Monday, 30th October 2017

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Jeetu jumps back

Jeetendra, also born in 1942 like Bachchan, never got his due as a huge star

  • Published 19.01.20, 1:02 AM
  • Updated 19.01.20, 1:02 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Nobody paused to look at Jeetendra as a star who continued to have his own audience irrespective of whether it was Rajesh Khanna or Amitabh Bachchan who was the ruling superstar Fotocorp

Will the chest-thumping that saffron beat JNU please stop?

Comparing Chhapaak with Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior because they were both released the same day would be like comparing pineapples with porcupines only because they are both prickly. In truth, they are two vastly different products.

Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji is a commercial hit, marching past the Rs 100 crore mark easily in its first week itself. In comparison, Chhapaak, the Deepika Padukone starrer, has notched up anaemic collections of about Rs 25 crore.

But what did it have to do with the colour saffron or with the alleged Commie Red of JNU?

Anybody who saw the two films back-to-back, as some of us did, always knew that Chhapaak was never going to be another Raazi — the comparison is not odious as Meghna Gulzar helmed both the films.

Almost everybody agreed that Chhapaak was a great story to tell but it was not told in the most sparkling manner possible. It was an inherent flaw in the screenplay that, while it was valiant cinema, it wasn’t as emotionally stirring as it should have been. On the other hand, although it was more fiction than a history lesson, Tanhaji was a commercially vibrant film, crafted to entertain.

Besides, Chhapaak was modestly budgeted between Rs 35 and Rs 40 crore while Tanhaji ran up a lavish bill of Rs 135 to Rs 140 crore. Both films will eventually recover their investment and some more if you count other avenues of revenue.

In other words, Chhapaak has not paid a price for the heroine’s visit to a university campus. Nor has Tanhaji flourished because of the fluttering saffron flag.

If off-screen affiliations were the sole consideration, then after a sweeping electoral victory last May, the film on PM Narendra Modi should have been a blockbuster. It was a dismal failure. Because it was a shabby product and ultimately, only quality matters.

Quality endures elsewhere too.

While the medical concerns of the 77-year-old Amitabh Bachchan, right down to an age-related black spot in his left eye, have been shared on social media, there is another veteran of the same age who has quietly returned to face the camera after a 22-year gap.

Jeetendra, also born in 1942 like Bachchan, never got his due as a huge star. The English language press would make fun of his tight white trousers and shiny white shoes, and label him “Jumping Jack Jeetu” for his boisterous dance moves. To even consider him for any sort of acting award would have been dismissed as preposterous. But nobody ever paused to look at Jeetendra as a star who continued to have his own audience irrespective of whether it was Rajesh Khanna or Amitabh Bachchan who was the ruling superstar.

Renowned for his punctuality in an era where Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha would stroll in and report for a morning shift after lunchtime, Jeetu was self-effacing and generous about the talents of his colleagues. He may have had a better hit rate than many of his colleagues but few gave Jeetendra credit for staying at the crease so doggedly.

Early this year, the ever-fit and totally disciplined Jeetendra, who can match the waistline of 63-year-old Anil Kapoor, returned to acting with a Web series titled Baarish (starring Sharman Joshi). Given the new arrangement between Ekta Kapoor’s Alt Balaji and Zee5, Baarish will be seen on both platforms from April.

On the sets of the Web series, Jeetendra inspired hushed awe in the young crew. To stand before a camera in 2020 is no mean feat for an actor whose reign began in the 60s when Farz, a film no hero was willing to touch, went to “an unemployed actor called Jeetendra”.

“I’m here before the camera again because of Ekta,” he said proudly. “Woh jahan mujhe khade hone ko kahegi, main vahan khada ho jaoonga... I’ll do whatever she asks me to do.”

Awards may have eluded him. But Jeetendra does count as a living legend of Hindi cinema.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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