The actor in Rakesh Rohsan always looked far from convincing. A very popular second lead actor from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Roshan, like most supporting acts of that time ended up playing the same character. Every now and then he’d surprise with a film like Akhir Kyon? (1985) but his spectrum was never left undefined.
By contrast the filmmaker in Roshan rarely looked out of his element. Right from the time he made Khudgarz (1987) to Krrish (2006) Roshan might have made films that don’t promise to be great works of art but none can deny his great box-office track record. Almost all his films have been Hollywood rip-offs - Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) / Return to Eden (1983), Khel / Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Koyla (1997) / Revenge (1990), and Koi…Mil Gaya (2003) / E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982) but everything else pales when you see their acceptability across audiences. Being the son of Roshan, the popular music director, Rakesh couldn’t have escaped the lure of films and while he might not have wanted to be a filmmaker but it’s very clear that he was never really serious about his acting. Before he became a full-time director, Roshan also produced a few films for himself with a little more meat in roles than what others had in mind for him. The memorable Kaamchor (1982) notwithstanding his other ventures like Bhagwaan Dada (1986), Jaag Utha Insaan (1984) and Aap Ke Deewane (1980), saw him playing the same impish fella albeit with a little variation.
What is it about Rakesh Roshan’s second calling that ended up working in his favor? There are other instances when artists have changed gears and things have turned out better. Subhash Ghai was a trained actor but barring a small part in Aradhana (1969), where he played Rajesh Khanna’s sidekick, no one remembers anything about Ghai the actor. In a less than five years Ghai went from being an unknown actor to being touted as one of the freshest things to have happened to Hindi cinema post Kaalicharan (1976). Not as much as Subhash Ghai but Rakesh Roshan’s films have always offered actors a great opportunity to showcase their histrionics. If Khoon Bhari Maang gave Rekha a second lease of life, Shatrughan Sinha’s Bihari Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha in Khudgarz gave him a role that ranks amongst his best and Karan-Arjun is the first film where one got to see the real action star in Salman Khan. Even with a substandard script with plot points older than hills, Roshan made Kaho Na Pyaar Hai look nothing less as the greatest star son launches ever.
Looking at Rakesh Roshan the filmmaker one can’t understand why he never took to directing earlier but perhaps that’s what ‘true calling’ is all about. It’s no secret that Javed Akhtar wrote poetry even before he became a song writer but it was only after his script writing career took a backseat that he took to professionally writing songs. For someone who has enjoyed an equally successful outing as both a screenwriter and a lyricist, Akhtar’s trajectory sums up that there aren’t any false callings when it comes to films. Had Roshan not been an actor for the time he was, he would not understand how to best utilise a particular actor’s skill-set and of course, there would always be those who’d happily torture audiences with their limited talents but that’s another story.
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Gautam Chintamani loves to closely observe society when not being devoured by Bollywood, politics and everything in between. Commissioned by Harper Collins, Gautam is presently working on a biography of Rajesh Khanna due to come out later this year. He tweets @GChintamani.
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.