I am sure this happens to many others as well. Every day, sometime between the sun sets and when it decides to rise again, I step into a party zone where I meet quite a few interesting people: pretty young and not-so-young things who are also intelligent, men who are too witty for their age, old friends, newly-made friends and so on. Only that I am not dressed for the party -- I could just be wearing a lungi or a pair of boxers. God alone knows what those pretty things might be wearing on the other end. At times I am tempted to imagine, but how can you imagine someone's attire when you haven't even seen them -- it would be an exercise in futility. But we men often thrive on the art of imagination. Anyway, coming to the party I went to this evening. I ran into a girl who called herself iamtoobrainyforu. The conversation went like this:
iamtoobrainyforu: Hi Bishy. U busy?
Bishy (that's me): Not really.
iamtoobrainyforu: Who would you vote as the person of the year? A. Rahul Dravid. B. Sania Mirza. C. Amitabh Bachchan. D. Manjunath E. Sonia Gandhi. F. Manmohan Singh. G. Nitish Kumar.
Bishy: I have no opinion.
iamtoobrainyforu: Why not? Choose one.
Bishy: (since her question reminded me of Kaun Banega Crorepati) Amitabh Bachchan.
iamtoobrainyforu: Why???????? To make him feel better?
Bishy: No, he is too good.
iamtoobrainyforu: In what sense?
Bishy: He is just too good. Period.
iamtoobrainyforu: Great fan, huh? I have one question, for which a fan like you can give an appropriate answer.
iamtoobrainyforu: Does he wear a wig?
Bishy: Maybe, I do not know.
iamtoobrainyforu: I want an answer.
Bishy: I am not his barber, sweetheart.
iamtoobrainyforu: I had a Rs 100/- bet with my friend on this issue. It's still not sorted out.
Bishy: I will give Rs 200 each to u and ur friend.
iamtoobrainyforu: What for?
Bishy: To stop guessing and leave the poor man alone.
iamtoobrainyforu: But if he does wear a wig?
Bishy: Big deal if he does.
iamtoobrainyforu: I will lose respect for him in the sense that he is not himself. Why cover up ????Why not be bald????
Bishy: Well, to me he looks natural.
iamtoobrainyforu: Rajnikant is natural. He doesn't wear a wig outside. At least he doesn't fake it.
Bishy: But it looks like a joke.
Before I could explain why it looks like a joke, as in Rajnikant appearing bald-headed when he is not shooting, imatoobrainyforu had to sign out. So I am offloading my thoughts here. I really find it funny when one morning you see pictures of Rajnikant -- the Rajnikant -- appearing in some function looking rather unkempt, not to mention his receding (and greyed) hairline. And recently, pictures in some papers showed him completely bald.
By some magic -- and it happens only in Chennai -- those pictures would be transformed into posters the very next morning and pasted on walls throughout the city. Fine by itself, but not when those walls also have posters showing stills from Chandramukhi, Rajni's latest movie where he looks as old as he looked 20 years ago -- head full of hair and those sunglasses on the yes. One is reality, another is fantasy. To a discerning mind which has seen those recent pictures of the real Rajni, the fantasy wouldn't be even fantasy: it would be sheer absurdity. Yet Rajni sells. People disregard, and disbelieve, his real looks: they choose to go by the look the make-up artist gives him.
The same is the case with Sathyaraj, another Tamil actor. Unlike Rajnikant, who has been quite popular in Bollywood, Sathyaraj was an unknown figure to me till a colleague interviewed him featured him in the paper. From what I gather, Sathyaraj, even though he is well past middle age, still plays roles that should ideally go to men less than half his age. But in real life, he has no qualms acting his age: he is a bald, old man even though incredibly fit. The audience, no doubt, has seen him bald, but they take the wig for real when they see him in the movies.
Cinema is a make-believe world, no doubt, but in Tamil Nadu they seem to understand it better than anyone in the rest of the country. Here, when they step into a theatre, they discard the images of Rajnikant they had seen in that morning's paper into the bin where they usually throw used paper glasses and paper plates. Dev Anand would have been better off in Chennai: he need not have made efforts to sport that 'evergreen' look 24/7. On second thoughts, Dev Anand is better off in Bombay: one would dread to see his real self at 82 and spoil the image that one has formed of him since the days of Tere Ghar Ke Saamne or even Guide.
Coming to Amitabh Bachchan. Big deal if he wears a wig or if he doesn't. His charisma remains intact. Even if he wears a wig, he does so carefully: he gives the impression that his hair has aged naturally, past the days when his famous hairstyle induced millions of fans into the middle-parting. He is neither like Dev Anand who, even at 82, has a head full of hair, nor like Rajnikant, who appears bald in real life but sports a thick mane in the movies. Now someone who can make even his hair act, you can imagine what an actor he himself his. But who ever doubted the acting skills of Amitabh Bachchan?