Why Did Roopa Ganguly Fail to Make It into Bollywood

After Sanat Dasgupta’s Janani (1993) had generated a wave of oversees applause, Roopa Ganguly was asked by a journalist if she would expect a rise in her career forth and what was her reply! She pondered over a little and said, “Let’s not expect further, just let things come if they are to come.” And where did this credo come from! She was barely 26 years old at that time but hadn’t she been exposed to a disastrous career in between three or four years! Ofcourse she experienced the worst of Bollywood. Back then it was tossed around the three rising stars of late eighties – Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Roopa Ganguly, regarding who would reign over whom. But what had been wrong before we completely lost our ensnaring Draupadi from the silver screen of Hindi cinema.

Let’s glimpse back to the year 1988. B. R. Chopra’s televised version of Mahabharat is hurling waves all over India and the day the gripping sequence of Vastraharan was aired, Roopa Ganguly rose to prominence commencing her magniloquence with “Aankhe jhukana koi samasya ka samadhan nahi.” She got us amazed by her vigour, mesmerized by her beauty and tormented by her rendering the wretched circumstances of Draupadi. At that moment when everyone was looking into what she was up to now, she was there with two pretty fair choices – Mrinal Sen’s Ek Din Achanak (1989) and Basu Chatterjee’s Kamla Ki Maut (1989). Her next step in Bollywood was Tariq Shah’s Bahaar Ane Tak (1990) which is still regarded as an impolitic decision as this very film literally brings the doom to her career. Notwithstanding an interesting storyline, the film became a box office dud due to several reasons. BAT did not have an exhilarating screenplay nor it had any big star to convey the film on. Neither Sumeet Saigal nor Tariq Shah was herculean enough to shoulder a film. After BAT had flunked at box office, Roopa Ganguly’s name was struck off from the wishlist of Bollywood directors and producers, and she was soon replaced by other actresses. Director Sachin Pilgaonkar had decided to cast her in his Prem Deewane (1992) but flinched back after BAT dashed all the hope at box office and Roopa Ganguly was soon replaced by Madhuri Dixit. Director Partho Ghosh, too thought of her for a female lead in one of his films but later changed his mind for the same reason.

Roopa Ganguly as Draupadi
Roopa Ganguly in Mahabharat (1988)
Roopa Ganguly in Bahaar Aane Tak
Roopa Ganguly in Pyar Ka Devta (1991)

In 1991, Roopa had four Bollywood releases. She acted in Kovelamudi Bapayya’s Pyar Ka Devta. She played the sister of the protagonist character played by Mithun Chakraborty. The thing is that this film also stars Madhuri Dixit as the love interest of Chakraborty and it was her who was a bigger choice than her to be put into the spotlight regarding this film. The film was an average performer at box office. Her another release was Inspector Dhanush whose Kannada version, Police Matthu Dada was released in the same year. While the Kannada version made fair buck, the Hindi version was a major dud at box office as the audience of Hindi cinema looked on a forty years old Visnuvardhan as hardly appealing. Moreover the pairing of Vishnuvardhan and Roopa was vehemently mortified by both the viewers and reviewers with the critical accreditation that they looked together merely a father and a daughter rather than love birds. Her another one was one of the most impolitic choices made ever by her. She gave her nod to P. Chandrakumar’s Meena Bazar where she had actually nothing to do but to sport ample skin show which she did on a handsome remuneration. Indian film writer Sachin Bhowmick said, “It has really not been wise to have acted in a film like Meena Bazar. She is still popular for her Draupadi image and her titilating photos certainly hurled against the public sentiment. I do not mean that she should have stuck to her image of Draupadi only but what she needed basically was to select a role carefully as it would help an actor to proceed further with better roles.” In 1992, she was missing from the Bollywood silver screen except a cameo role in Salman Khan starrer Nischay. In 1994, she starred in Akash Jain’s Gopalaa where she once again had literally nothing to do but to do ample skin show. The film was a debacle at box office. Roopa Ganguly, off late, clarified that back then she had done some films of lesser quality only because she badly needed money for accomodation and those films offered her considerable remuneration. Besides she pointed out that her face is the very opposite to the ones that indian audience have lauded so long. The Antarmahal actress has an uncommon personality with a strength and vigour of man. Her calm and fearless gaze and a high head was completely averse to the popular submissive image of an Indian heroine.

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