Salman Khan's new Aishwarya Rai look-alike co-star Sneha Ullal in Lucky: No Time For Love reminds us of all the doppelgangers and clones who've tried to cash in on their faint resemblance to a showbiz legend, only to be cold- shouldered by the unresponsive public.
Singer Suman Kalyanpur and actress Nanda come to mind at once. They had the misfortune of being branded the "Poor Man's Lata Mangeshkar" and the "Poor Man's Meena Kumari", respectively. Later on, there were Parveen Babi and Zarina Wahab, again victims of the echoic effect.
While Babi was branded the "Poor Man's Zeenat Aman" Wahab's faint resemblance to then-superstar Jaya Bhaduri came in her way of finding sizeable success. Even the roles they did were similar, thereby diminishing the two junior actresses' chances of coming into their own.
These are all unfortunate instances of mistaken identity, attributable to Nature's quirks than any concerted effort by the artistes themselves to imitate the greats. Suman Kalyanpur went blue in the face saying she never imitated the Nightingale, as did Chandarni Mukherjee who came later and was accused of emulating the awesome Mangeshkerian chords.
But no one was listening. Suman in fact got to sing some of her most popular duets with Mohd Rafi (for example A`jhu na aaye balma`, `aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche`) because Lata Mangeshkar stopped singing with Mohd Rafi for a few years. The replacement factor further finished off Suman Kalyanpur's career.
A fine actress like Mita Vashist protested violently every time she was compared with Shabana Azmi. However her facial expressions and tonal inflexions seem to replicate the Azmi thereby reducing her chances of reaching an optimum level as an actress.
Raakhee Gulzar says she was brought in to cinema as a replacement for Sharmila Tagore and Hema Malini was built up as another Vyjanthimala. Luckily for them neither actress took these epithets seriously and are today considered screen queens in their own right.
There are strings of small-time actresses who came in only because they resembled a particular actress and soon faded away because they couldn't establish an identity of their own. Chand Usmani, Sona and Madhu Malini were fortunate enough to get their initial break because they resembled Meena Kumari, Madhubala and Hema Malini. After a spell of gloomy apery they vanished into thin air.
In fact Sona was given the second lead in Raj Khosla's dacoit drama Kachche Dhaage. She never got beyond the chick post.
So clones are a no-no. Ask Mukesh Khanna who got saddled with the job of being the poor man's Amitabh Bachchan…Or Kiran Kumar and Rakesh Khanna who were Rajesh Khana's dead -ringers. While Kiran even did a film called Raja Kaka (Kaka is Rajesh Khanna's nick -name) Rakesh Khanna "played" Rajesh Khanna in I.S. Johar's 5 Rifles and was soon forgotten.
Sneha Ullal will have to forget Aishwarya Rai if she wants to make any headway. Who wants a Rai-imitator when the original is very much on the scene?