Imran Khan has opted for anonymity over fame. There is no chance of a comeback. Imran is just not interested in being a film star.
What went wrong with Imran’s career? I remember how insecure Harman was about Imran’s debut…after all, Imran had the mighty Aamir Khan as his Maamu (uncle). Poor Harman had only Harry Baweja as his father. As luck would have it, Imran’s debut was a hit. He was seen as the Next Best Thing alongside Ranbir Kapoor. Imran had the best of roles rolling out at his feet. He decided to turn his back on stardom. So says his close friend Akshay Oberoi. “He chose to quit. I can say that with certainty. He could’ve gotten more work if he wanted to… But I am not sure he enjoys fame at all.” Uniquely, Imran has opted for anonymity over fame. There is no chance of a comeback. Imran is just not interested in being a film star. A close friend of Aamir Khan says, “It is not that Aamir didn’t try to help Imran’s career. But after doing Aamir’s Delhi Belly(which Ranbir Kapoor had rejected) and some more films with top banners, Imran lost interest. It’s not very clear whether he wants to pursue another career or where his income is coming from. But after Zaira Wasim(who also has an Aamir connection as she was introduced as his daughter in Dangal) Imran is another Bollywood star to turn his back on stardom.
Says Imran’s close friend, “He actively choose to quit. That I can assure you of. He would’ve gotten more work if he wanted to. I am not sure he enjoys fame at all.” Imran is not the first person in his family to quit stardom. His uncle filmmaker Mansoor Ali Khan also turned his back on showbiz.
Imran was never trappings of stardom. In an interview in 2008, Imran had confided in me: “When I shot for Kidnap and Luck I was treated like a star. I was called ‘Mr. Khan’. I had my van and all the trappings. People started treating me differently. And I was very uncomfortable with that. What I like about stardom is the great service I get at restaurants. The best part is that I don’t even need table reservations. I don’t attend events and parties as I don’t know what to do there. My only regular outings are films. After making films the only thing I like doing is seeing them, preferably with my (then) girlfriend Avantika,” added Imran.
Poor Imran Khan. With his career almost completely gone and no movies on hand, this can’t be a happy birthday for the actor who 13 years ago made an engaging debut in Abbas Tyrewala’s Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (the director Tyrewala’s career too is gone, but that’s another story).In no time, Imran was the new pinup boy, the teenage heartthrob. Along with Ranbir Kapoor Imran was seen as the new hope of New-Age cinema.
Then things went wrong quickly. The wrong selection of roles hurdled Imran’s career and hurled it towards an inevitable disaster. Soon there were whispers in the industry calling Imran a one-film wonder like Kumar Gaurav. Right after his debut, Imran did Sanjay Gadhvi’s Kidnap and Soham Shah’s Luck: the two films wiped out the careers of their respective directors.
In his entire career, Imran has featured in two hits Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na and his Maamu Jaan’s notorious Delhi Belly and two semi-hits I hate Luv Stories and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. The last phase of Imran’s career was especially cruel with Vishal Bhardwaj’s ridiculous Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, Milan Luthria’s vapid Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara, Gori Tere Pyar Mein, and Katti Batti, each proving to be a bigger disaster than the previous. Katti Batti wiped out any shred of a chance of a comeback for Imran, though, with showbiz, you can never tell who is in and who out and at which point of time. One after another he was being ousted from every film that he was supposed to be in. Maybe Imran should stop depending on your Maamu for career advice. Aamir not only edited Imran’s last release Katti Batti. He also came out tears streaming down his cheeks after watching it.
After seeing Katti Batti we knew why Aamir was crying.
Imran’s brightest career spot remains Abbas Tyrewala’s directorial debut Jaane Tu …Ya Jaane Na. It has a certain sparkling spirit, a zest for living life quirk-sized, and a certain zing thing about the way the characters look at life and love. It’s not only about the way the characters’ exuberant yearnings connect with the audience. It’s also about the casual free-flowing downloading of events and dialogues in the narrative that give the characters an edge over other urbane youngsters who have come and gone in the past creating a spirit of lingering joie de vivre. The bunch of collegians here take their cues from Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai, Rakeysh Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, and even Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Echoes from these iconic youth -films fill out the outer edges of the ‘cool’ canvas creating for the characters at hand a sense of wondrous and informal perpetuity as they go from humorous heartbreak to sober self-realization in a plot that accommodates both impulse and pre-meditated thought in a mix that is engaging endearing and fairly original despite the derivative echoes.
