The rise of superstar cameos in Bollywood

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Shah Rukh Khan’s sudden appearance as a travelling ace magician Goga Pasha, giving hero Salman Khan, confidence in himself in Tubelight, was a refreshing ‘guest’ of wind in the recent boring saga. Though bandied about in the media, no one was sure what Shah Rukh would be doing in the film.

Now we know that Govinda, in a unique avatar, is also a part of Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos. When the film was announced, there was so much spoken about the actor offered the role of Ranbir Kapoor’s dad, because of which he turned it down, and similar such stuff.

Today, we hear that even Shah Rukh Khan, whose many cameos range from split-second appearances (like his favour to Venus Records & Tapes for his breakthrough film Baazigar in their Achanak) to substantial guest roles in his own co-productions Billu and Dear Zindagi, is also there in a surprise role. But director Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor refuse to confirm or deny this!

Interestingly, in the cameo-studded Pehla Nasha (1993), thanks to director Ashutosh Gowariker, we got to see Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan together for the (so far) only time. Aamir, never a cameo man, however, made exceptions for his Andaz Apna Apna director Rajkumar Santoshi by doing a song with Meenakshi Seshadri in Damini, and later in his own co-production Delhi Belly (2011).

Producing films and making cameos in them when not in the lead was something seen also with Shah Rukh Khan (Kaal, Always Kabhi Kabhi and Billu Barber again), Salman Khan (Hero), Hrithik Roshan (Krazzy 4), John Abraham (Vicky Donor) and even Suniel Shetty (Mission Istaanbul). The trend began decades back, when Hema Malini appeared in her mother Jaya Chakarvarthy’s Shabana Azmi film Swami, and also Raj Kapoor in Boot Polish.

Incidentally, in the plethora of cameos seen in Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om, what stood out was Akshay Kumar’s whacky ‘action’ sequence, in which he ‘collects’ the bullets fired at him, makes a bomb-like thing from them and throws it back at his enemies!

Shah Rukh was thus a great one for making as well as facilitating cameos. In his Ra.One (2011), Rajinikanth (as a kind of Robot avatar), Sanjay Dutt (as a digital villain) and Priyanka Chopra (in a dream) made cameos as well.

Among the cameo-rich movies (this phenomenon began with the 1960 Kala Bazar that showed a film premiere) was Naseeb (1981), the Manmohan Desai blockbuster. But there was an interesting real story here: Waheeda Rehman has continually refused films with Shammi Kapoor when both were at the top due to his “frightening reputation”, and so he insisted that she walk in hand-in-hand with him into the party during the song ‘John Jani Janardhan’—to compensate!

Most cameos in those days when the media had not burgeoned were unexpected delights for fans of those who watched films like these, or Guddi (1971). Mehmood used to love lacing up his films with stars, especially the emotional ones blended with humour (like Sadhu Aur Shaitan, Garam Masala, Kunwara Baap, Ginny Aur Johnny) right till his last film Dushmun Duniyaa Kaa (1996).

Shatrughan Sinha, at the peak of his career as a villain, would often make such cameos, not necessarily in negative roles, and win audience applause (Parwana, Ek Nazar, Chetna, Ek Nari Ek Brahmchari, Chhupa Rustom and many more).

Dharmendra did the one-scene cameo of the truck driver in Andhaa Kaanoon. A similar cameo was enacted by Salman Khan in the 2000 flop Dhaai Akshar Prem Ki (2000), giving short-lived relief from the tedium of the Abhishek Bachchan–Aishwarya Rai Bachchan film. Salman himself indulged in so many cameos to oblige friends, and as his father Salim Khan once put it, it did neither him nor the films any good, the exceptions being his long cameos in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Baghban.

Salman also had an interesting but brief cameo in David Dhawan’s Deewana Mastana, in which he was Juhi Chawla’s actual sweetheart even as Anil Kapoor and Govinda, the heroes, fought for her affections. Juhi herself combined with Govinda as their real selves in Andaz Apna Apna, where Aamir Khan was shown as her besotted fan!

Juhi in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Karisma Kapoor in Yeh Dillagi, Preity Zinta in the flop Dillagi, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the flop Mela were shown in last-minute cameos as hopes for the losing angles of the love triangles—that is, those who did not get the heroines in the end!

Vidya Balan, for a brief while, had made it a habit of doing cameos, and was shown dying in both Thank You and Dum Maaro Dum. But her truly delightful flash appearance was of the woman in the burkha in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara. While none of these films did well, her strong innings during that 2011 to 2013 phase made sure she sailed through without any career damage.

One unexpected delight was Abhishek Bachchan as the clumsy gynecologist in the Saif Ali Khan-Preity Zinta movie Salaam Namaste. A precursor who was equally delightful but seen for a much briefer interlude was comedian Asrani in Seeta Aur Geeta!

Speaking of Amitabh Bachchan, if R. Balki ever makes a film and he is not in the featured role, the actor for sure will be there in a cameo! And so Bachchan was the sympathetic co-passenger to Sridevi in his production English Vinglish helmed by Balki’s wife Gauri Shinde, while he even shot with Amitabh and wife Jaya Bachchan for a small but crucial scene in his Kareena Kapoor Khan–Arjun Kapoor film Ki & Ka.

Of late, the proliferation of the media and their connection with film unit insiders as well as the filmmakers’ secret desire to have such confidences leaked out or speculated, as part of the buzz about a film, does rob us of the charm of surprise. But, thankfully, the open secret is never fully disclosed.

And so, while everyone knew that Akshay Kumar was cast in a cameo in Lara Dutta’s home production Chalo Dilli, the details (he was an Army officer and Lara’s husband, who comes to rescue her when she is caught up in riots) were not out. Ranbir Kapoor’s role and look were speculated about in PK, but it was still a surprise to see him as a naked alien!

Then we had the complete surprise of Hrithik Roshan in Shah Rukh Khan’s home production Don 2 at the peak of their real-life friendship: in a situational scene (never mind the glaring difference between their physiques!), the don was shown dancing at a party to elude the law with a facial mask that made him look like Hrithik!

– Bollywood Hungama