WHETHER it is a genre, a musical trend or a supposed hot new star, Bollywood loves jumping onto a bandwagon, and most of the time it just doesn’t work.
In terms of ideas, this has been apparent with the awful number of cover versions of classic songs that keep ruining films, and the barrage of Hindi remakes that are failing spectacularly. For instance, the 2018 hit Stree led to a raft of recent comedy horror films like Phone Bhoot and Bhediya, which have crashed at the box office.
While various story and music waves have come and gone in Bollywood, one trend that has remained consistent across the decades is producers latching onto someone they perceive to be the next superstar, who just isn’t.
The 1990 film Aashiqui had become a huge success largely because of the stunning soundtrack, but that didn’t stop producers from rushing to sign debutante lead star Rahul Roy. They threw money at him to get him to star in a whole load of movies, but were in for a rude awakening. All his subsequent releases failed, and many that were planned were abandoned.
Interestingly, there was a similar story when a brilliant collection of songs powered its spiritual sequel Aashiqui 2 to success in 2013, and this led to producers making a bee line to sign its lead star Aditya Roy Kapur, who has failed to deliver as a solo leading man since then.
These are two of the many lead stars across the decades who have suddenly found themselves in demand and ultimately been disappointments. Those who signed Siddhant Chaturvedi after his impactful supporting role in 2019 film Gully Boy are learning the hard way that they may have banked on him being leading man material too soon. Perhaps the biggest recent name who looks like going the same way is Vicky Kaushal.
After largely playing supporting roles, Kaushal scored his first big success as a leading man with army drama Uri: The Surgical Strike in 2019. While the Aashiqui films had become hits because of their superb songs, this film connected with audiences because of its emotive military theme. It came at a time when border tensions with Pakistan were high, which means any actor could have slotted into the powerful lead role and done well. But that didn’t stop producers from signing Kaushal for lead roles after the film was released, and the Indian media from hailing him as the next big thing.
However, things don’t seem to have gone to plan. Kaushal was set to team up with Uri: The Surgical Strike director Aditya Dhar for superhero adventure The Immortal Ashwatthama, but that was reportedly abandoned after the budget no longer became feasible. His subsequent release Bhoot –Part One: The Haunted Ship was a huge critical and commercial failure when it was released in cinemas.
The actor’s next two films, Sardar Udham and the recently released Govinda Naam Mera, were both dumped straight onto streaming sites, with the latter showing that Kaushal really isn’t in a hero mould, after it received terrible reviews.
Both films generated relatively little interest and indicated that those who rushed to sign him as a lead may have jumped the gun. The actor attending award ceremonies, doing plenty of press and marrying A-list actress Katrina Kaif seem to have made very little difference to his commercial appeal.
With as many as five movies on the way, Kaushal looks like being included among those stars who became Bollywood one hit wonders. That is why the talented actor will likely transition back to playing winning supporting roles and leave all those producers who rushed to sign him as a lead with regrets.
With a distinct lack of new talent coming through in Hindi cinema, this trend of producers chasing after seemingly false prophets won’t end. It shows that a flash in the pan may sparkle briefly but isn’t worth wasting money on if it doesn’t have the power to reach the final destination or rise to great heights.
TUNISHA’S DEATH IS CAUSE FOR ALARM
IT HAPPENED in December, and she is not hugely famous, but the death of Indian actress Tunisha Sharma needs to be spoken about.
The 20-year-old’s tragic passing adds to an unusually large number of celebrity deaths by alleged suicide in India in the past decade, including the high-profile cases of Sushant Singh
Rajput and Jiah Khan.
Either there is a rampant mental health problem that needs to be urgently addressed or something more sinister is going on, because so many of these deaths have been suspicious.
There were reports that Tunisha’s Ali Baba: Dastaan-E-Kabul co-star Sheezan Khan had been charged with abetting the suicide, which he denied. But like the many other deaths, this will probably be another cold case where the whole truth never emerges.
But one thing is for sure, more needs to be done to protect young talent in India, even if it is providing better mental health care or awareness.
TOP FIVE REASONS WHY VARISU IS A MUST-WATCH
HOTLY ANTICIPATED film Varisu is the first Indian blockbuster release of 2023 and in cinemas now.
The Tamil language action-drama, headlined by superstar actor Vijay, is expected to clock up huge box office numbers globally. I caught up with the actor’s biggest super fan on Twitter (@VijayIsMyLife), George to find out the top five reasons why he thinks Varisu is a must-watch. He told me:
● The first reason to watch Varisu is Vijay. He returns to the genre he once ruled – the family entertainer.
● Varisu has an ensemble cast of talented actors besides Vijay such as Jayasudha, Rashmika Mandanna, Prakash Raj, Shaam, Sarathkumar, Ganesh Venkatraman, Srikanth, Khushbu and others. They will all add something interesting to the film.
● Another reason to be excited about Varisu is director Vamshi Paidipally. All his movies are box-office hits.
● Vijay and Rashmika Mandanna are sharing screen space for the first time. Aren’t you curious about the chemistry between the lead stars? I am.
