BY VINOD MIRANI
New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) A lot of film stars made handsome money even when the studio system was on, when they were on the roster of one of the studios in Mumbai which made films at regular intervals.
The studios engaged actors on a monthly pay and the stars, thus, had a reason to feel secure. If a star was becoming popular, he/she gained more.
All one needed was talent and education qualifications counted for little as far as what the stars earned. They made many times more than what a white-collar graduate earned working for some or the other company.
Then came the era of actors charging per film. The cost of filmmaking was moving from thousands to lakhs. The first thing that a successful star did when a regular income started was to invest in a house. And, the next acquisition was, of course, a car. Chevrolet and Impala were the hot favourites and marked the arrival of a star.
The days of travelling in public transport, like the Mumbai local trains, were overm though this had its advantages in that you struck a friendship with another aspirant, which often went a long way, or else, you observed people and things around you that were big assets for both, an actor and the director. Some stories of such friendships struck are legendary.
All successful stars would have loved to live in South Mumbai, especially on Marine Drive. The people of Mumbai had this notion about living in South or Central Mumbai, which they defined as ‘Proper Bombay’. If you fitted this definition, you were looked upon with respect.
There were two challenges, though. Most Marine Drive apartments were occupied, or were rented out on the ‘pagdi system’, as it was known in those days.
Most actors who made a name for themselves came from other places, they had no such hangups about ‘Proper Bombay’ and opted for the suburb of Bandra, which was quite unique in that it had small villages belonging to certain communities such as the East Indian Catholics, fisher folk and so on.
Their settlements were known as ‘Gaothan’. And, yes, the place still had rice farms. Here, the actors could build homes after their own dreams, spacious bungalows.
The Bandra who’s who included Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Pran, Mala Sinha, Sadhna, Bharat Bhushan, Meena Kumari, followed by latecomers such as Jeetendra, Mumtaz, Vinod Mehra, and Rajesh Khanna.
Bandra was ideally suited for the stars because it was at the ideal centre not far from the major studios located at Dadar and Andheri. Bandra was the place where the top stars lived. It meant you had arrived.
Juhu in those days was for weekend homes of the moneyed business communities. But it soon became a place to build a house for film folk. The neighborhood made better economic sense than investing in Bandra.
Sadly, for a lot of the stars, the sense to invest for the future ended with buying a home. No star ever thought that the film industry as well as a star had phases; new trends and new faces replace them. A star today went into oblivion tomorrow.
Very few actors knew the importance of investments for a rainy day. Ashok Kumar was said to be savvy on this count and so was Rajendra Kumar. Jeetendra was keen on the stock market. Rajesh Khanna invested in property, but couldn’t keep count.
Even when it came to stocks, it was a long-term investment done purely on the basis of broker’s advice (top brokers in Mumbai were not willing to accept the portfolio of a film star!).
Sadly, when work stopped coming, so did the money. Stars such as Bharat Bhushan and Meena Kumari had to sell their bungalows and move to apartment buildings. Other bungalows were given away for development of apartment houses
The Chevrolets and Impalas were replaced by Fiats and in place of a bungalow came a decent-enough apartment around Bandra or Juhu, culminating in a small flat in a distant suburb. This was the story of stardom and thereafter.
This is one story that tells a lot. A big star of yore, once the proud owner of a bungalow on Pali Hill, Bandra, now reduced to doing bit roles, was spotted at a bus stop near a studio where he had finished his late-night shift. A newly successful hero, who had finished his shift a while later, spotted him and inquired. The veteran had missed the last bus home and was waiting for the first bus that was to come at 6 a.m.!
The actor offered to drop the veteran home who was reluctant to take the favour. Finally, riding together, the young actor asked for some tips from this veteran. His advice to the young star was to save money and also look for alternatives. The actor was wise enough to get into business while acting. Because he also lasted for just a few films but was wise enough to heed the veteran’s advice and get into business.
Owning bungalows was not the same as affording one as time passed. They have all vanished or are in the process of making way for apartment blocks.
Sunil Dutt’s, I suppose, was the first to make way for an apartment block and Dilip Kumar’s bungalow is due for a transformation and so is Rajesh Khanna’s. Jeetendra’s bungalow was more like an outhouse in the shadow of an apartment building. Same is the story of almost all star bungalows in Bandra.
The one bungalow that survives is of the latecomer Shah Rukh Khan. It has become a landmark on Bandra’s Band Stand.
Juxtaposed with the earlier generation, how are the stars doing today when it comes to investments? It is a comparison that needs looking into.
Among the stars today, some know about investment and some others just follow trends.
Guys go more for static properties, while women prefer fashion and food, mainly. So, quite a few have invested in start-ups.
Male actors keep looking for opportunities to make news. I remember when, as the Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi was promoting wind energy, some stars, male and female, got in touch with him to check out the potential.
Bungalows are not a lure anymore; they need heavy maintenance and are still a security risk. So, it is a couple or more floors in high-end apartment buildings for most stars.
A property needs to be registered as per the law and the media seems to have a hotline to the registrar’s office. If a star buys a property, it is in the news the next day. Then follows a farm property, but what seems to attract the stars is huge office blocks. They mean a recurring revenue every month when leased out. That may mean anything between Rs 3 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per month!
Besides, start-ups have been a major attraction for star investors. They include Ranvir Singh, Deepika Padukone, Dia MIrza, Alia Bhatt, Shilpa Shetty, Athiya Shetty, Rakul Preet Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Rashmika Mandana, Tiger Shroff, Suniel Shetty, Varun Dhawan, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif, Aishwarya Rai, Pankaj Tripathi, Sonu Sood, Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann Khurana and Shraddha Kapoor.
The list reads like a who’s who of the star galaxy. These stars won’t be stranded on a lonely bus stop after a midnight shoot.