The Replacement Theory

Grey/purple is the new black (depending on how you dress). Mumbai is the new Dubai. Daniel Craig is the new Bond (and a very good one too). Apart from the last example, it seems with every change in season, something else becomes the newer version of a popular colour/destination/film. And apna Bollywood is right at the front of the pack when it comes to declaring who the new replacement is for the original. Just this month has seen three examples of what I am calling the replacement theory; which is the new what’s hot what’s not for those keeping track of such things.

The success of Singh is Kinng has put many plaudits Akshay Kumar’s way including man with the Midas Touch, king with the Midas Touch, one man industry and one website even went as far as to call Akshay the new Shah Rukh Khan. Now leaving aside that this is a compliment to Shah Rukh (imagine your name being another word for successful Bollywood star – ah the glory), this statement has quite negative connotations too.

Now, we all know of Shah Rukh’s amazing career, building up a rock solid fan following and a solid back catalogue of mega hits (many of them with Yashraj Films and Dharma Productions) and still going strong. All over the world, the SRK name is a box office draw and in leaner times in Bollywood (which seem to become more frequent, especially when looking at figures from the last few years in the same time frame) SRK has proved he is recession proof if you will. Last year saw SRK’s magic result in Yashraj’s only major hit for 2007, Chak De! India and his Om Shanti Om with Farah Khan rewrote first week box office records.

However, last year’s other success story was Akshay Kumar who had four back to back hits (count ’em – Namaste London, Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiya and Welcome) and an average earner this year Tashan (which Yashraj took the flak for) which he has followed up with SIK – which also broke OSO‘s first week box office record. But to suggest Akshay is the new SRK is insulting for two reasons -(1) First of all, there is nothing wrong with the original SRK – why do we need a new one? (2) Whilst Akshay has done incredibly well, he cannot do the roles SRK does whilst SRK cannot do Akshay’s roles. Imagine SRK in a Welcome or Heyy Babyy (oops – he had a guest appearance in that one!) or Akshay in Chak De India or OSO (darn it – Akki had a cameo in this one!). You get the drift.

Then comes the news that Katrina Kaif is the new Aishwarya Rai Bachchan after the former replaced the latter as a brand spokesperson thingy for the Nakshatra diamond brand in India. Already this year, we have learnt Katrina had overtaken Aishwarya as the most popular Bollywood actress on the internet but the way this story was spun made out that Kats had replaced Aishwarya as Kats is apparently the, erm, new Ash. It was left to Mr Amitabh Bachchan via his blog to clarify that Aishwarya had not renewed her contract with Nakshatra as there were new terms and conditions not met, hence Kats was approached and accepted.

Now the idea of Kats being the new Ash is silly on many counts; Aishwarya is well established whilst Katrina is still in the infancy of her career. Furthermore, no offence to Kats but Aishwarya is an excellent dancer and with the right director, a very good actress whereas Kats is still improving but has yet to give that standout performance. Clearly an attempt to stir up some unpleasant rivalry between the two women, this is the replacement theory being used to nasty effect.

However, the replacement theory can also have positive connotations too. This was seen when haseeena Minisha Lamba, one of the three beauties from Bachna Ae Haseeno, was called the new Preity Zinta. Now, when we last checked, there was nothing wrong with the original but this is an example of the correct use of the replacement theory. Firstly, it wasn’t far off the mark. As well as the similarities on paper (both actresses are from Punjab, have a dimple on their cheek, are both women – yup, these two really are similar – you won’t find many people who meet that criteria) Minisha was the least known out of the cast of BAH but thanks to the replacement theory, attention was drawn to Minisha and her performance noted and she did actually remind one of Zinta in her early days as an actress. Furthermore, with Zinta experimenting in off beat movies this year, someone “replacing” her in the cute and commercial set up only shows how far Zinta has come as an actress and that Lamba may make a niche for herself in this vein.

The common thread running through all these strands is that there is nothing wrong with the originals in the first place. SRK, Aishwarya and Preity are still hot property, replaced or not. Theoretically, when the replacement theory is misused, the implication is the original is no longer working or efficient -much like one would buy a new television if the old was broken. But here, it is a case of if it ain’t broke, try to break it. And the blame lies with the media who tries to stir up rivalry between stars by suggesting one is no longer as hip as they once were and pitting them against another (usually and unfairly a younger individual).

Obviously, this is done to generate sales of the publication/push up hits for websites but seriously – can’t the media write about other stuff? Yes, rivalries make for interesting reading and everyone at some point has succumbed to reading about them – but there is a difference in reporting a genuine dislike amongst people and trying to create it when it isn’t there. The latter certainly makes the wrong impression on gullible types and for the many who rely on print and web sources for all their Bollywood goss, is plain misleading.

Bollywood is said to make 800 movies a year and there is more than enough room (and films) to be made to accomodate Shah Rukh, Akshay, Aishwarya, Katrina, Preity and Minisha. It seems the only thing that needs to be replaced is the ridiculous notion that one person replaces another -maybe the theory is applicable in some scenarios, but in Bollywood, quite frankly, the more personalities and individuals there are, the more enriched the industry becomes and ultimately, the more choice for the audience – who by the way can never be replaced. And that ladies and gentlemen is the theory of replacement applied to Bollywood. Next week – sod’s law in Bollywood.

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