While the supporting cast of friends is both real and tangible, at the core of this romantic musical are Jai (Irfan Khan) and Aditi (Genelia) who are “best friends” in the coolest sense of the term. Bantering bum-chums at the surface but sharing a much deeper bond underneath, all their friends can see that the twosome is made for each other. But they can’t. It’s an exceedingly old formula for a romantic comedy given a fresh new spin by a storyteller who picks on moments from ordinary lives and converts them into a celebration of life and love. Old songs(R.D Burman mainly) and new original music(A . R Rahman) coalesce with the minimum fuss while Jai and Aditi’s love story goes through several turns and twists until they arrive at that traditional end-game for romantic films: the grand reunion at the airport seconds before the girl is scheduled to take off for good. The flurry is charming, though a little too self-consciously designed at times. Peep underneath. And you see the narration covering a lot of familiar ground. The freshness lies in the way the characters respond to the familiar material often exceeding the domain created by the script. Every actor pitches in at just the right volume of vivacity. There are stand-out supporting performances by Naseeruddin Shah(playing the hero Jai’s dead father in a portrait), Ratna Pathak(superbly skilled as Jai’s mom), Paresh Rawal( flawless as a boorish cop), and Arbaaz and Sohail Khan(as a couple of outlandish cowboys they supplant the believably urbane love story with a touch of the surreal).
Then there’s Manjari Phadnis as the hero’s could-be love interest. Living in perpetual denial she thinks her embittered parents (Rajat Kapoor and Kitu Gidwani) love each other under the acrimony. The characters never claim to be extraordinary in their desires. It’s their ordinary dreams and down-to-earth desires which give the narration a spirited spin. And then there are protagonists. Not just young Imran Khan and Genelia. But their friends. Each one played as though the wall dividing the actor from the characters had disappeared. While Genelia is a natural in most scenes, Imran’s unassuming boy-next-door personality lends itself with picture-perfect precision to the mood and tenor of the narration. Here’s a young actor who has a long innings ahead. He doesn’t think before he acts. It’s not about how deep he goes into his character. It’s more about how much at home he’s occupying the space provided by the script. The same is true of the other actors.
Jaane Tu …Ya Jaane Na even now exudes an urbane cool. It’s not trying to be anything. It doesn’t have an earthshattering message for the masses. What it has is an honest story about a bunch of credible characters told in a fashion that’s casually trendy and warm. Manoj Lobo’s cinematography and Shan Mohamed’s editing assist the director in making this a film that you’d probably like to watch again just to see if you missed out on a vital bit of the characters’ lives while they were looking for love.
Imran‘s other hit came to him by default. Delhi Belly director Abhinay Deo went on- record to state that Ranbir Kapoor was “also considered” for Delhi Belly. This is not quite the way it happened. Ranbir was producer Aamir Khan’s first choice. And Imran Khan, who eventually did the role, was quite hurt that his Mamujaan (Uncle) hadn’t thought of him first for the role. It was only when Ranbir chickened out that Aamir asked his nephew to step in. And why did Ranbir chicken out? I still remember my conversation with him on this. Ranbir had said, “I just thought about how embarrassing it would be for me to watch this film with my parents at the premiere, and I opted out.” Imran was the next and most obvious choice, and I must say he did a fine job of his role. The film’s language still sounds shocking. Never heard producer Aamir Khan using such esoteric cusswords in his films. In an interview with me in June 2008, Delhi Belly director Abhinay Deo had said, “It’s an ensemble cast. Every character is equally important. We had zeroed in on Ranbir Kapoor to play one of the parts. But that didn’t work out. So our search started again. …Delhi Belly is in the English language, but since it’s about young people in Delhi it would have a smattering of Hindi too”
The film’s direction was first offered to Swedish director Robert Nylund. Considering the film’s language this would seem prophetic.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based journalist. He has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out.