(From L to R) Kartik Aaryan, Aayush Sharma and Kabir Akhtar
A year after Ranveer Singh made his debut in Yash Raj Films’ Band Baaja Baaraat and a year before Varun Dhawan was launched by Karan Johar in Student Of The Year, an engineering graduate from DY Patil Engineering College, Navi Mumbai, the son of two doctors from Gwalior, made his debut in Pyaar Ka Punchnama in 2011. The movie about three boys and their girlfriends was called crass and misogynistic, but it launched a tousle-haired leading man in Kartik Aaryan. Kartik, who dropped his surname Tiwari, did well in his first film, as he did in two subsequent films from the same director, Luv Ranjan, but seemed condemned to remain a B-movie staple despite a push from Subhash Ghai in Kaanchi: (2014). But suddenly when his fourth film with Ranjan Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety in 2018 did more than `100 crore at the box office, he became most wanted. Manish Malhotra put him in his clothes and made him walk the ramp. He was invited to host film awards shows. He started dating a series of eligible star daughters, sometimes it seemed simultaneously like Akshay Kumar in his heyday. Ananya Pandey, Sara Ali Khan and Janhvi Kapoor were happy to be papped in his company—almost as if he was the latest handbag, says a snarky insider. Even Karan Johar invited him to the Koffee With Karan couch in 2019, and in the ultimate mark of approval, cast him in Dostana 2. But then Kartik walked out of the film and it looked like another young star, an outsider, would be cast aside, much like Sushant Singh Rajput. But Kartik went on to other directors, choosing to work with Ram Madhvani on Netflix’s Dhamaka (2021), an ALTBalajji film Freddy with Alaya F and directed by Shashanka Ghosh, a love story formerly called “Satyanarayan Ki Katha”, Shehzada, with Varun’s director brother Rohit, and Captain India with Hansal Mehta. There is also the remake of Akshay Kumar’s Bhool Bhulaiya 2. Suddenly, the women have vanished. Instead, the conversation around him is about his craft, and his birthday is converted into a social media event with attendance by powerful filmmakers such as Dinesh Vijan, Aanand L Rai, Ekta Kapoor, Bhushan Kumar and Sajid Nadiadwala. This, even as Dharma Productions announced a new film Mr & Mrs Mahi with Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor while also leaking the story that Kartik Aaryan was the original choice before he bailed on Dostana2. Within 10 years in the industry, he has transformed himself into a desirable movie star refusing to get intimidated by powerful patrons. He is unapologetically ambitious and happy to flaunt the acquisitions of stardom, whether it is his Lamborghini or Versova flat. And he cultivates the common touch, spending time with the paparazzi and eating Chinese food off the bonnet of his car. This is how stars are created, and how people without famous last names level the playing field.
Famous Last Names
Sometimes, famous last names are not enough. Aayush Sharma, grandson of controversial Congress politician Sukh Ram, is married to Salman Khan’s sister Arpita. He assisted Kabir Khan on Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) before getting a dream launch with songs shot in London, designer clothes, and Gujarati garba in Loveyatri (2018). But the conventional launch didn’t light up the box office and Aayush, who is a product of Delhi’s DPS RK Puram (like Kriti Sanon) and Mumbai’s Jai Hind College, took time off. He worked on his voice, making it huskier and heavier, and transformed his body, putting on 16 kg of muscle mass. He is now converted into a lean, mean, fighting machine opposite his famous brother-in-law in Antim: The Final Truth (2021). He admits he was intimidated playing nasty on-screen to his icon (whose hairstyle he copied when Tere Naam, 2003, came out) until Salman took him aside and told him: “Just flow with me. Don’t try to overshadow me. Follow the character, trust in the writer.”
Did You Know?
Kabir Akhtar, a well-regarded TV director, most recently of two episodes of Mindy Kaling’s new HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls, is Farhan and Zoya Akhtar’s cousin? The US-based director is the son of Javed Akhtar’s psychoanalyst brother Salman.