Bollywood heroes clown their way into people's heart

By Robin Bansal

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) Signing on full-time comedians for films is passe -- new age cinema now has mainstream actors like Akshay Kumar, Shreyas Talpade, Arshad Warsi and Riteish Deshmukh take on the funny man's mantle apart from doing the hero's job of dancing, romancing the heroine and doing stunts.

Think of Bollywood comedians and a list of veterans like Mahmood, Asrani, Tuntun, Keshto Mukherjee, Johnny Walker, Jagdeep and Johnny Lever comes to mind. The actors were primarily roped in by filmmakers to inject the comic factor into movies.

But now heroes seem to have taken over the comedian's role as well. And leading the brigade is A-lister Akshay Kumar, who entered films as an action hero but has lately been trying to make audiences laugh.

"I don't want to get into logical films... I'm happy doing films where one can keep discussions around logic at home...I'm a clown...Once a clown, always a clown," Akshay had told IANS.

The star has acted in a string of comedies like "Welcome", "Singh Is Kinng", "Chandni Chowk To China" and "Kambakkht Ishq".

"Earlier movies were stereotypes and were slotted with a mother, a hero, a villain, a comedian, etc., because people wanted that...they didn't expect the hero to be a comedian, as there was no appetite for comedy," film critic Omar Qureshi told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

"But today audiences are more mature and want a good laugh and comedy is something that is working at the moment... So every actor wants to do something that's in. Hence Aamir (Khan), Akshay, Shah Rukh (Khan)...everyone is into comedy," he added.

Writer-director Neeraj Vora echoed: "Previously heroes were supposed to be larger than life. But thanks to Mr. (Amitabh) Bachchan and his films, the character started becoming more human and the trend was all over."

Megastar Amitabh shed his angry-man image with comic punches in films like "Hera Pheri", "Amar Akbar Anthony", "Satte Pe Satta", "Mr. Natwarlal", "Do Aur Do Paanch" and "Namak Halaal".

Superstars Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan have also explored their funny side in films. While Shah Rukh gave fans a few laughs in "Yes Boss", "Duplicate" and "Baadshah", Aamir showed his comic skills in "Andaaz Apna Apna", "Rangeela" and "Ishq". Salman tried it with "Judwaa", "Hello Brother" and "No Entry", among others.

Govinda moved towards comic roles full time after his 1993 hit "Aankhen" and since then has delivered hit comic capers like "Coolie No.1", "Hero No.1", "Deewana Mastana", "Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan", "Haseena Maan Jaayegi", "Jodi No.1" and "Bhagam Bhag".

The young brigade of actors like Shreyas, Riteish, Vivek Oberoi, Fardeen Khan and Aftab Shivdasani have followed the trend.

Shreyas has been a regular with comedies like "Apna Sapna Money Money", "Om Shanti Om", "Golmaal Returns" and "Paying Guests" and is going to act goofy again in upcoming movies "Mirch", "Hook Ya Crook" and "Aage Se Right".

Asked if it's a deliberate career move, he said: "The deal is that there is a lot of comedies being made today because as a success proposition it has more chances to work.

"I take it as a compliment... Comedy is a tough job. Coming from a film like 'Iqbal' and doing comedy is a challenge for me. I consider myself extremely lucky to have carried it well till date," Shreyas added.

But Arshad, who was last seen in comic dud "Short Kut - The Con Is On", feels hand-cuffed to the genre due to lack of other offers.

"There's nothing I can do. I don't have a choice...most of the scripts I get are comedy scripts. There are hardly any serious films coming my way. I'm a pretty good actor and I'm comfortable with both serious and comedy films. I'm not deliberately doing comedies," he had told IANS.

Despite critical acclaim for his performance as a police officer in the crime thriller "Seher", after the 'Munnabhai' series Arshad has mostly been seen in comedies like "Golmaal Returns", "Sunday", "Dhamaal" and "Golmaal: Fun Unlimited". He will also revive his role of out-of-mind goon Circuit in "Munna Bhai Chale Amerika".

But with regular actors turning to comedy, full-time comedians have suffered an eclipse.

"The sad thing about this (trend) is that comedians like Mehmood have become redundant since mainstream actors are now doing their job," said Qureshi.

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