By the time you read this column, Why Cheat India, an expose on the education system in India, will have been released and Emraan Hashmi will have returned to the big screen. Emraan was MIA (missing in action) for the entire 2018 (his last Bollywood release was Baadshaho in September 2017).
Emraan is not the only actor who has taken a gap year. Actors today, whether they are scaling the heights of success or floundering for a hit, no longer go on signing sprees; instead they choose each project after scrutinising its viability and their role with a microscope.
A far cry from my teenage years when I watched stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini and Rekha have multiple films thronging the theatres every single year. So I am equal parts amazed and admiring when I see a few contemporary actors go through an entire calendar year without having a single film of theirs hitting the big screen! In 2018 too, several saleable stars were missing from the theatres; and I, for one, am intrigued about their comeback plans.
Possibly, the most choosy major star working today is Hrithik Roshan. Last seen in Kaabil in January 2017, Hrithik is currently working on a couple of films – Super 30 and the untitled Yash Raj production that pits him against his self-proclaimed admirer, Tiger Shroff. While the latter film is slated for a big opening on October 2, 2019, Super 30 was originally slated to release on Republic Day but has allegedly been shifted ahead to avoid a clash with Kangana’s Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi. The story of a mathematics professor, Super 30’s first look was released on Teacher’s Day last year but the final unveiling is awaited on July 26 – which means Hrithik will reappear on screen after a two-and-a-half year absence.
In 2018, Kangana Ranaut was making news – not for any film release but for her candid and cauterising quotes. However, 2019 will see her channelising her energies where they should be – on her epic co-directorial venture Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi in which she plays the titular role and Mental Hai Kya, a comedy with Rajkummar Rao with whom she paired successfully in Queen. If all goes well, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga may also hit the screens at the fag end of the year.
This year, Vidya Balan, who wins awards with astounding regularity, will be attending the numerous award functions in Mumbai primarily as a guest. She had no Hindi film release – the last time we saw her on screen was in Tumhari Sulu released on November 17, 2017. The wait could be well worth it because in 2019 Vidya will be seen in an ensemble film Mission Mangal reportedly about scientists who contributed to the Mars Orbiter Mission, India’s first interplanetary expedition.
Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra were in the limelight in 2018 for a link-up and an ostentatious destination marriage respectively, but they didn’t have any releases to talk about. They will re-enter the cinematic fray in 2019 with The Sky Is Pink in which they play the parents of a motivational speaker suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. It should be an interesting film considering it is written by Juhi Chaturvedi (Vicky Donor, Piku, October) and directed by Shonali Bose (Amu, Margarita With A Straw).
Regular collaborator Vikram Bhatt will bring Bipasha back to the big screen with her husband Karan Grover in the Bhushan Patel-directed Aadat Diaries. Bipasha’s earlier outing with Bhushan, Alone (2015) also featured Karan Grover but that was four long years ago. It will be interesting to see if the long stay away from the arclights has dimmed some of Bipasha’s shine and added more muscle to Karan’s talent.
Not just established stars and veterans at the game but even relatively new actors have become finicky about the films they accept. After the success of Bareilly Ki Barfi, Kriti Sanon went AWOL for a year (unless a dance item in Stree counts) but is no longer playing luka chhuppi (hide and seek) and will be seen as the leading lady in as many as four films in 2019: Luka Chuppi, Arjun Patiala, Housefull 4 and Panipat.
Bhumi Pednekar kept her feet firmly planted on the ground despite the twin successes of Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan in 2017. After a barren 2018, she is going to come back with a bang in 2019. Watch out for her firing on all-cylinders in Bala (her third outing with Ayushmann Khurrana), Karan Johar’s production which pairs her opposite Vicky Kaushal, Sonchiriya in which she is paired with Sushant Singh and is pitted opposite talents of high calibre like Manoj Bajpayee and Ashutosh Rana, and Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitaare, a satire co-starring Konkona Sen Sharma.
There was a time when Dilip Kumar took pride in being choosy – and he was considered different from his ilk. After the stupendous success of Mughal-e-Azam at the onset of the ’60s, he could have commanded his price and worked with any film maker of his choice but he did only seven other films in the entire decade – Kohinoor, Gunga Jamuna, Leader, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Ram Aur Shyam, Sangharsh and Aadmi. Today, everyone has become a Dilip Kumar.