Friday 24th May 2024
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South to North

Quite recently I read an article about Tamil film stars trying their luck in Bollywood. The writer had mentioned that those who had had stints up north were not very successful in retaining their careers and had to return to the south in order to survive in the industry.
It is quite true that not everyone who headed north has been successful. However the writer had failed to provide any analysis or evidence to validate his claim.
The migration to the north has been going on for decades. Perhaps the first such star to make a mark in Bollywood was Vyjayanthimala. She was introduced by AVM in a Tamil movie ‘Vazhkai’ back in 1946 and went on to do some great films like ‘Vanjikottai Valiban’ with Gemini Ganesh. Her last outing in Tamil must have been ‘Irumbu Thirai’ with Sivaji Ganesan in 1960. Produced by Gemini Films, the movie was a big hit. She could have stayed on, but when ‘Sangam’ happened, she never turned back.
The other Tamil actress to make it big in Bollywood was Sridevi. Acknowledged by one and all as Kamal Haasan’s best onscreen pair, she moved to Hindi movies and created ripples. She was in her heydays the number one female lead star in Hindi. She too never returned to Tamil movies.
Male stars haven’t been that successful. The only one who was emerging as a threat was Kamal Haasan, who after ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’, had a string of movies lined up. His last outing was ‘Saagar’ where he played a second hero beside Rishi Kapoor. In fact his performance outshone Rishi’s and he won a Filmfare Award, much to the chagrin of Rishi himself. After a short stint, Kamal declined offers simply because the work ethics up North were not to his taste and Kamal didn’t deem it appropriate to work there when his career in the South already was flourishing.
Rajinikanth had a stint too. Starting with ‘Andaa Khanoon’ (a remake of Vijayakanth starrer ‘Sattam Oru Iruttarai’) he made a few movies. For reasons unknown, he too decided not to pursue any further.
The list of those who have had such stints goes on, especially the new spate of actresses like Asin, Trisha and Vidya Balan, all with South roots, who are making waves in Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai being the most successful to date. With Mani Ratnam’s cross-over movies and the likes of Vikram, who plays roles in the upcoming Raavana in both languages, the actor/actress cross-over is indeed happening.
The question here is why most of them haven’t been successful. Before we answer that question let’s first get some basic facts right. It is unfair to surmise that all have been unsuccessful without understanding the premise on which they ventured up north.
First there are those who have migrated for good, such as Vyjayanthimala, Hemamalini, Rekha (the daughter of Southern star, Gemini Ganesan) and Sridevi. They stayed on and worked on being successful.
Next came those who have been doing Hindi films consistently whilst also staying on down south. Madhavan is a good example, especially with his roles in 3 idiots and Guru creating a buzz and showcasing his immense talent as an actor – he has persevered in Hindi cinema.
Thirdly there are those who have acted in Hindi films which are remakes of their Tamil versions. Kamal still does that.
To be branded as successful, one has to be rooted in the industry over a period of time and and should be consistently acting in Hindi movies. In that respect, we can only consider those who have migrated for good. Success in Bollywood cannot be measured for those who have decided not to stay put there. Kamal and Rajinikanth cannot be classified as not being successful since they are not there by their own choices.
So why haven’t some been able to stay on? Without mentioning names, if one looks at the career path they had taken, one would find one trait missing – identity. Born a Marathi, Rajinikanth is able to stay on in the south simply because he differentiated himself. There are certain roles that only Rajini can do justice to. Born a Tamil, Kamal became a hero first in the Malayalam industry. He was able to do 41 films in Malayalam simply because he showed himself as capable of donning various roles. Versatility was his differentiation.
Those who wish to venture into any industry other than their base need to create a niche for themselves that would create demand. Why would anyone need an outsider if he or she is no different from their own? Until today, Saagar is known as a Kamal movie though the leading man was Rishi Kapoor. That quality to outshine is what makes him welcome in Hindi till today. The same can be said of Vyjayanthimala, Hemamalini, Rakha and Sridevi.
Ram Gopal Varma when commenting on Surya said that he is very different from others, hence his casting for Raktha Charitra. That is what every actor or actress should work on before venturing into the unknown. There is nothing wrong in trying to broaden one’s horizon, but being unprepared is the last thing one should be.
Success is impartial; it embraces the prepared one, anywhere, anytime. For those who just wish to try their luck, their days will be numbered. Simply put, success and luck just don’t gel.
Words: Joseph David
Joseph is a Malaysian-born Tamil, living in the state of Penang, Malaysia. His first taste of the Tamil language came from his grandmother who taught him how to read and write in Tamil. She also encouraged him to watch Tamil programmes and movies so he could improve his language skills. Those were the days when good Tamil pronunciation could be heard in Tamil movies – thanks to thespian Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, who became Joseph’s favourite actor. â?¨â?¨At high school, Joseph developed an affinity towards writing, and he eventually wrote, directed and acted in many Tamil plays. Joseph has also won many prizes at singing competitions in school. The performing arts had always been close to his heart and analyzing Tamil movies soon became his favourite pastime. He is very picky about the movies he watches and loves any actor who can put up a sterling performance. Though being very much impressed by the dramatic stage-influenced acting of Sivaji, Joseph is also a great fan of method-acting – hence he is a fan of Kamal Haasan. â?¨â?¨Joseph spends most of his free time browsing movie sites. His interest is usually centered on actors, acting skills and industry issues.
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