Youth vs youthfulness
Thank God Aamir Khan has abandoned the daaku Mangal Singh look. The man is competing with Jennifer Aniston in the 'even my haircuts make news' department but I'll give it to his hair stylist - she manages to come up with something that makes you take note every time.
So yes, Aamir is looking a lot cuter and younger with the soft n curly mop but let's get one thing clear - this is youthFUL. And that is not the same as actually being young.
Aamir became a youth icon with his very first Bollywood film - QSQT - in 1987. And with the Dil chahta hai role he came back full circle and consolidated the youth image. But I was hoping that would be his last stab at the 'youth' space.
Apparently not. Rakesh Mehra is casting Aamir in a pivotal role in his next movie Rang de Basanti. The director says the film 'celebrates the youth of India' and Aamir represents that youth.
Uh huh. Haircut or no haircut, Aamir is now almost 40. Like Shahrukh Khan - who has wisely decided to steer clear of candyfloss college boy roles - surely it IS time to move on?
Desperately seeking youth talent
The irony is that in a country where over half the population is under 25 - there are hardly any real youth idols. I hesitate to use the word 'icon' because what I mean is performers - whether in acting, singing, sports. Young people with the right mix of talent + personality + charisma that equals STAR quality and produces a dedicated fan following.
Yes, things are better as far as the 'hunt' of new talent goes. There are opportunities for new faces - be it in remix videos, through Miss & Mr India contests, Popstars, Cinestars ki Khoj and now Indian Idol.
But most of these talents enjoy their 15 minutes of fame and then fade away. At least that's what's happened so far to:
Viva: The first band to win Channel [V]'s Popstars contest. Just the first album did well. Now disbanded.
Aasma: The second Pospstars find. Not heard of them post their solitary hit 'Chandu ke Chacha'.
Shefali Zariwala: The girl who became a sensation with the Kaanta lagaa video. It remains the sole feather in her cap
Amar Upadhyaya: Adored as Mihir Virani in the popular soap opera Kyunki Saas, flopped majorly in films
And there are many more such examples.
"Well that' show business for you" is one explanation. But I think it goes a little bit deeper.
One factor is the overhyping of every new talent, which creates a sense of fatigue for the audience all too quickly. The sequence of events generally goes like this
a) Interviews on every TV channel and newspaper
b) More interviews, media exposure, hype.
c) Six months later there's no follow up album or other sign of activity which would make the audience feel there is something of substance in this person.
Now some might have been undertalented and overhyped - and hence did their natural deaths.
But with others I think the nasha of celebrity goes to their heads - and instead of concentrating on what more they can do with their talents - they are happy to vegetate and stagnate. And fade away instead of creating any lasting impact.
Hitching your star to the wrong wagon
Secondly, many of the people who really 'make or break' your career would rather rely on the big stars to ensure their own success.
Take Karan Johar. In his debut film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai he took a chance with Rani Mukherjee - a totally unknown face then. In K3G, Kal ho na ho he took no such risks.
Mostly, 'new talent' finds itself in the incompetent hands of people like Arindam Choudhary whose debut disaster Rok sako to rok lo was the perfect example of how NOT to make a film.
The 'curse' of success
The burden of becoming very successful very early in life is a difficult one. Time and again, really talented young people get crushed under it - and rarely manage to grab for themselves a second chance.
Take the case of Parthiv Patel. It would be great if he took his dismissal from the team as a challenge, fought back for his form and won his place in the team again. But will we let that happen?
And Sania Mirza. She seems to have a capable young head on her shoulders and yes, what she's done so far is creditable. But if you make the front page and the back page of the Sunday Times and the front page of the Bombay Times all in the SAME day (Sunday 30th Jan) - just for reaching round 3 of the Australian open... Can you be blamed for getting just a little bit distracted from your goal of actually winning a Grand Slam?
Kal ki baat purani kab hogi?
And finally, older stars - the ones who've actually become 'icons' - will need to make way for the new. A very simple example from the world of cricket. I remember this one young chap called Hrishikesh Kanitkar who won a couple of really close one day matches for India. One fine day he disappeared from the team, never to be heard of again.
Maybe he had a few bad innings, but so does Sachin. Yet Sachin remains a national hero while Kanitkar gets no second chance to prove himself. The Old Order needs to gracefully bow out and reinvent itself, even as it encourages a new one.
Only then will there be space for and spotlights on fresh talents, perfomers, faces .
Real youth idols, not just youthful ones.