They now save for the rainy day

Sad end: Vijay Arora

Sad end: Vijay Arora  

Unlike as in the past, celebrities these days are aware of the fickleness of fame and want to make the most of their careers. V. Gangadhar

The thousands have become lakhs, the lakhs crores. According to trade reports, Aamir Khan will be paid a staggering Rs. 15 crores for his next film. Hrithik Roshan signed a Rs. 35-crore deal with Adlabs to make three films. Haunted by fears of ABCL’s failure and bankruptcy (which he had experienced), Amitabh Bachchan recently admitted that he has realised the importance of financial security and so signs on more movies and ad campaigns.

The insecurity is understandable. Careers in films, sports and entertainment are often short-lived. The current crop of cricket players are taking on dozens of commercial deals, promoting wide-ranging products, for the same reason.

Loss of status

While after-retirement penury is painful, equally embarrassing is the loss of celebrity status. The occasional references in the media will then be patronising. Lifestyles undergo dramatic changes, but for the worse.

Take the case of Vijay Arora, who was a busy star in the 1970s. He acted in 110 films and co-starred with top heroines such as Zeenat Aman, Jaya Bhaduri and Asha Parekh. He also worked with directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Nasir Hussain and Subash Ghai.

Vijay Arora’s decline started with the emergence of action-oriented films and heroes.

Arora had a decent career in television and played Indrajeet in Ramanand Sagar’s mega-serial ‘Ramayan.’ As he grew older, offers for major roles dried up as he refused to play the traditional father in Hindi films. Gossip magazines went to town when his co-star in ‘Jeevan Jyoti,’ Bindiya Goswami, accused him of attempted molestation. Vijay Arora withdrew into a shell and died when he was only 60. Today, not many may remember him.

Bollywood’s history is full of instances of successful stars, who wasted their wealth on booze, women, sycophants and died destitute. Remember Bhagwan, who, following the sensational success of ‘Albela,’ owned bungalows, cars, race horses and was surrounded by fawning exploiters who ate and drank at his expense.

The films after ‘Albela’ were not successful and Bhagwan did not have the looks to be signed on as a hero in other people’s films. With money running out and roles becoming scarce, he had to sell off all his luxuries. He lived in a Dadar chawl during his last days and died a broken man. Amitabh Bachchan once said that his dance steps were influenced by the Bhagwan numbers in ‘Albela.’

While Bhagwan may not have been hero material, Bharat Bhushan certainly was. People still talk about his ‘Baiju Bawra’ with Meena Kumari. Typecast as a hero in period films and historicals, Bharat Bhushan produced films such as ‘Barsaat ki Raat,’ which despite its excellent music did not do well at the box office.

Nothing much is known about his personal life, but he too was reduced to accepting minor roles and died a destitute in 1992.

Heart-rending cases

More heart-rending are the cases of female stars such as Cuckoo and Vimi. Cuckoo, Helen’s predecessor, was in almost every film of the 1950s, playing the vamp or the night club dancer. She must have been well paid by the standards of those days, but no one knew what happened to all that money. When she fell seriously ill, there was no one to look after her and her death in a city hospital was reduced to a ‘news brief’ in the media.

Vimi caught the attention as the heroine in BR Film’s ‘Humraaz.’ Her decline was more dramatic. In the absence of any roles, she was allegedly linked with call girl rackets. She too died broken hearted and penniless.

Perhaps, the most tragic story was that of Meena Kumari, who, along with Nargis and Madhubala, was one of the top three heroines of the 1950s and 1960s. The frustrations in her personal life, forced her to take to drinks and various young lovers. It was alleged that most of her earnings were grabbed by her husband, producer-director Kamal Amrohi. Finally, when Meena died of liver complications at her Bandra flat, there was no money for her funeral.

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