Change was inevitable in Bollywood and 2020 accelerated it. It has stripped many in Bollywood of their mystique and no one more so than star makers and their protégés. Case in point: movie studio czars like Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar. Ayushmann Khurrana and Ranveer Singh are both managed by YRF Talent but while Ranveer was always treated like a ‘star’, Ayushmann was considered a mere ‘actor’. Yet, with a string of hits since Dum Laga Ke Haisha in 2015, Ayushmann with his script sense and sincerity, is standing taller than their favourite star today. With Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan in 2017, Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun in 2018, Article 15, Dream Girl and Bala in 2019 and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan in 2020, he has been embraced wholeheartedly by audiences. These modestly budgeted films made money at the box office too, making Ayushmann a great return on investment. Plus, he was the first big star to embrace the reality of streaming during the pandemic, with Gulabo Sitabo doing well on Amazon Prime Video. Contrast this with the last three years for Ranveer where he has had Bollywood’s biggest—Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Rohit Shetty and Zoya Akhtar—fashioning three formulaic star vehicles for him, packaging him and proclaiming him as the next superstar. Yet, today an Ayushmann film, without the frills and flounces of designer stardom, excites audiences much more. This is the new order of stardom.
Alia Bhatt has a problem. Should she go to Dharma Cornerstone, the new talent agency set up by her mentor Karan Johar in conjunction with Bunty Sajdeh (whose Cornerstone handles Virat Kohli, among others)? Or stay with Matrix, set up by Reshma Shetty, which has done a good job handling her interests so far? Johar’s agency joins a crowded field which also has YRF Talent, Spice and Kwan. Salman Khan’s Uniworld Being Talented (UBT) has already posed a similar problem for Katrina Kaif who is represented by Matrix. Her sister Isabelle is among those represented by Salman’s agency. In an industry where power is judged by the stars one can collect on one’s roster, loyalties will be severely tested. Last year, Kareena Kapoor Khan left Matrix to follow her personal agent Poonam Damania when she set up her own agency, Versis, and extended it into a partnership with Harshad Chavan of TOAST Events.
After a two-year hiatus, Shah Rukh Khan is making news as much for what he is shooting as for what he is not. Fans of the actor were delighted at a possible collaboration with Tamil director Attlee (who has delivered hits such as Mersal in 2017 and Bigil in 2019) where he was slated to play a double role as a criminal and police officer. It’s not happening now, unfortunately. The superstar is expected to complete shooting Pathan with Siddharth Anand by the end of March. So if not Attlee, will he shoot Rajkumar Hirani’s social satire on immigration next?
How filmmakers in India measure stardom is a mystery. Take Bhoot Police, a horror comedy starring Saif Ali Khan. Ali Fazal, who will soon be seen in the Agatha Christie mystery as Cousin Andrew in the Kenneth Branagh-directed Death on the Nile, was supposed to be the second lead, before he was abruptly replaced by Arjun Kapoor. Kapoor, whose last hit Half Girlfriend was in 2017, has had a spotty record at the box office since then. Fazal’s last theatrical hit was Fukrey Returns, also in 2017, but two seasons of Mirzapur on Amazon Prime Video have made him a big OTT star. So what is the secret of Arjun Kapoor’s success? A tabloid-trending girlfriend like Malaika Arora and occasional appearances on Koffee with Karan?
Anyone who dates Kartik Aaryan has now come to the conclusion that a date with him involves an uninvited guest, the paparazzi. The actor has a tendency to date his co-stars, an old-fashioned way of publicising movies, but the actresses, starting with Sara Ali Khan, are surprised with the frequency with which supposedly private dates get splashed in newspapers thanks to strategic tip-offs to the paparazzi.
Did You Know?
Vivek Gomber and Shahana Goswami are all set to play a married couple once again after Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy. Actor-producer Gomber, whose Sir is currently winning hearts on Netflix, will be playing a banker as will Goswami in Alankrita Shrivastava’s forthcoming series Bombay Begums, set in the city’s financial world.