Pandemic and the stars—Part 6: The others that matter

Shahid Kapoor in Jersey. Photo: Publicity Photo

The pandemic since early 2020 has dealt the final blow to the concept of “star” and “superstar” as we know it. It has rewritten the entire story. Like with television in the past, the OTT platform has invaded us all, come movies or series. Many a star now does a web series, whether as a mere producer or even actor. Most of them find the avenue not only lucrative but also creatively fulfilling. Then there are their films that release, due to assorted compulsions, on OTT platforms.

As we near the end of the scourge of corona, let us now look at the names that matter and how they are looked upon now. At the outset, and till further notice, I will not include the South superstars who are making headway, or are expected to, and those Hindi names who are known more as good or versatile actors but do not have the draw to pull in significant film buffs unless their film works on word-of-mouth: which is one of the classic qualities for someone termed a “star”.

Shahid Kapoor

Ironically, Shahid Kapoor got his career-biggest solo hit, Kabir Singh, just months before the pandemic began. Until then, the actor, who had had a mixed innings since his debut in 2003 with Ishq Vishq and some other successes and hits like Chup Chup Ke, 36 China Town, Vivah, Jab We Met and R…Rajkumar with acclaimed performances also in “media-hits” (films hyped on media as hits, but not actually so!) like Kaminey, Haider and Udta Punjab, was not exactly a big star. Things had changed for him even before Kabir Singh with the super-success of Padmaavat, but he had almost a parallel role in it.

But today, Shahid has realized that films are a mix of business and art and he must choose his subjects wisely. 20 years into the business, he has the emotional sports drama Jersey, a South remake again like Kabir Singh, Ali Abbas Zafar’s French thriller Nuit Blanche’s remake and Bull, a biopic in which he plays Brigadier Balsara. Finally, there is his debut web series, Sunny, helmed by Raj & DK of The Family Man fame, which co-stars South superstar Vijay Sethupathi.

John Abraham in the patriotic actioner Attack. Photo: Universal Comminications

John Abraham

The hunk who also appeared first also in 2003 with Jism, is treading his own niche position at the moment and produces films (whether they star him or not) and does action, usually with a patriotic slant. Though he has not had a good innings of late (Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran and Satyameva Jayate in 2018 were his last hits, after which he has had five flops, including an OTT release). His only other hit was his 2018 Marathi production, Savita Damodar Paranjpe.

But thanks to reasonable costs of his movies, and his total professionalism and good nature, John continues to matter, even if not in the top league. On floors are Attack (his next release) and his latest announcement, Tehran, besides Pathan with Shah Rukh Khan, all patriotic dramas. Ek Villain Returns, the sequel to the 2014 hit, the remake of the Malayalam film Ayyappanum Koshiyum, and last but not the least, 1911 on the iconic 1911 football match between Mohun Bagan and the East Yorkshire Regiment in the pre independence era, all make for an interesting lineup. 

Varun Dhawan in the horror comedy Bhediya. Photo: Universal Communications

Varun Dhawan

Here is another actor who has been having a bad time since 2017’s Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Judwaa 2 became big hits. Four big-screen flops as well as the OTT release Coolie No. 1 until 2020 undid his earlier immaculate box-office record. But, like Shahid, Varun still has a fan base, including the all-important (in this matter!) women, girls and kids, who all love him!

He is now doing his usual blend of diverse subjects: the thriller Sanki with Parineeti Chopra and Kesari director Anurag Singh and the very interesting horror comedy Bhediya, co-starring Kriti Sanon, with Janhvi Kapoor and Flora Saini reprising their roles from Roohi and Stree as the third installment of producer Dinesh Vijan’s horror-comedy universe! The film is directed by Amar Stree Kaushik.

Then there is Jug Jugg Jeeyo with Kiara Advani that has Anil Kapoor and Neetu Singh heading the cast. Also, Ekkis with his Badlapur director Sriram Raghavan, based on the life of posthumous Param Vir Chakra awardee Second-Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, is likely to kick off soon.

Sidharth Malhotra as a soldier in Yodha. Photo: Instagram / Sidharth Malhotra

Sidharth Malhotra

And speaking of posthumous Param Vir Chakra awardees, Sidharth Malhotra is on a high after essaying Vikram Batra in Shershaah, though the film was released on OTT last year. He has got a huge fillip as both star and actor and is currently doing Yodha, on a soldier who fights terrorists during a hijack, Mission Majnu, inspired by India’s most audacious covert operation in the heart of Pakistan, the message comedy Thank God co-starring Ajay Devgn and the Hindi remake of Thadam, which has the actor in his third double role after A Gentleman and Shershaah.

Kartik Aaryan

Kartik Aaryan is due to release Bhool Bhulaiya 2 next, though his last three films did not do well, including Dhamaka on OTT.

He is also Varun Dhawan’s brother, director Rohit Dhawan’s choice for Shehzada, the remake of the Allu Arjun blockbuster Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, which has just been announced. There is Satyanarayan Ki Katha, a love story whose title is likely to be changed to avoid controversies and Freddy, a thriller helmed by Shashanka Veere Di Wedding Ghosh. He will also play a pilot in Hansal Mehta’s biopic, Captain India.

Arjun Kapoor

This actor needs to revive his career—fast!—and it is good that he has reinvented himself physically. His last hits were Gunday and 2 States way back in 2014! After his tepid success, Ki & Ka (2016), he has had a record five flops and three more OTT releases—Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Sardar Ka Grandson and Bhoot Police— neither of which did well. Both his forthcoming films of consequence—Ek Villain Returns and the Ayyappanum Koshiyum remake— co-star the more dependable John Abraham. But he also has the dark, offbeat comedy Kuttey, co-starring Naseeruddin Shah, which marks the debut of Vishal Bhardwaj’s son, Aasmaan Bhardwaj, as director.




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