Selling their soles...

18 November,2010 09:56 AM IST |   |  Subhash K Jha

...and putting on their dancing shoes for obscene money. As crorepati actors get ready to wiggle and jiggle at yet another glitzy wedding, some reactions to how stars put themselves on sale for celebrations

...and putting on their dancing shoes for obscene money. As crorepati actors get ready to wiggle and jiggle at yet another glitzy wedding, some reactions to how stars put themselves on sale for celebrations

The dancing kings and queens of Bollywood are at it. Their great skills at popular entertainment are up for sale at the right price, at any venue and occasion.

That some of our hottest A-listers would be dancing at a wedding at a gutka baron*s home in Delhi just reiterates what the forever-quotable Shah Rukh Khan had said when the wave of private dancing had started, "I am a bhand (street entertainer) for rent. Anyone can hire me for a price."

Street entertainer or no, stars seem to be up for sale to anybody who can afford them. Years ago Mamta Kulkarni (remember her?) had sent shockwaves across Bollywood when she had danced at a cheesy politician*s private party in Jharkhand. In his inimitable way Shatrughan Sinha had quipped, "Bhai, kyun nahin (why not?). In the olden days, we had Raj Nartakis dancing in the king*s durbar. We now have our filmi nartakis dancing for politicians. This is just carrying a tradition forward."

Dancin* stars:u00a0 Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan

Mamta had raised eyebrows by dancing for a politician. Today, though, when Bollywood*s biggest agree to shake a limb and wiggle a posterior at a gutka king*s residence, the film industry is cleaved into two - those who we will, and those we won*t.

A top actor who absolutely refuses to dance at private functions did say warily, "Mamta danced for a politician. I hear Katrina is dancing for a gutka king. Which is worse? It depends on which is more harmful to your health. Gutka or politics? I*d never dance (privately) no matter what the price tag. To me it is humiliating to even consider putting myself up for exhibition at someone*s son*s mundan (hair shearing) ceremony or daughter*s wedding. I do not mind making a brief appearance to say hello, though."

Stars now charge money even to shake hands at weddings and birthdays. A few months ago Bipasha Basu underwent a horrific experience in Delhi where she had agreed to attend a private party for half an hour.
Recalls Bipasha, "I was told it was the birthday party of the hotel owner.

I refused to attend the party because the profile and guest attendance was something I was uncomfortable with. I heard there were inebriated people and belly dancers amongst the invitees. There was loud music blaring across the hotel and I could hear it my room. Very early during the day, I informed them I wouldn*t attend the party. At 1.30 am, when I was sleeping, I was awoken with this crazy banging on my door. Voices from outside were demanding I open the door."

It was much later that Bipasha got to know that her bouncers had been removed from the hotel premises and that there were TV cameras from television channels out there. The TV crews had been informed that she had taken money to attend the party and then backtracked and refused to do so.

Bipasha says defensively, "I was shivering and crying inside the room. Even if I had taken money to attend the party, what gave these people the right to bang on my hotel door at that unearthly hour when I am supposed to be safe and protected? Later, I learnt that there was hotel staff and crime reporters too from the television channels banging on my door.

Crime reporters! What crime had I committed? My business manager and makeup girl were outside the door, hysterical with terror trying to keep those men from breaking down my door. I could hear leery, slurring voices saying, *Ladki hai varna darwaza tod denge.* The kind of rudeness and trauma we three girls were subjected to was unbelievable."

Since then, Bipasha has been very careful about the events she agrees to attend. But, would our other young, attractive stars ever learn their lesson? A very hot and happening actress who is always in and out of private functions had once asked this writer about dancing at private functions, "What is all the fuss about?u00a0 I just need to be there, do a few steps and get paid well. It makes them all happy. It makes me happy and richer by a few crores. But don*t write about it."

"If you pay me, I*ll dance even at your birthday," one of today*s leading ladies had told me defiantly. That statement is a far cry from the time when our entertainment industry*s luminaries considered even a public classical performance infra dig. Asia*s Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar fobbed off all lucrative offers for performing at public concerts until the late 1960s. Her rationale? She is a playback singer, not a stage performer.

Lataji recalls, "Before I did my first live concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1969, my stage appearances were sporadic. I would join my colleagues from the music industry to sing a few songs at charity concerts and then flee from the scene. The Albert Hall concert was done after innumerable requests. I did it on condition that the venue has to be of historical significance."

Vyjanthimala was the first screen queen who actually danced on stage, at the Filmfare awards, and that too on condition that her performance be purely classical and not filmi. In fact, when Asha Parekh and Hema Malini began performing on stage they made sure that they were not asked to do any filmi dancing. When Vyjanthimala went on a tour of the West Indies in 1970 and the audience asked for her tantalising, boodha mil gaya, the elegant Tamil actress walked off the stage.

