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Marketing Divas

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Kareena Kapoor has had it easy, literally. It hasn't exactly been a rough ride for the Kapoor babe from day one itself. Even though she left the blockbuster role of female lead in Kaho Na Pyar Hai against macho Hrithik Roshan to Amisha Patel, she managed to garner much more publicity for her flop Refugee than what Ms Patel did for her superhit debut. And that was the beginning of a new mantra to market a diva - hit or no hit; the brand has to hit the headlines.

And it was this very marketing mantra, which saw the rise, rise and only rise for Kareena Kapoor. Even after a spate of flops like Asoka, Yaadein, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Jeena Sirf Tere Liya etc, the youngest Kapoor babe saw all the big names from Karan Johar to Yash Chopra to Mani Ratnam and Boney Kapoor vying for her attention. Film after film flopped, but nothing changed much for Bebo.

And following in her footsteps closely is none other than our very own grey-greeen eyed beauty Aishwarya Rai, who, in spite of not having given a single hit in recent years (last was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 90s), is the most sought after Bollywood actress today. But then it seems hits don't matter for Ash. She is, indeed, in the most wanted list today. Everyone is raving about her sexy skirt clad act in Dhoom 2. Her upcoming projects are also big - Maniratnam's Guru, Ashutosh Gowarikar's Jodha Akbar, Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar 2, the Suneil Shetty produced Raaste and a Gaurang Doshi film for which talks are on. And to top it all, she also has the tag of Bollywood's highest paid actress.

So what is it that makes Ash and Bebo eligible for the big league which otherwise has names like Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta and Priyanka Chopra who by now, must have lost count of their hit films? "Both Ash and Bebo have class. I know them closely. They have talent as well as beauty, and I guess this combination is more than enough to please the audience. At the same time, one must not forget that Ash is a big international star," says showman Subhash Ghai who has earlier directed Ash in Taal and has done as many as three films with Kareena.

Film critic Indu Merani tries to give a somewhat logical explanation to this unique phenomenon. "I think Aishwarya and Kareena are totally different girls as far as personality and presentation goes. But their careers are similar in the sense that they have got all the good stuff in spite of not having hit films. I think it's because there are very few actually hot leading ladies in the industry today. Rani, Preity and say Priyanka (one can count her because of her last two successful years) cannot take up all the roles, right? There are very few A-grade heroines. And these two girls know how to present themselves. They are also very media friendly and hence it has been easy for them," she says.

But why isn't it easy for other talented good-looking girls too, like say Lara Dutta? Why hasn't she matched up to this grade? "Kareena of course is a pedigreed girl. She has been lucky as she belongs to the Kapoor khandan. She also had her sister Karishma, a superstar in her own right. For Ash, I think it's more of media hype with her scintillating beauty helping in a big way. But if she has a hit next year, it can change things for Ash too because everyone requires hits," explains Merani.

Satish Kaushik, who worked with Ash and Kareena in Humaara Dil Aapke Paas Hai and Mujhe kuch Kehna hain respectively; is quite forthcoming too, but refuses to acknowledge that they haven't had many hits in recent past. "In the industry there are not too many such highly professional actresses. That's why they deserve to be up there. If you ask me what they had gained most out of 2006, I would say they were always winners and I can't really pin point anything," he claims trying to avoid talking negatively about either of the actresses.

But Indu Merani on her part tries to pin point the gains. "If you look back, I would say Kareena has gained most with Omkara. She has proved that she can act too. For Ash, it's her sexy image, which she has newly acquired. But personally, I think she looked sexier in her Indian Kajra re avatar. Maybe with Guru and Jodha Akbar, Ash too might have hits in 2007. Guess she will remain a biggie as long as she doesn't get married. I am saying that as talks of her marriage look really serious," she says.

And if we have a look at the past, this trend doesn't seem to be very new. There are examples in the past also wherein an actor, even though he / she hasn't given a single hit, had dozens of movies in their kitty. For example, in 80s, superstar of that time Sonam had close to 4O films in her kitty even before her first film was out for review. Similar was the case with Chunky Pandey, who, apart from Ankhein with Govinda, had no films to be remembered for. But he was one of the hottest starts of late 80s.

And the one most likely to have it easy in the near future is Deepika Padukone who already has films with superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan before anyone actually knowing her real acting skills.

Production designer Bindiya Dutta, wife of filmmaker JP Dutta who has had the experience of working with Ash and Bebo sums it up. "For us, hits and flops are inconsequential. We are only here to do good work and definitely we choose our leading ladies according to what they suit best. Like Refugee wouldn't have been the same without Kareena and Umrao Jaan without Ash was unimaginable." Interesting explanation, indeed! The girls know how to market themselves.

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