In one of my recent conversations with Ajay Devgn, he made a remark in a lighter tone stating - '......par kuch bhi kaho lekin industry toh buddhe hi chala rahe hain'. He said that in response to my query around men like him, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan being all 40+ in age and still being the ones who not just had the maximum films in hand between them but were also the ones who could be entrusted with getting a good opening at the box office, more often than not.
It was a comment made in light humour but really set me thinking. 'Isn't he actually right?' 'Isn't it actually a fact that the youngsters have been having a rather uncertain run despite multiple chances? 'Isn't it a fact that these 40 plus gentlemen are at least ensuring an opening at the box office (regardless of their overall run), something which can't be said for so many others out there?' And there I was, sitting down and penning this week's 'Reflections'.
No offence meant buddy
First things first. Reflecting on the very fact that the senior actors are ensuring a far better footfall ratio than the youngsters is by no means a statement on the talent of the latter. Actors like Imran Khan, Emraan Hashmi, Vivek Oberoi, John Abraham and Neil Nitin Mukesh amongst others have proven in one film or another that they have the talent and hence are surviving in the industry. Over the last couple of decades (ever since the senior actors have been ruling the scene), dozens of actors have come and gone but the ones mentioned above have survived, though with mixed results.
This is the reason why one strongly feels that despite some of them being around for close to a decade, a guaranteed opening is something which is missing from the scene. Of course a number of factors come into play here. The set up, promotion, overall product and their own act - things have gone awry at some stage or another due to which there hasn't been a consistency in the way their films have opened.
This means that whether it is Imran Khan (Break Ke Baad), Emraan Hashmi (Crook), Vivek Oberoi (Rakht Charitra), John Abraham (Jhootha Hi Sahi) or Neil Nitin Mukesh (Jail), there have been setbacks despite the actors putting in a good effort.
Of course, in a scenario like this there is bound to be an argument around the seniors actually coming up with desired results in every outing. After all Akshay Kumar (Action Replayy), Ajay Devgn (Aakrosh), Salman Khan (Main Aurr Mrs Khanna) and Saif Ali Khan (Kurbaan) too have suffered a debacle at some stage of their career in the recent past. Still, such setbacks have been aberrations. Otherwise more often not, these are the men (along with Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan of course) who have maintained a constantly good run at the box office at least from the 'opening' perspective.
No wonder, when one looks at the movie release calendar of 2011, the maximum slots are already being occupied already by these men, hence establishing all over again that producers, distributors as well as exhibitors are trusting them most to deliver goods. Confirmed plans for Aamir's Dhobhi Ghat (January), Ajay's Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji (January), Akshay's Patiala House (February) & Thank You (April), Salman's Ready (May) & Bodyguard (August), Saif's Agent Vinod (middle of 2011) along with Shahrukh's Ra.One (October) & Don 2 (December) are a testimony to that.
Zor Ka Jhatka
However, when someone like Hrithik Roshan or Abhishek Bachchan delivers a Guzaarish or a Khelein Hum Jeen Jaan Sey respectively, there is indeed a scare factor involved. These are the men who neither belong to senior citizen variety nor belong to the young brigade. These are 'in-betweens', the ones who have spent a decade in the industry but are suddenly hitting a low in their career.
Amongst the two, Hrithik of course is a bigger star and hence also comes with bigger responsibility. This is the reason why one treats his Guzaarish as an aberration because even in case of Kites, he did enjoy a terrific weekend after all. However, being selective in the industry also means that there is far more risk involved, something that would make Hrithik pretty wary about the year 2011 as he has only one confirmed release lined up - Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara along with (perhaps) the remake of Agneepath.
As for Abhishek Bachchan, his Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey has proven to the biggest disappointment ever in his career. His Raavan wasn't any great shakes either but still had managed a face saving opening at the least. Also, in multi starrer flicks like Paa and Dostana, he had managed some decent success. However, the way Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey opened; quite a few out there would be challenging his status as a solo lead. With ensemble affairs like Game, Dum Maaro Dum and Players lined up next, Abhishek can still afford to breathe easy for the time being though.
Hum bhi hain
This is where one looks at Ranbir Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor with good hopes of a bench strength actually managing to prove their worth on a far more consistent basis. Anjaana Anjaani, despite a fall after the weekend, still boasted of one of the best openings of the year. Even before that, Ranbir has seen favourable results for him all the way, whether in a multi starrer (Raajneeti) or an offbeat flick (Wake Up Sid). Really, one looks forward to what he does in his future films.
On the other hand, after the continued good opening that his films like Badmaash Company, Kaminey and Kismat Konnection, one did look at Shahid Kapoor being an actor who had matured after spending close to a decade in the industry and was ready to take over the mantle from the senior brigade. However, due to his decision of working only in Mausam for almost a year, Shahid would now have to look at 2011 being a year where he could do all the catching up all over again and be a force to reckon with.
This brings one to the all important question - 'Does Bollywood have good enough bench strength to ensure a good enough outing in the second decade of the Millennium?' With 2011 being just a few weeks away and our 40+ years old stars (obviously) not getting any younger, can one expect a bunch of actors to actually go out there in the field and stake their claim?
All said and done, this could possibly be the best platform ever that majority of them could have ever got. Half a decade more and Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan may well get into a stage where they would either be playing roles that are not necessarily those of central protagonists.
However, would the young brigade of today be just content with playing a second fiddle to these stars or would they actually wake up to the challenge?
They have an opportunity on the anvil and all depends on the way they make full use of it. They have enjoyed a fan following every now and then. It is just time for them to make it a little more consistent. Shahid (Mausam), Ranbir (Rockstar), Imran (Mere Brother Ki Dulhan), Emraan (Murder 2), John Abraham (Kakka Kakka remake) - each of them has a quintessential solo lead in their hands that could bring them up on a stage from where they can stand up and latch on the place at the top.
Can the filmmakers too start thinking in that direction and begin to make investments where bigger moolah could be placed on today's talent that has in it to entice viewers globally? Can one expect them to actually begin to strategise well in advance so that they could be the superstars of tomorrow?