Review of 2009: Part Three – Bollywood Heroes

According to many Bollywood websites and magazines, we have moved on from the superstar hero and the dominance of the three Khans to now having a Top 5 of heroes with several other actors beating at the door, as well as many heroes who may not have the box office clout and critical attention  of the Top 5 but still command affection from the audiences and play some diverse roles. 2009 certainly gave credibility to this theory as we saw some landmark performances, some good box office collections and some decent films. Here are the heroes who I think I had a good 2009…

Aamir Khan – What can I say about this wonderful actor that hasn’t already been said? With every release, Aamir goes from strength to strength and with him, he takes the industry to the next level, constantly raising the bar and blazing his own path. Starting the year with Ghajini (which actually released in Christmas 2008 but carried on to 2009) being the biggest hit of all time, Aamir closes the year in similar fashion bettering his last release with 3 Idiots, with an energetic performance that totally blew us all away. Interestingly, Ghajini was the first film I reviewed this year and 3 Idiots the last, and the fact that the two films are as different as chalk and cheese says it all really. There is no way Aamir could not be on this list and though Aamir may be taking it easy next year, focusing on Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat in 2010, the wait until his next film is going to be unbearably long…

Amitabh Bachchan – Speaking of trailblazers, here is one man who really is also pushing the industry to new heights and possiblities, who consistently performs well in all of his films and has an enduring popularity that has made him one of the most recognisable actors in the world. 2009 didn’t exactly start on the best foot for Amitabh – a cameo in Delhi 6 was lost in the critical disappointment in the film and similarly, the actor came in for flak for Aladin which saw him take a risk that didn’t quite achieve what it wanted to. But then, Paa was released and suddenly we were reminded why we love Amitabh so much. With a performance that was totally unique and unprecedented, Amitabh demonstrated yet again to an ageist Bollywood that mature actors have a great deal to offer and in a manner that is relevant to audiences today. A film that is earmarked for posterity, Paa puts Amitabh in good stead for 2010 – with Rann, Teen Patti and Chenab Gandhi all on the anvil, it will be interesting to see how this actor continues to innovate and push the boundaries of Bollywood…

Ranbir Kapoor – Every year seems to belong to one person and 2009 belonged solely to this guy. Though his debut film didn’t do so well in 2007, Ranbir made up lost ground with Bachna Ae Haseeno in 2008 and then this year, gave us a surprise with Wake Up Sid! which went up against Govinda’s Do Knot Disturb and survived and even managed to outlast some of the Diwali releases which had far more star power and money behind them. Then came the ace up the sleeve in form of Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani which showed like WUS, Ranbir could carry a film on own shoulders  but on a larger scale and had the makings of a competent actor. Even though Rocket Singh didn’t hit the mark at the box office, Ranbir gave a solid performance and completed a hat trick of decent films which not many newcomers can boast of so early in their career. Next year sees Prakash Jha’s ambitious multi starrer Raajneeti up for release as well as Anjaana Anjani opposite Priyanka Chopra. Clearly, the only way is up for Ranbir…

Salman Khan – Is Salman Khan the proverbial Marmite of Bollywood? I ask as it seems people have extreme reactions to him – either they love him or cannot stand him. This year saw the media also question if Salman really was one of the Top 5 heroes in the industry – and boy, did Salman give a fitting answer. Salman may not have had the best starts in 2009, coming on the back of flop Yuvraaj in 2008, but just as people questioned whether Salman was as viable as his namesakes, along came Wanted which was (until 3 Idiots came along) the biggest money maker of the year – so what if the critics slammed it, the audience couldn’t get enough and showed he still has that star power in abundance. Then came Main Aurr Mrs Khanna which disappointed on all fronts and didn’t give Salman a chance to perform. Then came London Dreams where Salman stole the show from Ajay Devgn and Asin and though it may not have been a mega hit, it showed Salman is not one to be written off. Next year sees the release of Veer, a period film which Salman apparently wrote himself – directed by Anil Sharma of Gadar fame, the film is attracting quite a buzz. But for now, two pluses maketh a good 2009 for Salman…

John Abraham – After 2008 shot his career to new heights with the now infamous Dostana, John only had one major release this year but quality really is better than quantity and it just goes to show slow and steady really does benefit most heroes. Coming after the three month strike, New York was a big hit at the box office (and Yashraj’s best performing film of the year) but also reaffirmed that John is a talented actor – carrying the film on his shoulders, John’s performance attracted a great deal of critical acclaim and was the perfect follow up to Dostana as it demonstrated his versatility. John may not be in the Top 5 but is certainly building a following and it will be interesting to see how next year pans out for him – with Aashayein, Hook Ya Crook and Chenab Gandhi with Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan all in the pipeline, John is going from strength to strength…

Neil Nitin Mukesh – Whilst Ranbir may be crowned as the newcomer who has graduated to a hero this year, not far behind is Neil Nitin, who made leaps and bounds this year. Whilst his Aa Deke Zara opposite Bipasha Basu failed to click, New York wiped out any damage and firmly entrenched Neil as one actor to watch out for. Then along came Jail which released on the same day as Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and lost out at the box office but fetched Neil more appreciation and certainly has not harmed his career graph. With Tera Kya Hoga Johnny doing well at film festivals and now up for general release in 2010, Neil may just be the proverbial dark horse to watch out for…