Ditto Hema Malini. At a dance performance in Trinidad in 1972, Hema haughtily huffed off the stage when audiences clamoured for her filmi dances. I was present at that concert.u00a0 Laughs the Dream Girl when asked about the incident, "You were there? Yes, I would as a rule walk out if audiences clamoured for glamour. I am very clear that my stage performances are for my classical dancing. If you want to see me doing my film dances, you*ve to see my films. Today, girls are dancing at private functions to make quick money."

In her characteristically candid style Hema has hit the nail on the head. If top stars are willing to dance at private functions one can blame the recession too. Many of our top heroines are doing much less work on screen than they would like to. Either, the roles are too routine. Or, the money too mundane. Why not just attend a function, wave to the crowds, do a jig and go home while the happy host sings, Jiggy jab se to aaya mere dware....

Yes these are stars at your doorstep for a price. And barring a few like Ajay Devgn, Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor who won*t be caught dead dancing for weddings, stars seem not to mind this quick-money scheme at all, especially during these time of acute recession, when barring a handful of stars no one is making instant money.

But then why would Shah Rukh Khan, Salman and Katrina Kaif who command staggering fees on celluloid and have more assignments on offer than they can handle, choose to gyrate into the gutka gallery? Maybe they want to use the money to help victims of mouth cancer? The ever-pragmatic Mahesh Bhatt jumps to the defence of modern-day raj nartakis. Says Bhatt, "A star is a commodity with a price tag in the cultural supermarket. I have no issues with them dancing at shaadis."

Subhash Ghai*s no-objection certificate for private star-performances is conditional. "Stars have every right to make as much money as they want from sources other than films as long as the dates allotted to producers, which is the stars* core commitment, is not hampered just because they get extra money. It*s a crime to cut producers* dates or to give preference to stage appearances thereby making producers bear heavy losses. Such actors and actresses have no work ethics."

Stars are so enamoured by the quick money offered at these private functions that they report sick to producers and sneak off for a bit of fun, money on the sly. Curiously, most stars don*t want to talk about their presence at private events. Two years ago, Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra had danced live at a diamond merchant*s son*s wedding in Mumbai hoping no one would notice.

Rrrrright! With 2,000 guests watching them and Akshay making a grand entrance on a horse, the chances of going unnoticed were really high. Call that misplaced optimism or simply the height of foolishness. Remember Akshay, the horse may have been wearing blinkers but nobody else was.u00a0u00a0

Why are stars embarrassed about their wed *n* wild appearances when they are paid upfront for their starry contribution to monied marriages?u00a0 Sighs producer-director Suneel Darshan, "These public appearances by stars are signs of the changing times, rules and values. What was cinema earlier is now the entertainment industry."

Adds Shailendra Singh whose company Percept arranges many a filmi razzmatazz, "Exploitation of your talent for monetary gains is not incorrect as long as what you do is not morally or socially wrong or doesn*t hurt your brand or image. I personally don*t think dancing at weddings is cool for stars* images."

Producer-director Vipul Shah whose favourite star Akshay Kumar, has no qualms being a private entertainer, jumps to the defence of these public commodities, "Why not? When stars dance at private events, the people behind these events feel special and happy. What*s wrong with that? Would anyone talk about it if stars didn*t charge a fee? Let the stars earn and make money as well."

Writer-director Abbas Tyrewala seconds that motion. "They*re performers and make their living performing. If some stars have taken their popularity to the point where they are paid crores for a private function then I say, more power to their tribe." Adds Pooja Bedi, "If they can do it for corporate events, fashion shows and product launches why not a wedding which is the most important day of some people*s lives?"

Only the outspoken Sanjay Gupta dares to openly castigate stars for their wedding wows, "I think it totally takes away from the stars* persona. Can you imagine Mr. (Amitabh) Bachchan dancing at weddings? There are so many avenues today for stars to make money. Why dance at weddings?"

While the discussion on the moral, ethical and financial feasibility of stars performing privately rages on, some of the newer hot-listers have quietly taken a stand against the private jiggle-bandi. Imran Khan recently said to me, "I*m offered obscene amounts of money to make appearances at private functions. But no thanks." Ranbir Kapoor also feels dancing for money at weddings is, "not happening." Sonakshi Sinha would never dance at private functions.u00a0 The choice is clear. Obscene money. Or just obscene?

Crores *N* More

Some of Bollywood*s biggies are set to fly into New Delhi for the weekend to dance at the ongoing wedding celebrations between the son and daughter of two families in the gutka business. The wedding is between Monica Jain and Mayank Arora and all the hype swirling around the Capital*s glitzy shaadi is centred around the big Bollywood presence for the event.

Reports state that Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif would be at the weekend wedding celebrations, all for hard-to-refuse megabucks running into crores. Some reports though have now stated that stars would not perform at this wedding. The mega watt publicity prior to the marriage may have resulted in cancellations.
obscene money glitzy wedding celebrations
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