Till a fortnight ago, there was nothing that I knew of this Punjabi film called Mel Karade Rabba. Even though Jimmy Sheirgill - the lead hero of the film - sounded mighty excited during one of our informal chats, I had no clue about the euphoria round the corner. When Jimmy said - 'Bro, picture bahaut garam ho gayi hai' - I felt that this was the pre-release excitement that was making him say those words. When the film released - there was no buzz in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore since its prints were dispatched only in theatres across Punjab, Haryana and overseas - there was no hoopla in the national level media either.
And then a day passed by and what followed next was akin to a volcano being erupted. Records started getting broken not just in the Punjab belt but even US, UK, Canada and Australia. Films likes 3 Idiots, Ghajini and Gadar were being spoken about in the same breath. There was a new overseas superstar who seemed to have been born, courtesy the humungous success of Mel Karade Rabba and I was soon set thinking - 'Has Bollywood ignored Jimmy Sheirgill for way too long?'
It was this very thought that set me thinking about many other actors who got a far lesser star status for themselves in last few years but delivered whenever an opportunity came their way. In this week's edition of 'Reflections' series, let's look at the way some of the actors, despite their commercial bent, have somehow not seen favourable acceptance in the world of Hindi cinema and instead have found their bearing in regional cinema.
A word of caution here though. In this write up, emphasis is only on those actors who have been indeed quite talented or have at least shown sparks of brilliance - whether through sheer acting skills or attitude - in their earlier outings.
One of the first such names is of course the subject under consideration, Jimmy Sheirgill, who has been around for a decade and a half but has never ever got his due. For someone who had a supporting role to play in Maachis, he did enjoy a big outing in the form of Mohabbatein. However, he somehow got slotted as a second lead or a supporting actor, something that has continued to plague his standing till date. Recent example is My Name Is Khan. No wonder, while the actor does a A Wednesday and proves himself all over again, he also turns out to be the biggest superstar in Punjabi cinema with a hat trick of successes in Mel Karade Rabba, Munde UK De and Tera Mera Ki Rishta. It's time for Bollywood to wake up and see the talent that may just be absorbed by regional cinema where he is getting the respect that he deserves.
Same holds good for another actor Sonu Sood, who though (talent wise) restricted by the characterisation that he can fit into, still has it in him when it comes to edgy roles. Pick up the films where he got a chance to perform - Yuva or Jodhaa Akbar - and had a well etched part to play. He did quite well and showcased a new side of his persona. Of course whenever he has half baked roles coming his way, he has been awkward. Hence, a role has to be in his zone. No wonder, when he goes down South and turns into an out and out villain for a Telugu film like Arundhati, he enjoys a celebrity status for himself. No wonder, the man is absorbing himself big time into South cinema while giving himself that once-a-year opportunity in Hindi cinema by picking on an antagonist's role opposite Salman Khan in Dabangg.
Genelia D'Souza's case has been even more puzzling. She does well practically every time (save an effort like Life Partner where she was totally OTT) and in fact made her debut with a Hindi film (Tujhe Meri Kasam) years ago. However, somehow Bollywood hasn't proved to be too accommodating for the pretty girl who went on to deliver multiple hits down South. Now that she has done a dozen films out there, there is some recognition finally coming her way post Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa. Still, the girl is not taking her chances when it comes to her stint down South, especially so with two stuck films It's My Life and Hook Ya Crook. Can we offer her better roles, soon, before she again disappears for long?
In that aspect, Sameera Reddy is pretty much playing a smart game. If there is one actress who is turning out to be a Jack (or shall I say Jill?) of all trades when it comes to working in regional cinema, Sameera could well be a front runner. Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam - you name it and she has done it all. Of course she didn't find huge recognition for her acting skills when she started off in Bollywood. Moreover, some of her recent outings like De Dana Dan too haven't been extraordinary enough to be written home about. Still, the girl has the 'X' factor, something that Sanjay Gupta explored to the fullest in Musafir. However, none of her subsequent directors harnessed this quality of hers, something that made her look for something new in the regional circuits. She may not be a superstar in her new found market but an effort as put on display in recent release Red Alert - The War Within, makes one wonder if film makers before ever took her seriously.
Someone who is definitely not being taken seriously is an actress from down South who is trying to make her presence felt in Bollywood - Sadaa. An experienced actress with close to a dozen odd films behind her, all she gets to do is the Love Khichdis and the Clicks of the world. For someone who has worked with none less than Shankar and Vikram in Tamil cinema, she could well be a good addition to Hindi cinema if only the requirement was that of an innocent face and a dignified persona. But seems the wait may only continue for the pretty girl!
The same holds good for Shreya Saran who just like Genelia D'Souza has been hanging on for close to a decade but not quite making headway into Bollywood. Of course a start opposite Arya Babbar in (have you have ever heard about it?) Thoda Tum Badlo Thoda Hum was not quite a beginning that Shreya would have been happy about. No wonder, she immersed herself neck deep into South films and managed to rise up the ladder and worked with none less than Rajnikanth in Sivaji. An established star in Tamil cinema, she has made on and off appearances in Hindi films like Ek - The Power of One, Mission Istanbul and Awarapan, only to loose heart and walk back into her comfort zone.
However, someone who is doing all to resist this temptation and give a solid fight is Asin, who despite her dozen and a half films in South is determined to make it big in Bollywood. After the high of Ghajini, she had to suffer the low of London Dreams. For many, Ready with Salman Khan may just be a hopeful outing that would turn around her fortunes. If not, the lady who has worked with Kamal Hassan not too many moons ago may well find a safe abode just a flight away.
On the other hand, someone who would certainly be looking at cancelling all her flights to South for at least a few more years to come would be Kangna. Tired with all the roles hinting of schizophrenia coming her way, Kangna did bite the bait with a couple of regional films like Dhaam Dhoom and Ek Niranjan. However, she is one individual for which Bollywood has indeed taken notice fast, a result of which is half a dozen films which are up for release and nearly the same number which is slated to go on floors soon.
Perhaps her two regional films were just a threat good enough for film makers to insist that she stays back!