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True Confession?

Friday, January 30, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

Shah Rukh Khan is reported to have made a rather strange statement to the effect that soon actors in India will be considered professionals like in Hollywood, not stars.

 For one, it is admitting, that those who are stars today are not professional, which is true to some extent—when they are accorded such god-like status, why would they care about a minor issue like professionalism?  Secondly, what makes SRK think that Hollywood does not have a star system? 

Hollywood stars are many time bigger and more powerful than Bollywood stars, and the bigger the star, the more difficult he or she is likely to be. When everybody on set is geared to fulfill their every whim, why wouldn’t they act like eccentric royalty?

It’s just that fandom in Hollywood does not reach the worshipful levels with which Indian fans treat film stars. Ridiculous levels of paparazzi stalking and
avid consumption of tabloid gossip aside, Hollywood stardom does not celebrate mediocrity like the commercial Hindi film industry does.  An A-List Hollywood star has to work hard to reach stardom and work harder to stay there. Most of them have to audition for roles, like any ‘professional actor,’ they don’t get work because one or both of their parents are stars. They have to slog for their awards with other equally worthy competitors; they don’t get trophies because they dance at the awards functions, or pull strings to win. Hollywood is littered with forgotten stars, who were once considered invincible. Bollywood stars luckily have a much longer shelf life—at least the men do—and because there are so few of them, they rule the roost.

Still, most of today’s stars are professional as compared to those a couple of generations before them. One heard horror stories of stars not turning up on time for shootings, or bunking at will. They routinely mistreated ‘lesser’ mortals on the sets, made the producer and director grovel, and worked like they were doing the world a favour. So many films were stalled and producers ruined, because a star simply refused to grant dates, for no reason.

Then as now, producers have to put up with every demand of the stars, grin and bear their late-coming, drunkenness, high-handedness; they have to please their ever-growing entourages, edit scenes the way they want and promote the film the way the star deems fit.  It’s a wonder at least some films turn out half-way coherent in spite of all the ad hoc-ism that goes into their making.  Producers are pathetically grateful if star do not behave badly, rather than ask for and get that elusive professionalism from them all.

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