Sunday, April 24, 2005

Aishwarya's hype machine

Talking of Aishwarya Rai (in my previous post), Tehelka has done a good job of blowing the lid off her hype machine. I have been wondering for a long time about the planted stories in the Indian media extolling Aishwarya's successes as a crossover actress. If one were to believe in those stories, one would imagine that in no time Aish would take Hollywood by storm and would firmly put the imprimatur of India on the international marquee.

Unfortunately, all this hype and hoopla lies exposed now.

In the past one year, she hardly had any successful film: all her recent releases, such as Raincoat, Shabd, and Pride and Prejuduce have been commercial flops. Then the stories about her being signed for the next Bond movie, about her being an Academy Award presenter, and about her having been cast with Maryl Streep in Chaos have been found to be anything but true. Even in her forthcoming movie, Mistress of Spices, she has been paired against an unknown television actor.

In the first place I never had believed in these stories. I am glad that someone has done that for the unsuspecting masses: separating the truth from unfounded rumours. People like Aishwarya should understand that in the day and age of ubiquitous internet access people can verify news. It is sad that some stars take public's interest for granted and feed them with unnecessary news to bolster their image.

Aishwarya should work hard on her films and her popularity will automatically soar. Why can't she learn from Rani Mukherjee (terrific in Black and Yuva)? Or at least she can take a few cues from Mallika Sherawat (a sex bomb but hardly an actress of repute) who's done a film with Jackie Chan and is ready to hit the red carpet in Cannes this year. She may not be a terrific actress but at least she is not lying through her teeth.

But, maybe, Aish is not perturbed by all this hype-busting. After all, she may think that even bad publicity is good publicity!


she said...

you know, zafar, apart from very few exceptions, the whole crop of actors and actresses in bollywood today are so sub-standard. there's so much hype about them.

shahrukh khan, for instance. he's very charming, no doubt, but whether he's rahul or devdas or anyone else, he looks and sounds the same! aamir khan is, i think, also very overrated.

people like tabu, rani mukherjee or rajpal yadav, manoj bajpai, etc are so few when compared like sheer talent like an om puri, naseeruddin shah or shabana azmi.

but one film i want to see and i think you should, too, is sudhir mishra's 'haazar khwahishen aisi'. it's about the emergency and apparently, it's wonderful.

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Zafar.

What a creative blog yours is today and with such an unusual theme! You certainly hold an exciting talent - as I have long noticed and told you - for posing deep introspective issues for the self and handing them out on a delicious platter to friends.

You are absolutely right in exposing a 'hype' around Aishwarya that is probably a masquerade for false rumours more than anything else.

However, the actress did give a personal interview in Times magazine (UK/europe edition) earlier this year where the James Bond-cast in any case, seemed to be true. She was approached formally but I think she stretched the long-drawn out discussions to a terrific yawn by failing to come to any ready agreement!

Even ShahRukh Khan was approached formally for a James-Bond lead (before Aish)but the actor had refused point blank preferring to stay on steady ground where he held top ranking in India as of course, the saying goes, 'a big fish in a small pond.' He continued to be sought however, for even bigger oceans and that's when the hype grew into a potentially explosive balloon...

Aish currently commands excellent interviews in the major British newspapers. She is often praised for her classical beauty and her personality and the papers here don't mind blowing photographs of her big-time.

If I may speak up for Aish in another way, Zafar, Bride and Prejudice worked against her really badly from the stereotyped- predictable script offered and also I felt the film direction to be clumsy as Gurinder (director) didn't seem to find the right balance between Bollywood disco-ing and an emotionally moving story. To add more salt to the wound, all the 'comical' Indian jokes were rehashed for the umpteenth time and the only promising character for me personally was the Indian version of 'Mrs. Bennett.

It's a very interesting point that asya brought up about popular words these days like 'hype', 'overrated', and 'sub-standard.'
With one of the more outstanding actresses, I remember that Shabana Azmi rose to fame ironically also through controversy from her liberal views on homosexuality in a conservative city that triggered bad events, initally. But she cleverly whizzed past these incidents didn't she by becoming a woman determinated with the convictions of her principles. She knew who she was as a person, what she wanted, where she was going, she worked bloody hard at her craft, took on good character roles, and now, she is such a woman of power and strength (with social issues that long outweigh her sure beauty.)

