A Year In Bollywood – Heroes: Part Three

Hero hero on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? That is the question as 2010 once again mixed things up for us and provided some upsets and unlikely surprises with some of our heroes reaching new heights whilst others fell at the last hurdle. One thing that comes to mind when I think of 2010 is an article I read back in 2000 in one of the tabloid magazines declaring the end of the Khan trinity with prodigal son Hrithik ready to dominate the industry. Ten years later, the Khans are stronger than ever, as is Hrithik proving that there is plenty of room for everyone. Like our heroines, there is no number one hero and in my opinion,  Amitabh Bachchan was the last superstar to enjoy decades of mega stardom.

Interestingly, none of our heroes emerge from 2010 with a totally clean chit, with everyone tasting highs and lows at the same time. Quite simply, 2010 was the year of Salman Khan and Dabangg dominating from its release till date. Aamir and Shah Rukh had good years though Akshay, Hrithik, Shahid and Abhishek may wish to put 2010 behind them in terms of adding to their hit tally (performance wise though was another matter). Meanwhile, two quiet winners in 2010 were Ranbir Kapoor and Ajay Devgn who after Salman, probably had the best year out of this list and continue to go from strength to strength.

So, in no particular order, the heroes of 2010:

Salman Khan – 2009 saw two misses and one big hit in the form of Wanted and 2010 on paper at least, looked like it would add to the hit ratio. Unfortunately, Veer was a massive dud and despite giving it his all, Salman bore the brunt of the criticism for the failure of the film. I’ll be honest and say I wrote off Salman at this point, saying I wouldn’t sit through another one of his films. Fast forward to Eid 2010 and I changed my tune totally after seeing Dabangg – quite simply, Salman was back and how – no other actor could have played Chulbul Pandey so well and the film created a frenzy, with the biggest opening ever and at one stage, looking like it would beat 3 Idiots in the record books.

Salman is now a super hot proposition and next year will see him in three films which all come armed with high expectations from audiences and the industry. On the anvil for Salman is Ready, with Asin, Bodyguard with Kareena and the sequel to No Entry. It goes without saying that all three have the capacity to be monster hits and the Dabangg goodwill will certainly last for a very long time. It will be interesting to see how 2011 works out for Salman but it has to be said, from being on the brink of written off to being the hottest thing on the block shows A grade star power and this is something Salman has in abundance.

Shah Rukh Khan – A year without a SRK film can feel like a life sentence. So in 2009, we may had the extended appearance in Billu (which though a good performance, didn’t go down too well in other ways) and that was our lot. So its no wonder we jumped all over Dulha Mil Gaya which had another extended appearance but sadly, this was not the fix we were looking for. That came in form of My Name Is Khan, reuniting the dream team of SRK, Kajol, and Karan Johar which made waves not only in India but internationally. Shah Rukh’s performance was fantastic and one of the best of his career (though I still feel Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is his best) and though the film was met with protests and complaints, the power of SRK prevailed.

Next year sees a big year for SRK with two biggies – Ra.1 with Kareena Kapoor and Don 2 with Priyanka Chopra and both films are expected to create a deep impact domestically and internationally. Furthermore, SRK will be back on television, hosting Total Wipeout which should see healthy viewing figures. MNIK was a successful experiment and I hope SRK continues to push himself out of his comfort zone and give films that entertain on every level. In any case, thank god for two doses of SRK next year…

Aamir Khan – Ok, so Aamir didn’t have a film which featured him in 2010 but given that many people were still watching 3 Idiots well into January, it may feel like he was. In any case, this year I felt closer to Aamir than ever when I got to see him at a live Q&A at the BBC and managed to see Dhobi Ghat at the London Film Festival where Kiran Rao answered questions after the film. As for Peepli Live, I was lucky enough to attend the UK premiere which Aamir was supposed to attend but couldn’t make it in the end. In any case, Peepli Live was the only actual Aamir related action we got on screen this year and the fact that his association with the film got bums on seats says it all. Quite simply a superb ambassador for Hindi cinema, Aamir truly has gone beyond the whole superstar game and for me, I am interested in how he innovates and moves the industry forward through his action.

2011 will see Aamir back on screen in Dhobi Ghat (which I am lucky enough to have seen and have to say true Aamir fans will be delighted) – once again, Aamir pulls out another surprise out of the bag. There is also Reema Katgil’s untitled film which also co-stars Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee and promises to be one of the biggest films of the year, if it does indeed release in 2011 but needless to say, any Aamir film is a hot proposition and I don’t see that changing very soon.

