Debut pairs have always been special. Whenever a young hero and heroine are being introduced they spark off enough curiosity amongst the audience. The excitement builds up and if the teen sensations look good and act better, they immediately catch the eye and become stars almost overnight. For filmmakers it makes perfect sense to launch a new team when their films demand the innocence of love. At a time when stars are commanding exorbitant prices in a market that’s uncertain with many will-be-blockbusters disappearing without a trace, freshers can be signed for next to nothing and budgets scaled down appreciably. True, they’re untried and unknown but they can add to the USP of a film if well promoted. And their freshness and spontaneity convincingly enhance the story being told. A look at the debut pairs down the decades who made their presence felt...
Raj Kapoor-Madhubala (1947)
The earliest debut pair who made an idelible impact was Raj Kapoor and Madhubala in Kedar Sharma’s Neelkamal. Madhubala, who was a child artiste then, had, during a screen test, impressed Sharma with her impish charm. He decided to cast her as the heroine of his film. Madhubala had just reached puberty, and her figure was still adolescently girlish. It is said that to play up her curves, Sharma had her cholis stuffed with rubber balls cut into half.
Raj Kapoor was also a gauche, young boy with a pencil-thin moustache. But when he and Madhubala were on screen together, the chemistry was palpable. The film was a hit and put the young debutants on the road to stardom.
Joy Mukerji-Sadhana (1960):
Joy Mukerji and Sadhana mesmerised audiences in Love In Simla, a love story in the My Fair Lady mould, set against the picturesque Himalayas. Sadhana had been seen earlier in a Sindhi film, Abana, but was new to Hindi film buffs. They were entranced by her dewy eyes, her flashing smile and that Audrey Hepburn fringe suggested by director RK Nayyar to hide her broad forehead. Joy Mukherji, son of the producer Sashadhar Mukerji, was brawny, slightly brattish and the perfect foil for Sadhana’s Dresden China looks. Love In Shimla was a superhit and so were its young debutants.
Navin Nischol-Rekha (1970):
Rekha had done a couple of films down South. She didn’t know a word of Hindi. But something made Mohan Sehgal sign the dusky and voluptuous beauty opposite his protege Navin Nischol in Saawan Bhadon. It was left to Nischol to explain the scenes to Rekha through actions. And she grasped things well. One look at the song ‘Kaan mein jhumka, chaal mein thumka..’ and distributors grabbed territories confident that this Southern belle was a star in the making. Even after four decades, Rekha’s star power has not dimmed. Navin Nischol also became a much sought-after actor after this jubilee hit, but didn’t last as long.
Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia (1973):
When showman Raj Kapoor opted to make a “safe” love story Bobby, to recoup his losses from the debacle of his alst film, he decided to cast his son Rishi in the lead. Rishi had made a beginning earlier in Mera Naam Joker and it had been a National Award winning performance. For the heroine, he screen-tested several new girls. Neetu Singh was a close contender, but the role eventually went to the 16-year-old Dimple Kapadia as his heroine. Their passionate ‘Hum tum ek kamre mein bandh ho...’had the nation sighing in ecstacy.
Rishi Kapoor ruled as the lover-boy for more than a decade, while Dimple married superstar Rajesh Khanna, and quit films only to make a comeback 10 years later Ramesh Sippy’s Sagar...opposite Rishi Kapoor.
Both were very successful child artistes who had worked in Majli Didi together. Getting them together was a casting coup of sorts for Rajshri in Geet Gaata Chal. As the film progressed, they drew closer, and by the time it was complete, they were a a couple and not just in reel life. But soon after they split, it affected both their careers.
Kamal Haasan-Rati Agnihotri (1981):
Kamal was a star down South. He had been seen in the Hindi film Aaina in a cameo role and had been approached by Subhash Ghai for Hero. He made his Hindi film debut with Ek Duje Ke Liye, which was a surprise blockbuster. The film launched the careers of director K. Balachander and actresses, Rati Agnihotri and Madhavi besides Kamal Haasan of course. Rati was the first North Indian girl to squeeze into the South set-up of the film. That was the time there was a lot of parental opposition to young lovers who were in a defiant mood. ‘Hum bane tum bane ek dujje ke liye...’ became a rebellious clarion call, as effective as ‘Pyar kiya to darna kya...’. Despite its tragic ending, the film struck a chord. Surprisingy, it was only Rati however who later made it big in Hindi films.
