Ranbir Kapoor shouldn't let box office flops get in the way of good acting
With his last three releases failing, fans are pressing the panic button.
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The year was 2007. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's trailer of Saawariya had hit the airwaves and the film was all set to release on Diwali. The popular number from the film Jab Se Tere Naina… had a towel-clad lad with a well-toned body and an easy-on-the-eye demeanour dancing with abandon to the beats of the song.
I remember wondering to myself, does he have it in him to be the next big star? And it wasn't just me, my friend who is no Bollywood fan and could hardly distinguish between one star and another had taken notice of him and remarked that he definitely was a looker. He had undoubtedly attracted the female gaze.
Ranbir Kapoor's debut on celluloid was unlike that of Hrithik Roshan and could have given rise to the blues in him. Saawariya was a larger-than-life romance opposite another debutante who boasted of a lineage similar to him.
Helming the affair was a director of undeniable repute, yet the film fell prey to not just scathing reviews but unsparing ridicule as well. Raj Kapoor's grandson and Rishi Kapoor's son also had to deal with the juggernaut called SRK as both Saawariya and Om Shanti Om released on the same day and Khan's film turned out to be the blockbuster.Ranbir Kapoor's six-year relationship with girlfriend Katrina Kaif coming to nought early this year didn’t help the actor’s cause either.
The young Kapoor lad had an affected manner in Saawariya but his second outing at the theatres, Bachna Ae Haseeno, in which he played the role of a cad seemed like a performance which was right up his alley. His easy charm and natural comfort in front of the camera were characteristics that could have easily given him the tag of the "chocolate boy hero".
While he romanced his co-star Deepika Padukone on the silver screen among the white huts of Alberobello and the historical monuments of Venice, a blooming romance off-screen with Padukone kept the gossip mills buzzing.
However, 2009 was the year which marked the arrival of Ranbir Kapoor, the actor, and made it impossible to slot him as the quintessential Bollywood hero with the requisite good looks or as the new age star.
It was Kapoor's third full-length feature film Wake Up Sid which made every critic sit up and take notice. The coming-of-age story gave Kapoor scope to play to his strengths and also unveiled his yet untapped acting potential.
Nine years and 13 full-length feature films later, Kapoor's turn as Sid Mehra remains an eternal favourite. He also lived up to the next big star tag when he teamed up with Katrina Kaif for the mainstream vehicle Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and delivered a blockbuster in the same year.
At the same time, Kapoor was also clearly veering towards films which didn't adhere to Bollywood clichés. He chose a small budget and content driven film like Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, donned a turban and turned heroism on its head with his brave choice.
The actor delivered a stirring performance even when pitted against acting heavyweights like Manoj Bajpai in the ensemble cast film Rajneeti. With Rockstar and Barfi, Kapoor rewrote the rules of and also changed the grammar of the successful film which was driven by content and not mere drivel.
Armed with two well-deserved Filmfare Best Actor trophies two years in a row, Kapoor had delivered on his promise of being a mainstream Bollywood star who was high on histrionics and not hamming. The breezy Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani again added yet another feather to the actor's hat, even though a Guardian review had described the film as "bird-brained".
However, his 11th outing at the theatres, the ill-fated Besharam changed the tide against Kapoor. Many in the media pontificated that his attempt to try his hand at a genre which was the de rigour in Bollywood had backfired badly.
Every star is allowed the big flop occasionally. But the long-in-the-making and ambitious period-saga Bombay Velvet's dismal performance last year led to many pressing the panic button.
His six-year relationship with girlfriend Katrina coming to nought in early 2016 didn't help the actor's cause either. Even though his performance in Tamasha had critics raving yet again, the box office numbers said otherwise.
Was Kapoor actually losing the Midas touch? Was absence from social media platforms and his well spelt-out need to keep his private life just that spelling disaster for the actor in the public domain? Questions were endless and the reasons and conclusions bizarre.
The same coterie who lauded Kapoor for his brave and unusual choices cast aspersions on his selection of films. Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and even Hrithik Roshan had to tide over the not-so-good times. However, Kapoor has repeatedly been asked to justify the failures of his last three releases.
With four films with India's most contemporary and dependable directors in the pipeline, Kapoor is still the most wanted actor in B-town. Jagga Jasoos, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Ayan Mukerji's next and Rajkumar Hirani's Sanjay Dutt biopic are projects which are not just some of the most anticipated biggies but are also films which are in the realm of Kapoor's repertoire of performance-driven films.
The fear is box office failures shouldn't lure the actor into the territory of the hair-brained Bollywood film that has the Rs 100-crore promise stamped all over it. Give this 33-year-old Kapoor a break!