● Varisu songs are topping the music charts. Ranjithame quickly crossed 100 million views. Soul of Varisu topped Billboard’s Hot Trending Songs chart. (Composer) Thaman S has delivered an album with a mix of different kinds of tracks.
PATHAAN PROTESTS ARE FREE PUBLICITY
THERE have been a lot of protests against Pathaan across India and social media, calling for a boycott of the Bollywood film or an outright ban.
The action entertainer headlined by Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone will face further outrage from those raising objections to it, right up to the release on January 25. Although movie producers will never admit it publicly, they like it when protests happen because it gives their movie a lot of free publicity. That is exactly what has happened with Pathaan and will ensure it gets a strong opening at the box office.
APPLE CANCELS ‘POOR’ SHANTARAM SERIES
THE journey of turning massively popular 2003 novel Shantaram into a live action drama has been a complete mess and such a wasted opportunity.
First the exciting looking film version planned with Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan collapsed. Then a drama series adaptation starring Charlie Hunnam was beset with problems and finally premiered on Apple Plus in October 2022, to average reviews.
The badly made drama has been such a let down that the streaming site is not renewing it for a second season. Maybe in the future, someone can make proper use of the excellent source material.
SUNIDHI LIVE IN LONDON WILL BE A CROWD PLEASER
ALL the greatest Indian singers of the modern era have performed in the UK, and I have been fortunate enough to see pretty much all of them live.
While the various music stars have their strengths, from wonderful voices to great songs and musicianship, the singer who always puts on the most spirited performance is Sunidhi Chauhan. Her high-energy shows have everything from serene ballads to stunning up-tempo songs while she dances like an international pop star. She will be delivering the first major UK Bollywood concert of 2023 at OVO Arena in Wembley, London, on February 26 and is well worth watching. From the magical voice to eye-catching outfits and dancing, everything is world-class about her.
EXCITING YEAR AHEAD FOR SAJAL
SAJAL ALI will carry forward the great recent momentum she has had into 2023 and start off the year with a bang. The talented Pakistani actress heads an impressive star cast in new drama serial Kuch Ankahi. The story of three sisters has an ARY Digital premiere on Sunday (15).
She will quickly follow that up with a key role in her international debut feature film What’s Love Got to Do with It?. Due in UK cinemas on February 24, it has a great cast that includes Lily James, Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi.
The powerful symbol of girl power will have more major projects throughout the year and carry on being unstoppable, so is definitely one to watch.
RANVEER’S CHRISTMAS HELL WITH CIRKUS FLOP
RANVEER SINGH is now in the middle of a career crisis after his recently released film Cirkus crashed and burned at the box office. The critical and commercial failure became his third big film disaster in a row. What amplifies the awfulness is that his films ’83 and Cirkus had the lucrative Christmas release dates, but still spectacularly underperformed.
A lot is now riding on his next release Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, which is due in cinemas on April 28. If that film is also rejected, then it will be difficult to see how the actor will stop this career death spiral he is on. But one thing is for certain, and that is him getting a Christmas release date again is very unlikely.
KUTTEY: ARJUN’S MIRACLE MOVIE?
IT PROBABLY won’t, but a major movie miracle could happen this week. After a long list of disasters, flop actor Arjun Kapoor could finally find himself in a successful film with this week’s big Bollywood release Kuttey. The black comedy thriller’s trailer is good, and it has a strong cast, including Tabu, Naseeruddin Shah, and Konkona Sen Sharma, which may make audiences forget Arjun’s presence.
The gritty crime drama is also masterminded by a strong creative team that includes acclaimed filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj. So, this week could be a hallelujah moment for Arjun.
BHAVIK’S NEW SHOW
BRILLIANT bhajan artist Bhavik Haria will show off another side to his talent with a Bollywood inspired concert at Colchester Arts Centre in Essex next Saturday (21).
The British singer will deliver Hindi film classics and popular ghazals at the music-rich show. He then starts a three-date tour performing his spiritual music later this month at Harrow Arts Centre, London (29), Midlands Arts Centre Birmingham (4), and The Empty Space, Manchester (12).
Gritty Indian drama Joram will have its world premiere at the 52nd International Film Festival in Rotterdam, which commences on January 25. Manoj Bajpayee headlines the movie about a man torn between his past and present.
Acclaimed sitar maestro Roopa Panesar will be in concert at Barbican Centre in London on February 18 and present new music from her upcoming album Atma.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan returns for another UK tour in July with shows at De Montfort Hall in Leicester (7); Symphony Hall, Birmingham (9); O2 Apollo, Manchester (14); and Eventim Appollo, London (15).
After a successful world premiere in 2022, Sonali Bhattacharyya’s acclaimed theatre play Two Billion Beats is back for another run at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond from January 20 to February 4.
Look out for my interview with classical singing maestro Bombay Jayashri later this month.
Popular singer Sonu Nigam will be on tour in the UK with concerts at the OVO Arena in London (March 31) and Morningside Arena in Leicester (April 1). Along with a live band, he will perform his greatest hits, and all-time Bollywood classics. Tickets are on sale now.