Return of stars: The class act is back, and how : The Tribune India

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Return of stars: The class act is back, and how

Is the return of stars a casting coup or a cosmetic exercise to grab more eyeballs? Whatever the reason, each time an actor returns to the screen after a long gap, much buzz is generated

Return of stars: The class act is back, and how

Sharmila Tagore returned to movies after a hiatus of 12 years with OTT release 'Gulmohar'; (below) in 2012, Sridevi made a comeback with 'English Vinglish'.

Nonika Singh

It was during a brainstorming session with casting director Mukesh Chhabra that the famous director duo Raj and DK thought of Amol Palekar. They had expressed the desire to cast someone like Palekar as Shahid Kapoor’s idealistic grandfather in the series ‘Farzi’, when Chhabra quipped, “Why not Palekar himself?” As it turned out, Palekar had just been seen in ‘200–Halla Ho’ (2021) after a decade and hadn’t quite bid adieu to acting. The die was cast. More recently, we have seen the quintessential middle-class guy of the 1970s in not just that series but a film, ‘Gulmohar’, too. In ‘Gulmohar’, not only did the versatile actor-director put up a fine act, but shared space with yet another shining star of the past, Sharmila Tagore, who took to the screen after a gap of 12 years. Though the cast of ‘Gulmohar’ included Manoj Bajpayee, one of the most brilliant actors of our times, it was Palekar and Tagore’s presence which captured media attention.

Amol Palekar

Each time a star returns to the screen after a long gap, much buzz is generated. Be it Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit or Sushmita Sen, all eyes are on their comeback vehicles. Sridevi made a splash with ‘English Vinglish’, winning both critical acclaim and box office success. When Sushmita, though never a prolific actor in her heydays, returned to acting after a decade and headlined Ram Madhvani’s ‘Aarya’, it was hailed as a resurgence of Sushmita. Needless to add, OTT has facilitated their revival and made it easy for actors of an era gone by to find meaty roles.

 Sushmita Sen

More than one star has found a new lease in web shows. Sonali Bendre made her presence felt in the web series ‘Broken News’ after a seven-year hiatus. Though Sonali was a part of reality shows on television, facing the camera as an actor was an altogether different ballgame and a challenge. While Sonali could be herself on reality shows, getting into the character and remembering dialogues meant relearning the entire process. For ‘Maachis’ actor Chandrachur Singh, who was also seen in ‘Aarya’ after a long gap, coming back to acting involved a lot of relearning and unlearning.

Madhuri Dixit

But the question that assumes significance is whether the return of stars is a casting coup or simply a cosmetic exercise to grab more eyeballs. ‘Trial by Fire’ actor Rajshri Deshpande, who worked with Madhuri Dixit in ‘Fame Game’, can’t say whether stars of yore are taken on board for their star value alone. She adds, “On OTT, everyone is an equal. Every actor, be it of today or yesteryear, gets a fair chance.” Besides, she does not believe in the term ‘comeback’. As she puts it, “We actors are freelancers. It’s not as if we have nine-to-five jobs. There are times when we have work and there are times we don’t.” She would rather use the term ‘pause’ to define an actor’s sabbatical.

This could well explain Raveena Tandon’s on and off forays. After 2006, she made a comeback with a cameo in Anurag Kashyap’s magnum opus ‘Bombay Velvet’ in 2015 and was subsequently seen in ‘Maatr’ in 2017. In 2021, Tandon made an impactful OTT debut with the Netflix crime thriller web series ‘Aranyak’.

Chhabra, who has been instrumental in making casting a well thought-out professional exercise, says, “Actors — be it from the 1970s, ’80s or ’90s — are always looking for work and never really retire.” Post-‘Farzi’, he has got feelers from many senior actors. Expectedly, Chhabra, who has given us many stars of today through his gruelling audition process, does not put senior actors through any test. “After all, each of them has a huge body of work behind them and do not need to prove themselves. I simply use my imagination whether they are suitable for the part or not.”

Indeed, actors like Madhuri, who quit when she was at the top of the game, are unlikely to forget the grammar of acting. In a promotional video, Sharmila Tagore might have said that she was a tad nervous, but the actress who has aged like wine could still teach others a thing or two about acting. As Sonali said in an interview, “Just as you never forget to ride a bicycle, acting is always in your blood.” Applying the Biblical saying ‘land must lie fallow’ to the creative process, the crux according to Deshpande is that “an actor is more evolved after a break.”

Once an actor, always an actor. Besides, to a large majority, the dictum ‘out of sight, out of mind’ too does not apply. While on one hand, they are more than visible in umpteen TV shows, they are rarely out of the paparazzi radar too. But visible or not, the real name of the casting game is the surprise element. So believes Chhabra, who brought back Vivek Mushran in ‘Tamasha’ and Jugal Hansraj in ‘Kahaani 2’. However, one casting choice he is immensely proud of is that of Anil Dhawan in ‘Andhadhun’. “Not only could people of my parents’ generation relate to him, his act piqued the interest of younger viewers too.” Similarly, when Sharmila Tagore appears in ‘Gulmohar’, the new generation learns how she was a top actress of her time.

While Chhabra doesn’t think casting actors of yesteryear will become a fad, one is likely to see many more return to the screen. He himself would love to rope in an Asha Parekh or a Helen or even Jeetendra. The only litmus test, according to him, is that “the role must be in consonance with their talent and stature. I can’t give an actor of Amol Palekar’s calibre just one scene”. Nor does he think their appearances are a flash in the pan phenomenon. Ever since he cast Manisha Koirala in ‘Dear Maya’ (2017), appearing in films after a five-year hiatus, she has been working and was more recently seen in Kartik Aaryan-starrer ‘Shehzada’.

The presence of yesteryear stars may not guarantee success by itself, but Chhabra can give you countless examples where senior actors came out blazing. For example, Farooq Shaikh’s stellar role of Ranbir Kapoor’s doting father in ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’. Shaikh, who made his comeback with Shona Urvashi’s ‘Saas Bahu Aur Sensex’ in 2008, had professed that he never actually went away. In short, these stars never stop shining, only need to be rediscovered by discerning directors, producers and, of course, casting directors. As Marilyn Monroe would say, “We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.”

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