indian cinema heritage foundation

Odds Against a New Comer

17 Feb, 2022 | Archival Reproductions by Cinemaazi
Jeetendra. Image Courtesy: Cinemaazi archive.

Recently, while working for Vijaylaxmi Pictures' "Farz" in Madras, I had the good luck of meeting Dilip Kumar, my idol, whom I have always regarded as an institution to educate and inspire newcomers like me in the difficult art of acting.

That day my long cherished desire of watching Dilip Kumar at work was fulfilled because both of us were working in the same studio, but in two different films - I for "Farz", and he for "Ram Aur Shyam". The introduction was made by Mumtaz, my co-star in "Boond Jo Ban Gayee Moti" and his co-star in "Ram Aur Shyam". 

"I have always wanted to watch you on the sets," I ventured to murmur to the mighty veteran. And before I could finish my sentence, Dilip Kumar embraced me and, with his inimitable smile, said, "Come on, I would rather watch, because the future belongs to you."
I was struck with the generosity of his words, but was he just pulling my leg? 

"Don't misunderstand me, I am earnest. Why don't you believe me?" urged the veteran and then taking me by the hand, led me to the studio garden.
 
"Look here, newcomers are marked for criticism in every walk of life, everywhere in the world. In fact, if one cannot ride over criticism and in the process gain self-confidence, one cannot become successful. I am telling this to you because you seem to be earnest about your job."

 
Jeetendra and Babita in Farz (1967). Image Courtesy: in.pinterest.com

"Look here, newcomers are marked for criticism in every walk of life, everywhere in the world. In fact, if one cannot ride over criticism and in the process gain self-confidence, one cannot become successful. I am telling this to you because you seem to be earnest about your job."

I heaved a sigh of relief. After all, someone was talking earnestly about the job, someone, who had also been an awkward newcomer like me twenty years ago, someone who had braved all the odds against a newcomer and ultimately become a legend - in his life-time.
Dilip Kumar told me that in the beginning of his career, he was severely criticised for his thin voice and the movement of his hands. Hard work, persistent desire to overcome the weakness of his voice ad determination to make his voice as well as his hands 'expressive', ultimately made him today's Dilip Kumar.
Dilip Kumar told me that in the beginning of his career, he was severely criticised for his thin voice and the movement of his hands. Hard work, persistent desire to overcome the weakness of his voice ad determination to make his voice as well as his hands 'expressive', ultimately made him today's Dilip Kumar.

The most minutely observed and should say the most heartlessly criticised person in Indian filmland is the newcomer. He is criticised and ridiculed round-the-clock by persons around him and even by those who have never met him. His voice, expression, gait, personality, behaviour and even his table manners are criticised. Till he is acclaimed by the audiences, he is the butt of party-jokes and studio gossip. Even his 'gurus' taunt him, "Tu to bara admi hogaya" (Now you are a big man). What is worse, sometimes he is laughed at by leading ladies when approached for roles opposite him.
 
Jeetendra and Rajashree in Geet Gaya Patharon Ne (1964). Image Courtesy: mymp3bhojpuri.in

The biggest handicap for a newcomer lies in his slightest resemblance to any ruling idol - either in acting or in personality. At once, he is marked out as the 'nakli' of so-and-so. It is, therefore, of paramount importance for a newcomer on the threshold of his career to make a persistent and determined effort to develop his own individual personality and style of acting.

Another factor that may go against him is his anxiety to mix with the people working in the industry and letting himself open to certain vicious types who, while pretending friendship, taunt him behind his back as a 'cheap' and easily available person. And once you become a cheap, and "easily accessible person", no one will bother to take you seriously for a film job.