Saif Ali Khan – 2008 on paper looked very good for Saif – three of the five Yashraj releases and one other big banner film. Surprisingly, it was the Abbas Mustan film Race that was most successful (and will have a sequel) whilst the Yashraj films didn’t quite click (though Saif was good in them). This year, like girlfriend Kareena, Saif takes the mixed fortunes award, with one of the biggest hits of the year Love Aaj Kal and then the eagerly anticipated box office no show Kurbaan. LAK saw a good performance from Saif and this was also his first home production, something that has helped him get rid of that secondary hero tag and be seen as a leading actor in his own right. LAK was also the biggest earner of the year until Wanted and 3 Idiots which is no mean feat in difficult times. Sadly, despite giving a good account of himself in Kurbaan, the film hasn’t helped Saif (though to be fair it hasn’t hindered him either). Interestingly, after the release of LAK Saif was considered a contender for the Top 5 heroes (possibly replacing Salman) and is definitely one of the top heroes in the industry at the moment. Next year could see him making the Top 5 the Top 6 – with one home production Agent Vinod,  opposite beau Kareena and then the sequel to Race due to go on the floors, Saif is clearly upping his game – what will 2010 bring for him?

Shahid Kapoor – Mention contenders for the Top 5 and here comes another dark horse. Popular amongst younger cinemagoers, Shahid rode the wave of goodwill at the end of 2007 with mega success of Jab We Met and followed it with Kismat Konnection in 2008 that sparked debate but all agreed Shahid was good. This year at first had five potential releases for Shahid but only two actually made it on screen with the rest to follow in 2010. First off came Kaminey which elevated Shahid right above the competition with an awesome performance in a very unique film. Showing a side of himself never seen before, Shahid surprised everyone and like Saif, suggestions as a contender of the Top 5 were validated with the critical and commercial success of the film. Then came Dil Bole Hadippa which was largely seen as Rani’s film which turned out to be a positive as Rani took the flak the film got whilst Shahid emerged unscathed and an increased fan base. 2010 looks set to be a very interesting year for Shahid with a varied slate of releases – first up is Chance Pe Dance opposite Genelia which is gathering momentum for its January release. Then there is a blast from the past with Millenge Millenge opposite Kareena Kapoor, an old film which is now being readied for release. Also on the cards is Paathshaala, as well as Yashraj’s untitled venture, directed by Parmeet Sethi opposite Anushka Sharma. All in all, it looks like Shahid’s journey to the top is going to continue to entertain us…

Shah Rukh Khan – It might be seen as blasphemy to mention SRK so late in the day on this list but in 2009, we heard more about him off screen than on screen. After the huge success of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi at the end of 2008, SRK entered 2009 with engines on full speed – but sadly, his two screen appearance of the year, Luck By Chance and Billu didn’t benefit from the SRK magic – those who expected a fully fledged role were disappointed to find SRK in a shorter role. Still, SRK rocked in the item numbers with Kareena, Priyanka and Deepika in Billu and he did give a good performance. Off screen, SRK joined hands with Aamir Khan to show solidarity to the producers in the multiplex strike, which attracted many column inches. We also saw SRK on the cover of Vogue India’s anniversary issue with Kajol, (in one of the best covers the magazine has ever done) as well as take to the catwalk with wife Gauri for Karan Johar’s clothing line. In 2010, all eyes are on the year’s biggest release, My Name Is Khan which reunites SRK, Kajol and Karan Johar once more in one of the most ambitious films of recent times. We will also see SRK do his cameo thing again in Dulha Mil Gaya with Sushmita Sen and it remains to be seen whether this film is accepted by audiences or not. But one thing is for sure – Bollywood without SRK is a very dull place indeed…

Akshay Kumar – I am upset with Akshay Kumar this year and reluctantly include him in the list. After landing in the Top 5 in 2008 with Singh Is Kinng, 2009 should have seen Akshay’s dream run continue in a similar fashion to lucky mascot Katrina’s career. Instead, we saw too many downs and too little up’s on his career graph. First off came Chandni Chowk To China which didn’t do well as expected and saw a dismal show from Akshay. Then came Tasveer – 8x1o which also failed to impress despite having Nagesh Kukonoor at the helm. Then Kambakkht Ishq came to save the day box office wise but saw no development of Akshay the actor. Blue also failed to ignite on any count and though De Dana Dan did well, again, it saw Akshay fall back into the familiar rather than try something new. I think Akshay really needs to experiment and try many more different roles if he is to remain in the Top 5 – I personally think he is capable of more than he gives at the moment and one hopes he does reinvent himself soon. Next year, we see him in Housefull with Deepika  Padukone, Lara Dutta and Jiah Khan, then in Priyadarshan’s Khatta Meetha, then Vipul Shah’s Action Replay with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and finally, Patiala House with Anushka Sharma. While the first two sound like standard fare, the latter seem to hold promise and 2010 may just see Akshay surprise us all – let’s hope he does….

Other Actors to watch out for:

Hrithik Roshan – Surprisingly, apart from his part in Luck By Chance, we have seen and heard precious little of Duggu. But that is all set to change in 2010 as we will see him in Kites, directed by Anurag Basu and co-starring Kangana Ranut and Spanish actress Barbara Mores and he will also be reunited with Dhoom 2 and Jodha Akbar co-star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzarish which is also keenly anticipated. Hrithik is also firmly placed as a member of the Top 5 and can always be relied upon to deliver the goods, so 2010 may just be another vintage Hrithik year…

Ajay Devgn – Ajay had success this Diwali with All The Best and also gave a good turn in London Dreams but one really hopes next year we get to see more of this talented actor. With Once Upon A Time In Mumbai with Kangana Ranut and Emraan Hashmi, Toonpur Ka Superhero with wife Kajol and Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti, Ajay is definitely one to watch in 2010…

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