Kolkata: ONE-MAN SHOW – since times immemorial, the term has been a household moniker with a plethora of eminent personalities eulogised by the media, commoners and et al. But a meticulous introspection is the need of the hour – how many of them truly deserve to be feted with the tag?
But, talking about One-man show – the birthday boy fits into its dynamics beyond doubt – yes Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, the irreplaceable and eternal Matinee Idol who turns a year ‘younger’ today, was, is and will be the One-man show and with due respect, nobody would come close to him.
In the Hindi film industry – the troika of Dilip Kumar-Dev Anand-Raj Kapoor ruled the roost followed by Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna and others till Amitabh Bachchan burst on the scene. The angry young man was invincible but the likes of Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor continued to deliver successful films simultaneously and were no lesser stars.
Bachchan’s fall from grace was paralleled by the rise of Mithun Chakraborty who was followed by Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Jackie Shroff, Sunny Deol, the Khans, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan and now the current generation of Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan and some others who have a sway with the audiences – so life moved on.
Down south Sivaji Ganesan was replaced by Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan and later the likes of Suriya, Vijay and others have stepped in. But back in Bengal, the scenario is a bit hatke and worrisome as well.
Even some forty one years after the sudden demise of Uttam Kumar, the Bengali film industry is desperately looking for his successor and this means no offence to the generations after Mahanayak‘s death.
Yes Mahanayak carried the entire industry on his own shoulders – he was way ahead of the rest even keeping in mind his fiercest rival Soumitra Chatterjee who shifted gear to non-commercial subjects. But when it came to stardom, even Chatterjee’s mentor Satyajit Ray couldn’t look beyond Uttam Kumar for his directorial Nayak. Ray knew the megastar’s aura could be matched by none.
The irreconcilable damage unleashed by his demise still persists despite the likes of Ranjit Mullick, Chiranjit, Tapas Pal and Prosenjit having tried their utmost to fill the vacuum. The statis, our industry was under between the mid-’80s and mid-’90s owing to a concerning lack of interest in commercial Bengali films only corroborates the previous logic.
Kudos to Prosenjit for not giving up and trying to stem the rot, but that was an arduous job as the urban middle-class had shied away from mainstream movies and the only alternative was parallel cinema by Ray, Mrinal Sen, Goutam Ghose, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen and later Rituparno Ghosh.
Prosenjit was termed Posenjit and had to face sly remarks on his stardom which was unfortunate. But, if Uttam Kumar drew crowds from all segments, Prosenjit’s popularity was confined to the outskirts. It was only after his foray into non-mainstream or middle-of-the road cinema, did he become a toast of the urban elite.
If an industry is to make rapid strides, it needs saleable mainstream stars who can churn out blockbusters. No film industry can survive without masala entertainers, but Tollygunge has been bereft of such potboilers in the last few years. What exacerbates the precarious juncture we are in is our over-reliance on middle-of-the road cinema with mainstream taking a back seat. Even an accomplished commercial star like Dev is focussing on films with substance. But Jeet deserves plaudits for still trying to hold fort as a mainstream star, but he is left alone. The rest – let’s not be specific, are fantabulous actors but not stars.
Hence, it is indisputable that Mahanayak is still incomparable and even Big B would accept the perspective with reverence. Uttam Kumar is still the INDUSTRY. Yes, like Bollywood, Tollywood aka the Bengali film industry has moved on too albeit with a disclaimer!
Aspirations can run high but propelling oneself to such a high stature through some over-friendly filmmakers and enamoured fans blinded by exaggerated superstardom, is overestimation. There can only be one Mahanayak in the Indian Film Industry – buy that guys!