Hrithik Roshan – After a 2009 with just a credible guest appearance in Luck By Chance, we were ready for a double dose of Duggu this year but for some reason, the glowing success that Hrithik is used to did not follow. Kites was intended to be the definitive crossover between Bollywood and Hollywood, showcasing the best of both worlds. But despite an excellent performance from Hrithik and a bumper opening weekend, the film didn’t do well. Similarly, Guzaarish saw a career best performance and an actor taking a huge risk but once again this was rejected at the box office which is a real shame as Guzaarish marks another milestone in Hrithik’s career and demonstrates a versatility that very few actors have. His desire to go against type is to be encouraged and it is a shame audiences only seem to want Hrithik showing off his dance moves rather than flexing his acting muscle.

Nevertheless, Hrithik has plenty of star quality and next year should see his work scoring on all fronts as he is part of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara opposite Katrina Kaif and also has Krrish 2 to go on the floors which not only gives his releases a nice balance but should allow him to continue to develop the actor within whilst maintaining the superstar status that he is loved for. Then there is the remake of Agneepath which is beyond exciting. The final word on Hrithik and 2010 is that a lesser actor would have his saleability significantly damaged with two massive financial flops – that Hrithik is still a marketable name and very popular speaks volumes of his star power – here’s to being wowed again next year by the amazing Duggu!

Akshay Kumar – Like Salman, I’ve been quite miffed with Akshay for a while. I feel that since Singh Is King, Akshay has stayed in his comfort zone and not tried to go beyond a certain boundary. Now you might argue 8×10 and Khatta Meetha were both attempts at something different but without being too mean, both felt like he was trying to run before he could walk. 2009 saw two mediocre hits in Kambakkht Ishq and De Dana Dan which both did nothing for his development as an actor. This year, Housefull was the saving grace whilst Actionn Replayy and Khatta Meetha both tanked at the box office and with the audience. Tees Maar Khan may have taken a phenomenal opening but I doubt it will sustain and will probably end up as another discredit to Akshay.

The problem I have with Akshay is that he gives us a film like Namaste London which was highly entertaining and showed his potential but then takes ten steps back with mindless comedies that all feel similar to the previous one. I think Akshay really needs to reinvent his on screen persona, and yes, keep up the bread and butter masala comedy hero act but look carefully for a film that will challenge him and appeal across the board. It may sound like a tall order but he has done it before (and each hero on this list has too).  Hopefully 2011 will see him turning a corner with Patiala House with Anushka Sharma and Rishi Kapoor and Thank You with Sonam Kapoor as well as the sequel to Housefull. Out of everyone on this list, Akshay is the hero I am most concerned for and would like to see silence me in the same way Salman did with Dabangg. Over to you Mr Kumar!

Shahid Kapoor – Here is another person who won’t remember 2010 too fondly – after giving us a career high in Kaminey in 2009, Shahid had four releases this year with varying results. Chance Pe Dance was scandalous waste of his acting and dance abilities as he phoned it in with a by numbers performance (though he can hardly be blamed given the material he had to work with) whilst Paathshaala had too much of  a “been there seen that” feel to it. The same was the case for Milenge Milenge though the film demonstrated how far the actor has come and that the film did well speaks volumes of his potential. Badmaash Company was the saving grace of Shahid’s year,  showcasing Shahid’s abilities and proving yet again that he is capable of carrying a film on his  shoulders and appealing to all sections of the audience.

That Shahid is a capable actor with untapped potential is under no doubt as Kaminey proved. I think Shahid was unlucky this year as none of his releases really complimented Kaminey and instead showed us the Shahid pre-Kaminey. Clearly we have a versatile actor at hand and like Akshay, it is a case of the right project at the right time that works best for Shahid. Next year sees him with Sonam Kapoor in father Pankaj Kapoor’s film Mausam which holds a lot of promise and indicates a rather sensible approach of one film at a time. 2010 may not have been the ideal year for Shahid but like Hrithik, when Shahid has a low year, he bounces back higher – keep an eye out for him!

Ajay Devgn – The most profitable actor of the year and with good reason – whilst others remain firmly in the spotlight (whether by choice or not), Ajay is quietly giving hits and some superb performances along with it. With All The Best giving him his second successive Diwali hit in 2009, Ajay proved comedy is his forte in Athiti Tum Kab Jaoge in which he more than held his own against renowned scene stealer Paresh Rawal. He followed this up with a superbly menacing performance in Raajneeti which surprised us all as one would have expected Ajay to feature prominently but such is his ability that even in a scaled down role, he was able to bring the goods home. Then came Once Upon A Time In Mumbai to complete the hat trick of hits followed by Golmaal 3 as a bonus. Toonpur Ka Superhero may not have been received well but 4 out of 5 is a bloody good score to leave the year on.

