The best remembered star-director jodi which made for remarkable cinema is Amitabh Bachchan-Manmohan Desai and Amitabh Bachchan-Prakash Mehra. These collaborations led to a chapter in Indian cinema that was replete with wholesome entertainment with films like Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Laawaris, Amar Akbar Anthony and Naseeb. While Bachchan brought in his star power, versatility and acting prowess to the film, Desai and Mehra enhanced it with their creative energies and razor sharp scripts.
This marriage of temperament and talent resulted in some unforgettable blockbusters, so much so the audience waited in anticipation for their next big film from these pairs. Almost all their films celebrated golden jubilees. Director Mustan of Abbas-Mustan fame, who have repeated actors like Akshaye Khanna (Humraaz, Race) and Bobby Deol (Soldier, Ajnabee, Humraaz) in several of their films, recalls the time he and his brother would eagerly wait for the next Bachchan film. "We used to look forward to the films of Amitji with Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai as they would always be super entertainers. The combination worked like magic on screen. They would always have something new in their films."
More such star-director combinations emerged in the eighties and nineties. Sunny Deol's combination with Rahul Rawail resulted in Betaab, Arjun and Dacait, while Deol and Raj Kumar Santoshi packed a punch with their films like Ghayal, Damini and Ghatak. David Dhawan explored Govinda's impeccable comic timing to the hilt in his comic capers, like Aankhen, Shola Aur Shabnam and the No. 1 titled series. Who can forget the magic Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan created with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? The Ajay Devgn-Rohit Shetty jodi with their track record of money-spinners (Golmaal series, Singham) are considered a formidable team. And now joining the club is Ranbir Kapoor who wants to collaborate with Anurag Basu for the Kishore Kumar biopic after Barfi!
What spurs the onscreen magic
So what is the impetus that drives this creative collaboration to churn out magical movies?
Madhur Bhandarkar, a self-confessed film buff, has watched all films that have come out from the successful teaming of Bachchan with Desai and Mehra. He echoes Khan's sentiments about the comfort factor behind the chemistry of star-director jodi, adding, "Besides the comfort level between the two, both also have to be in tune with each other to create magic on screen. This happens when they meet frequently on the sets and off it, bonding over food and games like cricket or football. It gives the director an insight into what the actor is capable of doing, which he exploits while writing a character for him. The actor also gets aware of the director's expectation from him on screen."
As far as onscreen partnerships go, Sujoy Ghosh has consistently maintained that he would like to take Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan in all his films primarily because there's a comfort level he shares with both the actors. "Besides, a director always wants his actors to give as much as he does, and these two actors do that," he adds.
Interestingly most film-makers today, also write the script of their films. A factor that Mustan endorses in the success story of a star-director jodi. "If a star-director jodi creates magic on screen it's because the director has written a script keeping the actor in mind, or selects a script and tweaks it to suit the actor," he explains.
The creative partnership of an actor and director has now gone a step further – it's made an entry into monetary and fiscal collaborations. More and more actor-directors are jointly doing business and striking deals. The teaming up of director Karan Johar and Shah Rukh as co-producers for My Name is Khan is one such example. More recently Shoojit Sircar and John Abraham came together to co-produce Vicky Donor. It is also learnt that Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu are turning business partners by co-producing their next. Though both are tight-lipped about it, news pours in that Kapoor is planning to flag off his own production house with a detective film to be directed by Basu. According to Sircar, Abraham and the director have joined up for two more projects including Madras Cafe.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that such collaborations work even better. The star with his star power brings in the finance for the project. Also the budget of the film is not burdened with the star fees and the money saved can be channelized into the film.
"If it's a healthy relationship, a star and a director co-producing a film works very well for both. John as a producer got Eros International on board to finance Vicky Donor. Now we have Viacom 18 financing Madras Cafe. As for the profits between the two, it's unethical to talk about it. Having said that, we can safely state it's shared on a ratio of 50:50 or 40:60," avers Sircar.
The success of a film also decides the fate of a partnership. The more a star-director partnership churns out hits, the bigger the collaborations. Emotions aside, teaming up makes good business sense too!