I've learnt about myself from recent episodes that perhaps most of us are given the chance to exploit a unique and high-rise individuality. It's really up to us as entertainers or artists (writers, poets etc) whether we want to or not. And I've learnt that there are 2 sorts on an abstract dimension - with no middle ground - the first is that you either take the road less-travelled and aim inside yourself to excel from the start whatever the cost and with this difficult and painful road, you'll either rise or drown - there is no halfway point. Then if you drown, you'll be a laughing stock to majority of the watchful; but if you rise through your convictions and art/craft/talent, you'll always be remembered for commanding such a weightful presence and for securing a distinct personality.

Then there is the 2nd sort the majority of alrights who hold together never diverting from the mainstream. Those in this select category may admire or envy those who have climbed over the fence but would never attempt it for themselves. With a great need for approval, it is safer to cling together where the waters always stay tranquil but always stay ordinary. Then for them, the hype has always to be recycled, the over-ratedness of a sub-standard talent unecessarily dramatised.

So it is with entertainers, writers and the lot, I personally feel now. You either go all out with a passion to excel or just stay where you're already popular and be safe.

Aish could easily solve her problem of cleverness by picking intelligent character roles that strive to remove her from the ordinary. But perhaps, it's easier to be popular when you know you're in a place where everyone knows you and when applause is stamped with familiarity. All this as opposed to taking a chance on the unknown.

And today, actors like ShahRukh Khan already know that, I'm sure.

she said...

you're right about the choices one can make, susan. and shabana azmi is very admirable indeed.

Zafar Anjum said...

Agree with you Asya. The whole industry works on the principle of hype and marketing hoopla. Almost everyone in the industry does it. It's show business after all. However, given the nature of the industry, what Aish has done is over the top hype-building. Tehelka has exposed her canards. It may not be a very good cover story for Tehelka but you know I think it was the right thing to do. In the past, I have seen stars like Aish and others on the cover of magazines like India Today. Did they buy the cover story as part of their promotional budget? I don't know.

Shahrukh Khan is star and so he keeps repeating himself in movie after movie. Aamir is more serious in his acting, and all said and done his Lagaan is a modern classic.

Om Puri and Naseer are a class apart and I don't think we have actors of their calibre in this current young generation of actors.

I am also looking forward to seeing Sudhir Mishra's movie. The plot seems so interesting and I sort of like Kay Kay.

Thanks for your comments.

Zafar Anjum said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for your comments. I liked your two-choices philosophy of either going the whole hog after what you want to do or to sit and enjoy the present level of success.

Shahrukh, I have read in so many interviews, never wanted to try the Hollywood movies. He has refused many offers, or so we are told. And he justifys it by saying that 'better be a king in hell than a servant in heaven'. I am not saying that Hollywood is everything. 90 percent of what Hollywood produces is trash anyway.

I find it a lazy approach. Maybe it is personally good for Shahrukh in terms of money and popularity but what will a real actor do? He will look for challenges, whether in Hollywood or in Bollywood. This is what actor slike Om Puri are doing.

Here the question is of crossing over, in the case of Aishwarya Rai. She is yet to prove all the tall claims that she has been making. The Time magazine people have clarified that they included Aish in the magazine's story because they didn't actually know who else to include. Shows their lack of research.

There is no doubt about Shabana Azmi's achievements. She has also done some foreign movies. We need more actors like Shabana.

Susan Abraham said...

"And writers too, Zafar. And writers too...

iFaqeer said...

As I was saying in a comment to another entry on this blog; any South Asian being taken seriously by the dominant global culture/entertainment machine is good news. And what Aish is doing right now is trying to break into mainstream Hollywood--playing the game the way it is paid in the US in general and Hollywood in particular. And hiring an agent, doing the rounds on TV shows and all. As a South Asian living in the US, it was a kick seeing her on David Letterman's show--that's as mainstream as it gets. Americans are not very comfortable dealing with something they know nothing about--but if they've seen her on Letterman, they might cotton to her faster in a mainstream vehicle. As a South Asian that has aspirations to break into the mainstream, this has major implications for me--and for you, if you want global exposure. Om Puri, Naseer, and Shabana got a few parts here and there--and don't forget M. Night Shyamalan, Shehkar Kapur...and going all the way back to Persis Khambata and Freddie Mercury. But like Rushdie and Arundhati, the door they went thru did not stay open for others to follow. But now with the rash of novels and Aish's profile (she's former Miss World fercryingoutloud), that might chane. (I am praying!) I find Aish and Shehkar K most interesting because they ARE mainstream Bollywood/South Asia not, like Freddie M, Persis K or M. Night people who, as artists, have nothing to do with South Asia.