In this industry, where nothing succeeds like success, you have to be reasonably reserved and as distant as it is possible under the circumstances. This vital lesson I learn while working with veteran V. Shantaram, who is my 'guru' and who discovered me for the film "Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne". He would sit and relax in his office, but would not meet any one without an appointment. His presence in a filmland party is always an event because his appearance is so rare at such occasion.
I have seen many promising newcomers fade away because of their indulgence in the 'wet' parties and "drinking socials" of filmland. Often these carousals, which the new entrant thinks are the key to acceptance, corrupt the mind of the young hopeful and degrade him even in the eyes of his own friends.
I have seen many promising newcomers fade away because of their indulgence in the 'wet' parties and "drinking socials" of filmland. Often these carousals, which the new entrant thinks are the key to acceptance, corrupt the mind of the young hopeful and degrade him even in the eyes of his own friends.

Actually Indian filmdom, like the Indian cinegoer, is extremely conservative. Norms of behaviour are still of the old school and the young entrant will find himself quickly unwelcome if he thinks Bohemian manners and mode of life will make his career a smooth journey to success.
 
Jeetendra and Mumtaz in Boond Jo Ban Gayee Moti  (1967) bollywooddeewana.blogspot.com
My sincere advice to new-comers is, "Please don't go modern in our filmland." I must say that thanks to the grooming I had under V. Shantaram in this particular and vital aspect of behaviour, I have profited much and gained substantially in my career.
My sincere advice to new-comers is, "Please don't go modern in our filmland." I must say that thanks to the grooming I had under V. Shantaram in this particular and vital aspect of behaviour, I have profited much and gained substantially in my career.

I should advise the new comers to follow the examples of Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Manoj Kumar in their social behaviour. They do relax, as everyone must, but in their own small, select circles and that too very occasionally. Fortunately for me, the producers I have met and have been working with are not fond of the "one-for-the-road" brigade. Not even once was there such a get-together during the filming of "Gunaon Ka Devta". S.D. Narang's "Anmol Moti" and K.P.K.'s "Parivar" were launched without any ballyhoo and the cacophony of glittering parties. I consider myself lucky in this.

Now something about the discoveries made through talent contests. Years ago, when I was a student of Sidharth College, where I used to play cricket, I happened to see a handsome, but sad looking youngman in a restaurant, brooding over his cup of tea for hours while I and my friends rushed through snacks and ice creams. Someone whispered, "He is Dharmendra, the winner of the talent contest last year."
 
Gunahon Ka Devta (1967). Image Courtesy: Cinemaazi archive.

The film bug had already bitten me, so I was anxious to know more about him and the pictures he had signed for as a result of his success in the contest. Later I was informed that Dharmendra was launched on his film career not by winning the talent contest but by his journalist friends who introduced him to the makers of "Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere" and "Shola Aur Shabnam", the films which kept him alive during his period of struggle.

My own story was not very different when I was forced to keep up a show of film stardom after my debut in "Geet Gaya Patharon Ne" on a mere Rs. 150/- a month, which I received from Raj Kamal Mandir till I was permitted by V. Shantaram to work outside for other producers. The organisers of talent contests must pay to the winners a handsome stipend till they sign for films. Otherwise, hopes raised high, they wither away keeping up a show of brittle stardom in this cruel world of show-business, where you have to display the usual success symbols eve if you are starving.
Talent contests decide the entire future of young hopefuls. Such contests must not play with the lives of young men and women merely to advance the interests of producers. The winners must be provided with jobs on handsome salaries. If this is not done, the contest becomes a cruel joke on young men and women who otherwise would have been content to pursue a hundrum career like millions of others. To raise hopes in the sensitive and then condemn them to frustration is utterly unfair.
Parivar (1967). Image Courtesy: Cinemaazi archive.

Talent contests decide the entire future of young hopefuls. Such contests must not play with the lives of young men and women merely to advance the interests of producers. The winners must be provided with jobs on handsome salaries. If this is not done, the contest becomes a cruel joke on young men and women who otherwise would have been content to pursue a hundrum career like millions of others. To raise hopes in the sensitive and then condemn them to frustration is utterly unfair.
***
This article was first published in July 1967 publication of the Star & Style Magazine, as stated by the actor Jeetendra.
The images used in the feature have been taken from the original article, Cinemaazi archive and internet.

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