What I love most about Ajay is his versatility – all five of his roles are different in nature and he excels in each and every one of them.  I wish Akshay would model himself on Ajay who went from action hero to romantic to comedian with a bit of drama along the way and is now able to flit between each genre with apparent ease.  It seems Ajay has the right mix of projects and is able to keep audiences, fans and critics happy which is serious multi-tasking but exactly what is required from a top hero. 2011 sees another interesting line up with comedy – Dil To Bacha Hai Ji, Power with Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt and Anil Kapoor, and Tezz with Anil Kapoor. Despite these all being multi starrers, you can guarantee that Ajay will deliver in each one and score big each time. With added bonus points for the dignified manner in which he conducts himself, Ajay is quite rightly on paper and in reality, the real winner of 2010.

Amitabh Bachchan – In case any of us had forgotten, Paa reminded us of what an amazing actor Amitabh Bachchan is. I recently saw the film again and still can’t get over how amazing he is in this film. Like Aamir, Amitabh is beyond hits and flops and instead shoulders part of the responsibility for moving the industry forward through his work. Teen Patti put him the same frame as Ben Kingsley but sadly the film was unable to handle so much talent together at the same time and collapsed under a weak script. Rann was superb with a flawless performance from Amitabh but audiences couldn’t get into the complex logic of the film and this one also was poorly received.

As always, a film may be bad but no one can accuse Amitabh of being awful. Next year sees him in Power with Anil, Sanjay and Ajay and an untitled film with Saif and Deepika and no doubt Amitabh will shine in these films too. With Amitabh, it is not the case that as an actor he needs to do something in particular but instead, it falls to writers and directors to create something unique that will show off his talent to the hilt and challenge the actor to reach new heights and with him, pave the way for future generations.

Abhishek Bachchan – Also known as everyone’s favourite whipping boy, I always feel Abhishek gets a rough deal from critics for being the son of a fantastic actor even though he is a good actor in his own right. Despite holding his own in Paa,  2010 saw Abhishek’s two highbrow films get the thumbs down. Raavan saw a career best performance given a royal dressing down despite being some of the best work he has done. Even more cruel was the way Khelein Hum Je Jaan Se was totally dismissed and destroyed before it was even released. The fact that Abi is trying different roles and experimenting deserves praise but instead sees him has the media blowing up a less than steady box office record.

2011 should hopefully see things perk up – the multi starrers Game and Players should see Abhi back in the zone with slickly made thrillers that he can do well in. Then there is Dum Maaro Dum which is carrying good reports and seems tailor made for Abi and should silence his critics. Plus there is Dostana 2 in the offing which if nothing else, will keep legions of fans happy with the next instalment taking place in London. I think Abi should continue in the same vein that he is currently running in as he managed to shake off the flop actor tag and now needs to continue pushing his credibility forward so that like all the most successful actors, he can demonstrate his versatility at will.

Ranbir Kapoor – And now, saving the best for last, this boy seems unstoppable at the moment. After a shaky debut, Ranbir came back in a stealth like manner and is now one of the brightest young stars on the block. With a good range of films under his belt already, 2010 was all about how Ranbir was going to continue his ascent. Raajneeti proved the perfect next step as he turned in a strong lead performance despite being overshadowed by the multi talented ensemble cast and gave the biggest hit of the year until Dabangg came along. Anjaana Anjaani failed to consolidate that position but did Ranbir no harm as his performance was still very good and he showed that all important star quality of being able to rise above a bad film.

Next year sees Ranbir in Imtiaz Ali’s next Rockstar as well as teaming up with Anjaana Anjaani co-star Priyanka Chopra in Anurag Basu’s Silence.  I think Ranbir’s slow and steady approach is a smart one and certainly one that will see him continue to enjoy the success he has had in the last two years. Going forward, I would like to see Ranbir work in a few offbeat projects and even test himself in a non Bollywood film.  My favourite Ranbir film is still Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year which was a very nuanced performance and watchable film.  In any case, one super hit and an average is an enviable record to have and there is no reason why Ranbir won’t be able to better that next year. Definitely one to watch and a taste of things to come!

So, who was your hero of 2010? Do you think any other hero should have been included/left out? Post your comments below!

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