Kumar Gaurav and Vijeyta (1981):
Rajendra Kumar launched son Gaurav opposite Sulakshana Pandit’s kid sister Vijeyta in Love Story. The film was a runaway hit and the duo were flooded with offers. Vijeyta nixed all of them because she had really fallen in love with her hero during the making of their debut film and was ready to settle down with him. Unfortuantely, their real life love story didn’t have a happy ending. Following parental pressures, Gaurav split with Vijeyta. His subsequent films didn’t do well and he became a one film wonder. Vijeyta made a comeback with Mohabbat and found marital bliss with music director, Aadesh Srivastava.
Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh (1983):
Dharmendra launched son Sunny in Betaab opposite Delhi girl Amrita Singh, Rukhsana Sultan’s daughter. The film was a box-office bumper. However, despite a great beginning the pair couldn’t re-work the magic again, though both Sunny and Amrita had a good innings in films.
Rajiv Kapoor and Divya Rana(1983):
Raj Kapoor’s youngest son was launched not by his father in Ram Teri Ganga Maili but by Parvesh Mehra in Ek Jaan Hain Hum. Divya Rana was in the latter too but not Mandakini. Not surprisingly, despite Rajeev’s striking similarity to his uncle Shammi Kapoor, Ek Jaan Haun Hum didn’t win many hearts. Both Rajiv and Divya ebentually fizzled out.
Karan Shah and Neelam (1984):
Producer-director Ramesh Behl introduced Karan Shah, Tina Munim’s nephew, and Neelam, his daughter’s school friend from Hong Kong, in the teenage love story Jawani. The film flopped despite RD Burman hummable tunes. Neelam went on to make a hit pair with Govinda. Karan Shah wasn’t as lucky.
Kamal Sadanah-Kajol (1990):
During the ’80s several star sons were introduced, the ’90s was the era of the star daughters. Kajol had her mother’s vivacity and was introduced by Rahul Rawail in Bekhudi. Sharmila Tagore’s son, Saif Ali Khan was to be launched as her hero in this film but following differences with the director, Rahul Rawail he was replaced by filmmaker Brij’s son Kamal Sadanah. The film went unnoticed. Kamal made more news for his relationships with Pooja Bhatt and Raveena Tandon. Kajol proved her histrionic prowess with Udhar Ki Zindagi and after Baazigar there was no looking back for this light-eyed actress whose talent was exceptional.
Rahul Roy and Anu Agarwal (1990):
The two models were launched by Gulshan Kumar in Aashiqui, a musical love story directed by Mahesh Bhatt. The film was a surprise success because of the melodious music by debutants Nadeem-Shravan. It was the composers who struck the right chord more than Rahul and Anu.
Urmila Matondkar and Ravi Behl (1991):
Director N. Chandra launched Masoom moppet Urmila Matondakar opposite Ravi Behl in Narsimha also starring Sunny Deol and Dimple Kapadia. Both Behl and Urmila caught the eye with their dancing skills but it was only after she was re-launched by Ramgopal Varma in Rangeela that Urmila became red hot. Ravi Behl has also made a name for himself with his television dance show, Boogie Woogie.
Manisha Koirala and Vivek Mushran (1991):
Subhash Ghai’s Saudagar which boasted of two titans, Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar, in its cast, it was surprising that the ‘Ole ole...’ crooning couple managed to make an impression. Manisha and Vivek had been primarily cast to providing relief in the high drama with their romantic moments, and it was a job they carried off well. Despite a string of flops, the Nepali beauty stayed on in tinsel town to make heads turn and hearts beat overtime with her performances in 1942—A Love Story, Khamoshi—The Musical and Mani Ratnam’s Bombay and Dil Se . Vivek stuggled valiantly but eventually settled for small screen honours.
Karisma Kapoor and Harish (1991):
Impatient with Barsaat that was taking too long to take off, Karisma walked out of the film and opted to make a debut with D Rama Naidu’s low-key Prem Qaidi opposite Harish, a child star in South Indian films. It wasn’t the kind of launch expected for Raj Kapoor’s granddaughter but despite sceptics the blue-eyed girl caught the eye and went on to become one of the top stars. Harish wasn’t as fortunate and had to be content with being only Govinda’s lucky mascot.
