In the four years that he has been around, Varun Dhawan has done a film that evokes the memories of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), one where he fashions himself as a hybrid of Govinda and Salman Khan (Main Tera Hero in 2014) and in his latest, Dishoom, he tries to be a wee bit of Abhishek Bachchan with a tinge of Anil Kapoor of Andhar-Bahar (1984), Karma (1986) and Ram Lakhan (1989).
Irrespective of how the film ultimately fares, Dishoom somewhere might just rekindle the interest in buddy films.
The fact that Dhawan has suggested that he and his Dishoom co-star John Abraham would be perfect for a sequel to Dostana (2008), is perhaps a testimony to the same as well. Add to that a proposed Judwaa (1997) sequel, or remake as the details are still sketchy, and what you have is a young actor who is clear how he wants to project himself.
At the same stage that Dhawan is at in his fledgling career, the ones he is modelling himself upon had already had their career-defining films - Shah Rukh Khan had a Darr (1993), a Baazigar (1993), a Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994) and even a Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge within the first four years since his debut, and Aamir Khan a Dil (1990), a Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin (1991) and a Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992).
A few generations earlier, Amitabh Bachchan had Anand (1971), Zanjeer (1973), Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haraam (1973) and Saudagar (1973) at the early part of his career, but Dhawan, in his four years, has only one performance - Badlapur (2015)- that would truly remain etched in people's minds.
|Varun Dhawan in a still from Dishoom.|
Of course there is nothing wrong in the choices that Dhawan or other younger actors such as Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Singh, Ranveer Singh (he, by far, has had the most eclectic blend of roles amongst the younger stars) or Sidharth Malhotra have made.
It's a personal matter and moreover, the elements that define a great film are largely subjective. But those familiar with the nuances of popular Hindi cinema would know that the young guns are far from firing on all cylinders.
Take the case of Dhawan, who, to this writer, appears to have managed a perfect blend of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan for an on-screen persona.
And this is something that would work brilliantly in the ambit of Bollywood for Dhawan could easily fill the space vacated by these two but wouldn't it be interesting for the actor to push the limits rather than allowing this blend to limit him?
Two-and-a-half decades ago, it was practically unimaginable for a leading man to be "bad" without a reason and therefore, Baazigar, a remake of A Kiss Before Dying (1991), saw the mother's character (Rakhee) become the bedrock for the anti-hero.
Ajay (Shah Rukh Khan) killed a woman (Shilpa Shetty) he supposedly loved while romancing her sister, Priya (Kajol), to get close to Madan Chopra (Dalip Tahil), the man who is responsible for the deaths of his father (Anant Mahadevan) and his infant sister, as payback for the suffering his mother underwent.
|Varun Dhawan in a still from Badlapur.|
In the original (A Kiss Before Dying), the protagonist (Matt Dillon) makes Thor Carlsson (Max Von Sydow) the object of his obsession simply because he used to see his name on a train that crossed his home and assumes two different identities to get close to his daughters (Sean Young in a double role).
Today, when a Dhawan does a Badlapur, he does it with much aplomb and far from insisting that the narrative shows him as a "good" guy, he relishes the opportunity to be gray.
This is a telling sign of how, if the younger crop want, and they have on some occasions, they can break away from the escapist fare that mainstream Hindi cinema has come to suffer from.
Perhaps not having a "great" film at an early stage in their careers isn't as much a shortcoming on the part of the younger actors as it is a fault of the filmmakers.
The bunch of filmmakers that the likes of Dhawan turn to have limited references; they have all grown up on the films of the 1980s and 1990s and barely have anything to explore beyond this universe.
Dhawan already has his own version of DDLJ - Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya (2014) and now with one more seemingly similar film in the pipeline, Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya, along with the Judwaa reboot and the possibility of Dostana 2, it'll be a while before things change.