Amid merry jigs to promote his upcoming biggie Fan at alma mater Hansraj College earlier this week, Shah Rukh Khan might have just gone on total recall in more ways than one. Did the thought return to his mind how he had once declared he was the last superstar of India?
Shah Rukh had doled out that bite once upon a time when he was unquestionably King among the Khans. The words resonated at the frenzied Fan do - the film is supposedly a self-laudatory trip celebrating everything that defines the phenomenon SRK has become over the decades.
Briefly, SRK had felt then that Bollywood was rapidly changing. Changing tastes and viewing habits would leave no space for larger-than-life superstardom to thrive in the years to come.
He had a point, except that he possibly had no way to predict the fantastic superstardom of Salman Khan that followed, and blew everything as nothing ever before in Bollywood. The phenomenon, mercurial as Salman himself, does not however negate SRK's comment. It merely alters it.
The fact is the Khans as a generation - count in Aamir, too - are perhaps the last Bollywood superstars in the traditional sense of the definition. In all fairness, we ought to put Akshay Kumar on the list, too.
Bollywood is seeing a crucial phase of change. The Khans are now 50 and Kumar is fast approaching that age. The teenage fan brigade - a big chunk of the industry's target audience - was not even born when these actors delivered Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!, Rangeela or Mohra.
These blockbusters represent the '90s. They also define the rising years of Bollywood's reigning K-club with larger-than-life flair. It is a flair that sets apart these actors from the current lot of young stars.
Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra are all popular actors who dabble with the occasional larger-than-life performances, but it has become clear by now none of these actors wish to make a career riding over-the-top masala traits.
Rather, they represent an era when mainstream Bollywood is struggling to bring in realistic characterisation - a trait that does not necessarily woo the masses. In turn, such a trait affects their shot at larger-than-life superstardom.
Ranbir's only consistent image, for instance, has been his lack of an image. If Aamir Khan seemed an exception doing just that in the last decade, Ranbir is not the only major hero among the new lot trying the idea.
Only unlike Aamir, Ranbir and other GenNow actors have yet to secure an overwhelming fan base that may let them translate a believable image into record-smashing blockbusters.
Trends reveal the multiplex crowd, which largely hates the idea of over-the-top glamour overriding sensibility, is quietly dictating box-office patterns. The budding stars have realised this.
The 50-club has spotted that trend, too. It is no coincidence Salman's wrestler avatar in Sultan is being scripted with believability. SRK is lately balancing between Maneesh Sharma (Fan) and Rahul Dholakia (Raees) - both directors known for serving realistic entertainment.
Even Akshay, master of excesses, has quietly been sneaking in the odd sensible flick.
Masala superstardom is quietly on its way out.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)