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str aamir khan


Ever since cinema has been around, there has been a stereotype that has been going around with it; that stars are essentially show pieces who look good, dance well, act well, perhaps fight well and are capable for not much more. They were especially never considered worthy enough of being inducted into the club of intellectuals. Maybe, it is a primal instinct that somehow teaches us to stereotype cute and beautiful things as intellectually inadequate. Not just the cute and the beautiful, even the big and strong men are considered only brawny. It is all there in the phrase that puts brawns and brains against each other; as if the two can never coexist in the same frame. The famous quote by G.B. Shaw on beauty and brains has compounded such stereotypes. What this has done to movies is that successful stars are never considered good candidates to be directors. Direction requires putting your brains to good use and with the handsome and brawny image carried around by our stars, there is a tendency to believe that they will never make good directors. Character actors are a bit luckier; they are considered a bit more capable of using their intellect. Consequently, there was not a huge gasp of surprise when Prakash Raj decided to take up direction.

But, had it been a star who had taken the same decision, the reaction would have been different. There would have been a sense of foreboding, as if the star was taking an unnecessary risk. And, the worst reactions would come if the movie failed to create an impact at the box office. People would typically say ‘Why did he need to do such a thing when his acting career was going along very well’; imagine how that would sound in Tamil. We heard such things when STR’s Vallavan proved to be a damp squib at the box office. The point is, the flop could have been delivered by any director; but when the director also happens to be a star, it is called a misadventure of man who just never got a balanced idea about his intellectual abilities.

We have heard such similar reactions of surprise when many actors decided to turn directors. A lot of people wondered aloud about the wisdom of Sarath Kumar turning director with Thalaimagan, or when Vijayakanth turned director with Virudhagiri. There were random opinions about whether the movies were actually ghost directed by someone else under the names of these stars.

At the opposite end of the spectrum comes Aamir Khan. When he directed Taare Zameen Par, there were many doubters who just wanted him to keep acting and leave the brainy stuff to others. But, after the huge success of TZP, every movie he acted in came with a question; how did Aamir Khan contribute in directing this? It became such a rage that people were even speculating whether he ghost directed Delhi Belly in place of Abhinay Deo.

This stereotyping is not just in Indian cinema. It is a global phenomenon. Everybody thought that George Clooney was just a good looking hunk; can’t fault people for thinking so. He was voted ‘Sexiest Man on Earth’ and consequently was considered incapable of intellectual endeavours, which is why many people were taken aback when he directed Ides of March; a political drama. Similarly with Ben Afleck, when he took up direction. And to think that there are still people who don’t believe that Sylvester Stallone is the brain, not just the brawn, behind all Rocky movies, only strengthens the proof that this stereotype is as strong as ever.

Well, that’s about it. Handsome and strongly built men can also have a pretty well developed intellect. But, stereotypes in cinema seem to preclude us from accepting this possibility openly. Perhaps the only actor in Indian cinema who has managed to look good and emanate pretty intellectual vibes at the same time is our very own Kamal Haasan. So, let’s not cloud our minds with stereotypes and accept an actor’s attempts at direction at face value; not as misadventures of a handsome hunk who never fully understood the effort that goes into direction.

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