The Telegraph
| Sunday, October 27, 2013 |

7days

Speechless before Big B

Bharathi S. Pradhan Celebrity Circus
Bharathi S. Pradhan

Sonu Nigam was warm to the touch. "I was running high fever but by evening I was feeling better, so I decided to come," he explained. The fever returned when he had to give his acceptance speech in front of Amitabh Bachchan who was seated bang in the first row. Sonu found his presence daunting and took the easy way out — he sang instead.

Even young political cub Aditya Thackeray said that when his grandfather, the late Bal Thackeray, or Amitabh Uncle were around, he found himself speechless. Since he didn't mention it, Aditya is obviously not similarly intimidated by dad Uddhav. Perhaps Manohar Joshi had a point after all.

Aamir's nephew, the dapper Imran Khan, heaved a sigh of relief for getting his trophy and being asked to speak after AB had left. Instead, his wife, Avantika, had fever. She was one of the many dengue patients that were hospitalised this month in Mumbai.

Vinod Chopra's son Agni, too, was hot as fire when he was moved into the hospital room next to Ranveer Singh. Fortunately, both dengue patients have recovered and gone back to work — Ranveer to wooing Deepika and promoting Ram Leela; Agni to school and cricket. Agni and Sachin Tendulkar's son Arjun share the same passion, besides studying in the same school.

Poonam Dhillon also had a scare when her teenage daughter Paloma went down with the dreaded dengue. Poonam got lucky. Her sister Rishma and brother-in-law Hrishikesh Pai are renowned doctors in the city and Paloma was admitted to the same hospital where the two gynaecologists are much respected. So the young patient got the best medical care the hospital could give and she was soon sent home. In fact, she recovered well enough for mom Poonam to get into a glamorously lustrous dark blue short dress and make a late entry at the Society Young Achievers' Awards, a function that her company (Poetic Justice) had put together. It was the same event where Amitabh's presence unnerved his colleagues.

To return to the shivers, every winner from the entertainment industry at the Society Young Achievers' Awards function made the same sort of I-tremble-before-the-legend speech. He is undoubtedly a legend and the trophy he got for being one was simply a small addition to a bungalow-ful of recognition. But strangely, none of the other winners — painters, designers, writers et al — seemed to suffer from the I'm-speechless syndrome. Which really means the Hindi film industry needs to make more creative speeches, especially because Amitabh Bachchan is very gentle, and is not known to bite his junior colleagues.

That of course didn't stop even compere Raageshwari from going into gush-gush, tremble-tremble mode. A 100 years ago, when Raageshwari was a frail new actress and television was at its nascent stage with only one channel that everybody watched, she had been given the task of interviewing the mighty Amitabh Bachchan (he was mighty even then) for a chat show. The show failed miserably because she was far too immature to question him and every write-up on it had pointed out that a newbie in awe should never have been asked to interview such an articulate and established superstar.

Since that flop show, Raageshwari has travelled with AB on shows abroad and is at ease on stage. So Suchitra Iyer, the attractive editor of Society, could breathe easy with a seasoned Raageshwari on the dais. Only, Rags (as the pretty compere, singer, actress is called) must go easy on the gush and the film industry would do well to stop faking speechlessness. Pretending to be tongue-tied is a drag and is not equal to respect for a veteran.

Speechless for a different reason are the Kapoors, Rishi, Neetu and Ranbir. The garrulous Rishi who was all over the place has gone on a maun vrat after Besharam while his son took the first flight out of the country with Katrina carrying a bagful of solace.

Now there's one more down the drain — Akshay Kumar, who is in denial. Boss is his third turnip this year after Khiladi 786 and Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbaai Dobaara. There were desperate measures to put out inflated figures with the disturbing support of pliant trade journalists who planted misleading quotes about the film being great entertainment for the single screens and the multiplexes. The truth was, the discerning multiplexes, as expected, couldn't entice any audience while the less elitist single screens too decided to give it a thumbs down.

One can understand filmmakers and actors going mute after a flop. But this time a handful of shameless trade journalists too have been temporarily silenced. Would trade-off journalism perhaps be a better term for what's passing off as editorial content today?