchan, Salman is like the jubilee hero Rajendra Kumar whose films, despite being huge hits, have failed to stand the test of time. Adding insult to injury, he also avers that unlike Salman, Aamir and Shahrukh are here for the long run, a view that can be hotly contested.

Even more galling is his assertion that Kareena Kapoor had to be preferred to Vyjayanthimala as the former, unlike the latter, faced formidable competition from Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and Imran Khan (sic.). Although talent was not taken as the main criterion, and popularity ranked high in the selection, divas like Rekha and Sridevi, thespians like Sanjeev Kumar and Naseeruddin Shah and brilliant performers like Smita Patil and Shabhana Azmi have not made the cut. Popular heroines like Madhuri Dixit, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor have been included, perhaps to add a touch of contemporary flavour or to prop up the glamour quotient.

The writers appear to have been given an identical brief, for, all the articles coalesce into a set pattern, tracing the antecedents of the subjects, the circumstances that propelled them toward cinema, the rise to the top and the inevitable journey downhill. A number of features are a little more than cut-and-paste jobs with copious quotes from biographies or published articles.

Making for poignant reading are the write-ups on Suraiya, who carried a torch for Dev Anand till the very end, Meena Kumari, who turned into an alcoholic beyond redemption, and Madhubala, who never found a moment’s peace in a short tumultuous life. Amitabh Bachchan’s rise to stardom, the hiatus which saw him embarking on a disastrous political career, the time when his company went kaput and his resurrection vide the idiot box, and later the silver screen, have all been chronicled.

The pick of the articles are the ones on Dilip Kumar by seasoned writer and editor Rauf Ahmed, Dev Anand by Madhu Jain and Meena Kumari by diplomat Pavan K Varma. Equally engrossing are the profiles of Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Waheeda Rahman,  Hema Malini and Rajesh Khanna.

The God of Romance, on Rajesh Khanna, is a brutally honest piece with the actor’s gravitas during his peak duly highlighted along with his stunning and abrupt fall from grace. The earlier generation is represented by singer-actor K L Saigal and Devika Rani. All time favourites like ‘Dadamoni’ Ashok Kumar and the ‘Junglee’ star Shammi Kapoor have also merited a place.

Inevitably, the stories about amorous liaisons of celebrities have formed a part of the book along with their memorable films. Each author has also picked his or her five favourite films from the filmography of the icons. An added inducement to the readers, especially those with an ear for music, is a free MP3 audio CD containing songs filmed on the 20 superstars.

Avid cineastes, especially the older ones, who have been staying abreast of the developments in Hindi cinema and are acquainted with the stars and their films might not find much to savour in the book. But to the uninitiated, who has a passion for celluloid, the book could be a fountain of knowledge on those who were indispensable to the industry during their heyday and those who continue to rule the marquee even now.

Bollywood’s Top 20: Superstars of indian cinema
Edited by haichand Patel
Penguin
2012, pp 279
Rs 599

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