Why are promising new-age filmmakers now toeing the commercial line by making films with popular actors?
The last two years in Bollywood have given plenty of examples of films that stayed away from a very conventional star cast. Farrukh Jaffer, 72, who played Ammaji, a betel nut chewing, ill-tempered hag in Peepli [Live] was hailed as one of the best discoveries in terms of talent, last year.
In such films, the script was the star that drove the film forward. Be it in Love Sex aur Dhokha or even Shaitaan, it was a talented ensemble cast that defined the film, perhaps in a way a popular star never could have.
However, many of the directors who kick-started their careers with lesser-known artistes, have now chosen to cast relatively popular names to draw bigger crowds to the theatres.
Big names, bigger saleability
One of the bigger examples in this context is Udaan director Vikramaditya Motwane who in his next, Lootera, is casting Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha. The film that went on to become one of the most acclaimed films of last year, stood strong with a 17-year-old newbie Rajat Barmecha and TV actor Ronit Roy as main leads.
We not only saw them bagging back-to-back awards in India, but they also graced the Cannes red carpet, a feat few of our Bollywood stars have achieved. With Udaan making the right kind of noises for him, Motwane obviously wants to make the most of it.
However, the director says, "I don't think I have changed much since Udaan. I will still do the film my way. Casting popular faces doesn't mean I am going out to make a Bodyguard."
Interestingly, not everyone knows that Motwane's first choice for the father's role in the film was Ajay Devgn. He adds, " Ajay was supposed to be the surprise package, but that did not work out.
Eventually, we cast Ronit, who became the strongest point of the film. So I wouldn't disagree that a star does grab eyeballs, but I won't cast a star just for his/her star value."
The affordability factor
Interestingly, everyone from Raj Kumar Gupta to Bejoy Nambiar to Habib Faisal, seems to be following the trend. While Gupta went ahead and cast Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji in No One Killed Jessica (after his debut film Aamir with Rajiv Khandelwal) we hear that Bejoy Nambiar is now looking to cast Imran Khan in his next.
Says Gupta, "When there are big studios backing you, there is more money pouring in and you are at the liberty to cast popular names. And if there happens to be actors who fit the bill, why won't you cast them? I don't think anyone would have fit the roles of Sabrina Lal and the journalist better than Vidya and Rani."
Give and take
However, actors who remained little known till they were given a break, think it's a fair game.
Says Gulshan Devaiah, whose performance as a Telugu don in That Girl in Yellow Boots was quite whistle-worthy, "As actors we all want to work in big budget films with bigger directors. So how can we expect directors to not want to work with bigger actors?"
He also points out that many directors are quite versatile in this matter. Like Anurag Kashyap who went back to a smaller star cast in TGIYB, after his superhit, Dev D. Anurag's next, Gangs of Wasseypur once again has an ensemble cast with Manoj Bajpai as the only well-known name.
Concludes Kashyap, "Well, stars sell and no one can really dispute that. And perhaps with the story-telling abilities of many of these filmmakers, the so called popular faces, too, finally get a chance to challenge themselves to do better."