• Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The era of star secretaries


May 19, 2019 (1 month ago) |
A star secretary was a phrase used to describe a man/woman who handled the work affairs of an actor. But, a lot of them fitted the bill of 'Star Secretary because many secretaries who handled stars eventually became bigger stars.
It was a curious era in the Hindi film industry. A film star could emerge from anywhere but more unpredictable was where his secretary would emerge from for he would be the one the filmmakers would end up dealing with!

The phrase Star Secretary soon turned around. The secretaries became the stars. They were the only via media to reach a star. Quite a few stars of the 1970s and 80s were educated but the film world is a world within world, aloof from the world outside. And, this happens more so in the case of film stars.

Finally, it comes to a situation that a star lives between his studio and his house where, again, he is surrounded by a few sycophants. The star was cut off from the outside world and saw the world through the eyes of his secretary, an arrangement much to the liking of the secretary. This made him that much more powerful.

Also, the outside world did not matter to a film star as neither did what was happening in the film industry itself and the market standing of various fellow actors! The price graphs and gossip about them. The secretaries indulged their stars in such talks and told them what they wanted to hear!

Dates were given by hours, shifts and for that, a producer had to chase a secretary (most of the time, the secretary made sure the producer never managed to reach the star himself). After getting dates, the secretary had to be placated continuously to make sure the star reached the shooting location in time for there were actors who never reached a location before late noon for a morning shift.

Frankly, it was quite a curious situation when the star secretaries lorded over the producer biradari!

And, a secretary never said no to an aspiring producer. Did not matter if his star had the dates or had heard the story as long as the said aspiring producer was leaving a down payment, popularly known as a token amount with the secretary!

There were stars like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jeetendra who had a secretary they did not share with others. It was not the trend in those days. Rajesh Khanna's secretary was his friend Gurnam Singh Arora. Gurnam decided to become a producer with a film titled Savera. Amitabh Bachchan too had his old time associate, Sheetal Jain, handling his work. Sheetal almost always remained low profile to the extent that few knew who handled Bachchan's work.

Dharmendra had Dinanath Shastri looking after his work. Shastri later turned to production and made Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke with Jeetendra playing the lead. As for Jeetendra, his secretary was one Kiran Khan.

Jatin Rajguru was among the most sought after secretaries. At one time, he handled the dates of as many as six popular artistes. Over a period, he has handled the work of Sunny Deol, Sunil Shetty, Divya Bharti, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Aftab Shivdasani, Kareena Kapoor, Karishma Kapoor, Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu and Ameesha Patel. No wonder, Jatin's office at Dakshina Murty at Juhu Circle in Mumbai was always crowded with a variety of producers in attendance!

Sunny was an established star, Divya was the most happening heroine of the time, Sunil Shetty was signed by some of the best named producers and Tabu needed no commendations! That made him the most happening star secretary!

That was an era when the secretaries worked with one artiste and remained loyal to him because his existence was because of that star.

Soon, the things changed. From strugglers to first film actors went for secretaries who were already established and had some successful actors under their wings. The idea was that a new talent can be promoted and packaged with the established star the said secretary managed. So started the era of a secretary managing a number of stars with the basic understanding being that none of his actors was a competitor to another.

The operative word for a newcomer was, 'Suggest a good Secretary, yaar'. The catch was that, a good secretary did not always want a struggler. Because, he also ended up struggling with him/her. The newcomers wanted successful secretaries with access and the successful secretaries wanted newcomers only who had been signed by an established filmmaker.

So finally, star secretaries themselves had become stars.

Among the first star secretaries was Riku aka Rakesh Nath. He managed the affairs of Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor and Shilpa Shirodkar. The ace up his sleeve was Madhuri Dixit for everybody knew that the major decisions about Anil Kapoor were taken by his brother, Boney Kapoor. Actually, Riku was popular also because he was a helpful and an amiable person. As insecure as the filmmaking community used to be in those days, people like Riku were held in owe!

Then, there was the ultimate secretary in R. Joshi; bigger than all his actors. His repertoire was made up of mainly character artistes like Shakti Kapoor, Asrani, Raj Babbar. His peak period coincided with the period when the South (Telugu) makers were in to Hindi films big time. Their Hindi films were always the remake of Telugu films. And, the trend at that time was to use comic villains. Kader Khan used to be the villain in chief while Shakti Kapoor, Asrani etc filled in as his sidekicks.

Another secretary who looked after the works of character artistes is Girish Ranade. Over the period, his list of stars included Kay Kay Menon, Suhasini Mulay, Shivaji Satam, Sonali Kulkarni, Atul Kulkarni and claims to have survived as a secretary as he still handles the work of Soni Razdan, Seema Biswas and a couple of regional artistes.

Three star secretaries, Madan Arora, Lokesh Bali and Kumar Mangat had a lifelong relationship with their artistes. Arora passed away recently but worked with Danny Denzongpa till the end. Lokesh Bali passed away a few years back but his son, Vedant, is still attached to Akshay. Kumar Mangat, now a producer, is still with Ajay Devgn. Another such lasting relationship has been that between Shanti Malik and Rishi Kapoor.

Other star secretaries who have been around for long are Hari Singh (Aishwarya Rai), K.S. Sanjay (Juhi Chawla-Tabu), and Ashok Vasodia (Hrithik Roshan).

Now, the system has changed and there are agencies which assign a manager to each star client as the business has gone the corporate way and also includes branding assignments. Besides, the era of giving out shooting dates in hours or few days is long over and you don't need secretaries who maintain a star's diary.

Besides, a lot of new artistes are now under contract with the production house which launches their career. Quite a few of these are with production houses like Dharma Production, Yash Raj Films, Sajid Nadiadwala and so on.

Times change, and with it the system.

@The Box Office

* "Student Of The Year 2" is not appreciated and has generated only negative word of mouth publicity. Tiger Shroff is a veteran of five films, having done many kinds of films and to cast him as a student was not a very wise move! Otherwise, too, there is not much to the story and treatment.

The film closed its opening week with average collections of about Rs 55 crore.

* The week's new release, "De De Pyar De" has had a weak opening response. Ajay Devgn is preferred mainly in action films. Also, the face value in the star cast is not the kind to draw crowds.

(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst)

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