Ajay Devgan and Madhoo (1991):
Ajay Devgan, fight director Veeru Devgan’s son, became a star almost overnight with his death-defying stunts in Kuku Kohli’s maar dhaad dhamak, Phool Aur Kaante. Keeping him company was Madhoo, Hema Malini’s neice. Ajay is among our top-ranking heroes today with a National Award to his credit. Madhoo got rave reviews for Mani Ratnam’s Roja but despite two big hits her career never really took off. A couple of years ago she married an industrialist and today concentrates on her home and TV serials.
Bobby Deol and Twinkle Khanna (1995):
Dharmendra’s youngest son, Bobby was launched with Dimple Kapadia’s elder daughter Twinkle in Barsaat, directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. Bobby was to actually debut with Karisma Kapoor but things didn’t work out. Barsaat didn’t live up to its hype but Bobby got a second coming with Soldier and Twinkle with Jaan. The deadly Deol now has his hopes pinned on Shaheed Bhagat Singh . Twinkle married Akshay Kumar last year and quit films.
Akshaye Khanna and Anjala Zaveri (1997):
Vinod Khanna launched younger son Akshaye with the lavish home-production Himalayaputra inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster Cliffhanger and directd by Pankuj Parasher. He discovered his heroines, Anjala Zhaveri and Shazia Malik in London. The girls didn’t make an impression but Akshaye did specially in JP Dutta’s star-studded Border.
Sushmita Sen and Mukul Dev (1996):
Miss Universe Sushmita Sen was introduced by Mahesh Bhatt in Dastak with Mukul Deo and Sharad Kapoor. The film flopped. Sushmita stayed on to make an awatd-winning comeback in David Dhawan’s Biwi No. 1. Sharad took on Shah Rukh Khan in Josh . Mukul found soalce in serials.
Fardeen and Meghana Kothari (1998):
Feroz Khan launched his son Fardeen in a love story titled Prem Aggan with the petite Meghana Kothari. Meghana was no heroine as was re-affirmed with her recent release, Vadh. Faredeen worked on his anglicised accent and acting, and got a new lease with Ramgopal Varma’s Jungle.
Rinke Khanna and Dino Morea (1999):
Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia’s younger daughter Rinke chose to make her debut opposite good-looking model Dino Morea in Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. The director was new, so too was the rest of the cast. The film bombed. Dino found a saviour in Raaz and Rinke made an impression in Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai.
Hrithik Roshan-Amisha Patel (2000):
Papa Rakesh Roshan launched son Hrithik Rosha in Kaho Naa... Pyar Hai. Hrithik had earlier made a fleeting appearance in Bhagwan Dada. Raj Kapoor’s grand-daughter Kareena was signed opposite Hrithik but later replaced by politician Rajni Patel’s grand-daughter Amisha. The film clicked in a big way. Amisha has had another box-office grosser in Gadar - Ek Prem Katha and Hrithik in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Recently, the twosome were paired together in Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage.
Abhishek Bachchan-Kareena Kapoor (2000):
Another eagerly awaited debut pair of 2000 was Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor in Refugee. Launched by J.P. Dutta who’s known for his craftamanship, the film failed to make an impact but both newcomers were appreciated for their sincere performances. Kareena has had hits in Mujhe Kucch Kehnaa Hai and K3G. Abhishek has yet to make his mark. Both will be seen in Sooraj Barjatya’s Main Prem Ki Deenai Hoon.
An interesting observation about newcomers is that either the heroine has been successful or the hero. Rarely have both clicked. Sometimes it has been the debutant director who’s made it big. Meanwhile, Mumbai’s dream merchants continue their quest for dream pairs.
This week Nakul Kapoor and Aarti Chhabria are being introduced by Venus in Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai. A week or two later it’ll be Arya Babbar and Amrita Rao being introduced by director Raj Kanwar in Ab Ke Baras.Year after year the permutations and combinations go on...In the hope that at least one pair will click at the box-office.
Published in ScreenIndia.