On May 31, 2013, Ayan Mukherjee’s ‘Ye Jawani Hai Diwani’ released amid much fanfare. Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone were coming together for the first time after their much-publicized and bitter break-up. Riding on a peppy soundtrack and a much-loved pair, the movie clocked Rs 175 crore in India and was declared a blockbuster.
It was the high point in Ranbir’s career as he had belted out a super-hit ‘Barfi’ the previous year which also won him enviable critical acclaim. Earlier, he starred in successful films such as ‘Azab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani’, ‘Rajneeti’ and ‘Rockstar’. Lapped up by the masses and the critics alike, he was on the brink of making the ‘superstar’ label all his own and being spoken of in the same breath as the Khans.
But hubris is a strange thing: it nips many a promising career in the bud. Ranbir suddenly found his world falling apart. The slide began with ‘Besharam’, directed by Abhinav Kashyap, which released in October 2013 but fizzled out after a breezy start. It was the first time he was playing a country bumpkin and couldn’t pull it off. But since it received a thunderous opening, his stardom and stature remained undimmed. He didn’t have any release in 2014 and it was perhaps the calm before the proverbial storm, a storm which rocked his career in 2015.
‘Roy’, in which he had an extended guest role, came a cropper, but it was the disastrous Box Office fate of mega-budget, Bombay Velvet, helmed by Anurag Kashyap, that severely dented his standing. Made at a budget of Rs 125 crore, the movie met with a woeful response. Considered one of the biggest catastrophes in the annals of Bollywood, the producers lost about Rs 100 crore. Anurag Kashyap, who is adept at making films on shoestring budgets, seemed to lack the flair to conjure up a large-scale extravaganza. Although Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Tamasha’ received rave reviews, it failed to create ripples at ticket windows.
Amidst the rough weather, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ was the only comforting salve for Ranbir. Released on Diwali day in 2016, the Karan Johar film did decent business of Rs 105 crore despite clashing with Ajay Devgn’s ‘Shivaay’. The soul-stirring music and Johar’s customary touch slalomed it to a ‘hit’ status. But expected more from the Johar-Ranbir combination, both in terms of content and commerce.
His next release ‘Jagga Jasoos’, the project which was in the making for an inordinately long time, also flopped. Director Anurag Basu couldn’t recreate the magic of his earlier outing with Ranbir, ‘Barfi’. The movie had an ingenious plot and chartbuster songs but was ridiculously overwrought. Overall, 5 out of 6 films Ranbir has been a part of in last 5 years have failed miserably.
In 2013, it was a one-horse race as far as young actors are concerned; no one was even close to Ranbir — be it acting chops or Box Office clout. But 5 years is a long, long time in Bollywood and actors who made their debut after him have galloped ahead.
Varun Dhawan has unfurled a string of pan-India hits on the trot and is a favourite among youngsters. Starting with ‘Student of the Year’ in 2012 to ‘Judwaa 2’ in 2017, his success ratio is 100 per cent. Even his off-beat movies such as ‘Badlapur’ and ‘October’ have done fairly good business. Ranveer Singh wowed everyone with his exhilarating performances in ‘Bajirao Mastani’ (2015) and ‘Padmaavat’ (2018). Both these films did massive business and earned plaudits from critics, too. ‘Befikre’ turned out to be a damp squib, but ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ seemed to establish his versatility.
Tiger Shroff too has consolidated his position substantially since his debut in 2014 hit ‘Heropanti’. Last month, he was catapulted into the big league by the stupendous success of ‘Baaghi 2’. It took a gargantuan opening and is likely to finish at Rs 160 crore net in India. Acrobatic dance moves and a flair for action have made him extremely popular among the masses, although critics have yet to give a nod to his acting ability.
Ranbir is at a crossroads. Although his acting talent is universally hailed, the selection of ‘bad’ movies has pegged him back. His goodwill among the audience has taken a beating but is still not tattered beyond repair. The need of the hour for him is to be more prudent while choosing movies and attempt to do movies that have pan-India appeal. At present, his following is limited to urban youth. To be truly called a superstar, one has to reach out to people to all parts of the country.
This is not to say he shouldn’t experiment and not push the boundaries. The trick is to opt for movies which are content-rich but also connect with a large section of society, films that marry the craft with commerce. He can take a leaf out of Aamir Khan’s book who didn’t traverse the beaten path with movies such as ‘Lagaan’, ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Taare Zameen Par’, ‘Sarfarosh’ to name a few, yet tasted massive success. The key is to work with proficient directors and zero in on robust scripts. Kashyap brothers certainly aren’t going to do wonders to his repute or renown.
He has already taken a step towards redeeming his sinking career. His steadfast commitment and diligence are visible in the teaser of ‘Sanju’ which is based on the life of Sanjay Dutt. It is directed by Rajkumar Hirani who is the most respected and successful filmmaker at present. All his movies – from Munnabhai series to PK – have been content-driven along with being bonafide blockbusters. Ranbir couldn’t have found a better director at this critical juncture of his career. He knows the pulse of the audience amazingly well and his cinematic acuity is unrivalled among the current crop of filmmakers.
This is exactly the kind of balance the Kapoor scion must aspire for to regain lost ground.
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