The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Spouses don’t click as screen lovers
A.C. Tuli

THE Bollywood grapevine has it that nowadays actress Kajol is feeling rather out of sorts, and perhaps even regretting that she was a trifle too hasty and impulsive in matters matrimonial. Her first film with husband Ajay Devgun after their marriage was Raju Chacha. Unluckily, this multi-crore cinematic extravaganza proved a disaster at the box office. As if this was not enough, Kajol’s dual role in the much-publicised film Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi — in which she was not paired with her husband — also could not salvage her sinking fortunes. In short, matrimony seems to have brought about a downslide in her career as an actress.

The Kajol-Devgun fiasco as screen lovers reminds one of all those actor-actress couples who tried their luck in films but could not quite make it. For instance, Bhagyashri’s popularity touched dizzy heights after the stupendous success of Maine Pyar Kiya. Overnight, she became a superstar whom every producer wanted to sign for his film. But at this stage in her career, she ill-advisedly plunged into matrimony. And then, quite illogically, she insisted that henceforth her husband, Himalaya, would be her co-star in every film. Of course, big banners discreetly kept away from her. The result was that she got only indifferent, C-grade films in which she appeared with Himalaya, a non-actor. As expected, all of them were flops. Her career in films nosedived. She finally ended up by working in a super-flop called Qaid Mein Hai Bulbul.

In fact, Indian audiences do not accept real-life spouses as screen lovers. In the late 40s and early 50s, Premnath was a dashing young man, slim, smart and handsome. He was liked by cinegoers in films like Sagai, Buzdil, Naujawan, Barsat, Saqi, Dard-e-Dil, in which he appeared as a hero opposite top-ranking heroines of those days.

The first movie in which he was paired with Bina (Anarkali) Rai was Aurat (1953), a Bollywood version of the tragic Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah. Aurat, however, was not a box-office sensation, but in this film Cupid had shot his arrows well. Premnath fell head over heels in love with Bina Rai. They married and soon set up their own production unit, known as P.N. Films.

The first offering of this concern was Shagufa (1954) with Premnath and Bina Rai in the lead. The starry-eyed lovers of Aurat had pinned high hopes on their first independent venture. But Shagufa was a none-event in the annals of Hindi filmdom. The cinegoers rejected it. Neither Bina Rai’s elfin charm nor Premnath’s sensitive portrayal of the role of a doctor could save Shagufa from being a flop. And the films that followed Shagufa — Prisoner of Golconda, Samunder and Watan — suffered a worse fate. Thus the Premnath-Bina Rai pairing never clicked on the screen.

In Navketan’s Baazi (1951) and Taxi Driver (1954), the Dev Anand-Kalpana Kartik duo got a favourable response from the audience. Both films enjoyed a long run in theatres and must have helped fill the Navketan coffers. But after their marriage, Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik began to slip in audience ratings. While their Nau Do Gyara was a moderate success, House No 44 was a complete washout at the box-office. Dev Anand wisely decided not to team up with his wife after this.

When Shammi Kapoor married Geeta Bali, she was already an established actress. However, the two or three films in which they worked together after tying the nuptial knot are hardly ever remembered today. But then Geeta Bali was quick to read the writing on the wall. She soon retired from films to enjoy the comforts of hearth and home, while Shammi Kapoor forged ahead to become one of the most successful heroes of his time.

Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu tried to project their made-for-each-other image on the screen after their marriage but failed. Neither Bairag nor Gopi could make their pairing a rage with the film viewers. Dilip Kumar, a shrewd actor, was quick to sense which way the box office wind was blowing. So he refrained from further forays into films with Saira Banu.

As for Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri, they did impress the viewers through their sterling performance in Abhiman and Mili. But when Amitabh acquired the angry young man’ image, the heroine he needed to bare his love-lorn heart to was Rekha, not his wife Jaya.

Before their tempestuous romance into matrimony, Dharmendra and Hema Malini were keenly watched by their fans in film after film. Front-benchers in cinema halls sighed and let out lusty bellows when they saw the screen ‘Drem Girl’ being hugged and caressed by her Dharam.

After their marriage, their films were no longer hot property for their fans. To them, the dream girl was now plain Mrs Dharmendra. Even their passionate dalliance on the screen was no longer a stimuli for lusty bellows in cinema halls, for it was something that was happening between a husband and his wife. In other words, even the make-believe was no longer believable.

So what it all boils down to is that couples, right from Devika Rani-Himanshu Rai to Kajol-Devgun, have failed to click as screen lovers. Why is it so? Maybe because that element of romance which we normally associate with a boy-meets-girl yarn is missing in films in which real-life spouses star as screen lovers. Even their sizzling romantic scenes in the film fail to enthuse the viewers, for they think that what the couple is doing in the film is just a repetition of all that they do at home.

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