It’s considered a jinx for married star-couples to act in a film together. Or even for a star pair in love. And it is this jinx that Ajay Devgn and Kajol have broken—and how! And too with a historical film—and that is ‘historic’ indeed!
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is going strong, collecting double-digits daily till at least the sixth day, besides being both Ajay’s and Kajol’s fastest Rs. 100 crore grosser, and their highest week one grossing film as well. For a couple that individually began in the early 1990s and had a generally great innings, it also is Ajay’s career-biggest hit and, for Kajol, husband Ajay now has a super-hit with her at last, over two decades after their only hits together, Ishq and Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha. With Kajol, the term super-hit was so far synonymous with five films co-starring Shah Rukh Khan—Baazigar, Karan Arjun, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… all released between 1993 and 2001. Yes, she had many more hits with different heroes.
Let us examine the star couples down the line: Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik never had a hit, neither did Shammi Kapoor-Geeta Bali or Kishore Kumar-Madhubala, who married after working together.
Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu, half his age, were cast in the South potboiler Gopi in 1970, and the film was a musical hit. However, after that, Sagina bombed and Bairaag was ho-hum.
Amitabh Bachchan and wife Jaya co-starred in the super-hit Zanjeer when they were in love and the top star Jaya accepted the heroine’s role to support the actor who came in by default (three major stars turned the role down)—her boyfriend Amitabh. When Abhimaan became a hit, they decided to marry. This was followed by only one success that was theirs alone: Mili. Chupke Chupke, Sholay and later, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… were, in that sense, certainly not Amitabh-Jaya films. And Silsila that tried to mirror their real lives, complete with Rekha, did not really work.
Dharmendra and Hema Malini had an initial tally of 10 super-hits and some more hits and successes (their first flop together was their 12th film, Maa!). They were known to be lovebirds for most of the time, but after they got married, only one film, Alibaba Aur Chalis Chor, was tepidly successful. Every film after that bombed, solo or ensemble cast. Yes, those films may not have cinematically deserved to work, but then the couple had taken some mediocre films to success together, like Patthar Aur Payal, Dil Kaa Heeraa and Hema’s home production Dream Girl.
Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh had almost finished working together when they got married. Their tally of hits and super-hits earlier were led by Amar Akbar Anthony, Kabhi Kabhie and Khel Khel Mein, with a few more average runners like Rafoo Chakkar, Jhoota Kahin Ka and Doosara Aadmi. Around their wedding, Dhan Daulat became a washout. The net result was that they never came together (Neetu quit acting) until much later when they were like character artistes, and here again, their full-fledged lead films Do Dooni Chaar and Besharam did not connect.
Other names that were jinxed as on-screen couples included Randhir Kapoor-Babita (Kal Aaj Aur Kal released before their wedding, and Jeet after), Rajesh Khanna-Dimple Kapadia (they were to do the super-hit Roti but after marriage, she left the film and Mumtaz stepped in). In the 1980s, the Rajesh Khanna home production Jai Shiv Shankar starring Dimple opposite him did not even get an all-India release.
Raj Babbar-Smita Patil’s only hit was Aaj KI Awaz much before their marriage. After their wedding (and Smita’s demise) only Waaris had a modicum of success.
Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan have been consistently unlucky together, and Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna never had succeeded on screen, though they had co-starred in International Khiladi and Zulmi before marriage. But what was interesting was even as a producer, Twinkle’s only success with her husband was Pad-Man! All the other films in which she was official producer of his acting vehicles—Khatta Meetha, Patiala House, Tees Maar Khan and Thank You— bombed.
So why is Tanhaji special?
Though we maintain the axiom that films work—irrespective of cast, scale, genre and ‘lucky” teams of any kind—and not much should be read into the fate of a film starring a married couple other than its merits, we do go into the zone of conjecture when we see the track-record.
Why is that so dismal? Do spouses sign films together just for the attraction of working together after marriage, or do filmmakers approach them with projects rather than proper scripts because of the duo’s perceived allure for our audience? Does their judgement of projects thus go emotionally haywire? Why is a pair (like Saif-Kareena) never considered worthy of signing films together? In short, what makes almost all of them go wrong?
In the recent months, no film has got it so right (and pan-India for an unrestricted audience, censor-wise) as Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior. It has not only broken the myth that a couple cannot give a super-hit together, and that a full 21 years after they wed, but also that Maharashtrian stories as period dramas do not work.
And so, trending along with the film is its wonderful lead pair that is cast as man and wife, who first worked together in two dismal flops, Hulchul and Gundaraj, on the sets of which their real-life love story began exactly 25 years ago!