“Birdman” and “Nayak” both deal with actors, stars, and about the things that haunt their lives. It was only co-incidental that I watched both in a period of two days and was left awed by them. “Nayak” or “The Hero” is of course a part of Ray’s oeuvre and has won the Berlin film festival critics choice award previously, and “Birdman” has been gaining accolades all through this year. However, the awards matter much less than the subject matter they deal with.
However similar the subjects seem at the first glance they are vastly different. Though both stars are haunted by their past, Ray’s protagonist is at the height of his stardom while, Inarritu’s (pardon the misspelling, I am clueless about how to pull off the symbols) protagonist has fallen from it. This leaves the subject matter of what haunts them, for Arindam, he is haunted by his past failures, and things he did as he came into stardom, while Riggan is haunted by his own past stardom and the character that he played. Both movies though bring forward a star, a star who embraces his stardom as a necessity and not as something they enjoy. To Arindam, it comes easily, to Riggan, the need for stardom, the need for feeling important is so much that he would go to any length for it.
The fatality of stars seems to be always brought into the forefront, they are only human and once they start failing it is an easy downward spiral which ends up in rock bottom. The dealings of when they reach there is something we all remember. Their friends leave, the studios they knew so closely become strangers, and slowly but, steadily they disappear. The headlines read “The star has disappeared” but, no one makes an effort to actually find him. And the simple stereotypes, the thoughts about how every star finally turns out to be a scoundrel at least in part, it is quite prominent when one portrays them on film.
Does stardom really mean leaving our ideals behind? Riggan is haunted by his most famous character, as Keaton would be by the images of Batman that people still relate with him. This haunting by their famous roles, in perhaps what starts the downward spiral. And when Sharmila Tagore in “Nayak” says that the roles Arindam plays are “too perfect” you nod is agreement because somehow being a star has come to mean these cliched version of roles which are always superhuman under the facade of being human. A man can fight and sing, and do a hundred other things. In Bollywood and Tollywood that hardly raises a frown, In Hollywood, the genre of popular movies, the romances and action flicks exhaust their brand of stars with the similar roles under different names.
Riggan’s case is also easily seen, When Daniel Radcliffe is still named as Harry Potter and Emma Watson still called Hermoine even though they have had successful movie careers after the Harry Potter series ended. As Riggan seats in an office with some people, the subject of another sequel of “Birdman” comes out, the people, fans and producers, scream out in glee over it. “You release Birdman 4?” Riggan is dumbfounded, as much as Daniel must be when he is still questioned about Harry and his chances of reprising the role.
So, what does being a star finally mean? The loss of ideals or the dreamy state of things that the stars themselves would have us believe? Perhaps like every job, a famous personality himself faces the occupational hazards linked with it. These movies portray them. The falls, the small slips from the ideal, these are perhaps nt rare. The roles they reprise before the camera are not mirrors, and often being hounded by people all the time would give rise to a cryptic, angry mindset, something that is wrong and angry and all the way out there. The silver screen is only silver to hide the darkness inside? But, then there is fun too. You just have to wonder as you go on…