A Gentleman shows just how far Jacqueline Fernandez has come from her Aladdin days
In an age when female heroines in Hindi cinema are at the top of their game like never before, perhaps the most earnest underdog story of them all must belong to Jacqueline Fernandez.
Amid Kangana Ranaut’s paradigm-changing ownership of lead roles; Priyanka Chopra’s international stardom; Alia Bhatt’s rock-solid, ever-evolving filmography coupled with genuinely rare talent; and so many others, it seems the women of Hindi cinema are doing things right (even if a lot about the industry still sorely needs to change.)
Fernandez, though, has been steadily building a fan following for her roles in ‘massy’ blockbusters. Murder 2, Race 2, Housefull 2, Kick, Housefull 3 and Dishoom worked well at the box office, while also slowly helping Jacqueline carve out a name for herself.
For a while, she seemed like an upstart in a space occupied well by Katrina Kaif – the fair, slim, white-skinned desi girl with a foreign accent, objectified by our society’s establishment of gender. But it wasn’t too long before she surpassed Katrina in her acting abilities; admittedly, not a high bar to clear.
Then came all those hits, in lead roles opposite male stars as diverse as Emraan Hashmi, Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham and Varun Dhawan. Jacqueline is a long way off from being able to shoulder a film by herself, but she has clearly established herself as a bankable commercial lead heroine in commercial male-centric films.
Now, within the space of a month, she has two potential hits with each of the Students of the Year – opposite Sidharth Malhotra in Raj & DK’s A Gentleman and Varun Dhawan in David Dhawan's Judwaa 2, following which she has Tarun Mansukhani’s Drive in 2018, opposite Sushant Singh Rajput, which seems rather intriguing.
The best thing about the former Miss Sri Lanka, though, is that she balances her ‘sexy’ on-screen image with a pleasant and classy public persona. So much so, that she was easily the classiest guest on the last season of Koffee With Karan, in a season that had most of the young brigade making an appearance.
In fact, the episode she featured in was loaded with sexual innuendo, in a season where it seemed like Karan Johar had finally had enough and thrown caution to the wind, after being embroiled in needless controversies such as the AIB Roast and Fawad Khan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
The episode itself began with Johar demanding an answer from Jacqueline for why she wasn’t wearing a ‘sexy outfit’ in keeping with her image, and then quickly disintegrated into a series of wink-wink moments suggesting she and Sidharth were hooking up, and other references to sex. Jacqueline seemed uncomfortable, but handled the entire episode with sparkling poise.
Her personality came across as refreshing, something no doubt aided greatly by her Sri Lankan roots, with the island nation’s reputation for having the nicest people around.
I must confess, long ago I was among those who didn’t take Jacqueline Fernandez seriously, because of just how many films starred women adhering to one body type, playing cardboard characters for mere ornamentation. Today, she has slowly proved a number of us wrong, in many ways. With her delightful charm in public, and her constantly rising career graph, one hopes that the lady goes from strength to strength with her films ahead.