October trailer suggests Shoojit Sircar's 'story about love' could propel Varun Dhawan into superstardom
October could be to Varun Dhawan what Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was to Shah Rukh Khan and Yeh Dillagi was to Akshay Kumar.
The trailer of Shoojit Sircar’s October has evoked great curiosity not only about the theme of the film but also the character that the male lead, Varun Dhawan, portrays. While romance might not be entirely new territory for Sircar, whose debut Yahaan (2005) was a sensitive love story of an army officer (Jimmy Sheirgill) and a local Kashmiri woman (Minissha Lamba) but for Dhawan, this is his first foray into a genre that, according to industry myth, can transform up and coming stars into superstars.
One of the most successful young stars, Dhawan is not only much ahead of most of his contemporaries but also knocking at the door to enter into the next league. While there is hardly any doubt within the trade or the viewer with regards to Dhawan’s appeal, there is still some distance between Dhawan and the A-list club of superstars. This is because he is yet to be seen as what the industry terms ‘lover boy.’
Back in the day when Shah Rukh Khan had begun to make a mark, it was Yash Chopra who gave him a bit of advice that transformed the course of Khan’s film career and also saw him metamorphose from a contender into a bona fide superstar. Last year, when he was awarded the National Yash Chopra Memorial Award, Khan told the audience present, “I remember Yashji telling me that till the time I don't play a lover boy nothing will happen or change for me professionally.”
It was around the time that Khan had wound up Chopra’s Darr (1993) and was skeptical about playing a lover boy onscreen. He felt that he was not good looking enough or simply not ‘good enough’ to pull it off. Chopra told Khan that his career will not move ahead till he did an out and out love story and Khan decided to give in. Chopra knew a thing or two about onscreen lover boys for after all, he had cast Amitabh Bachchan against his image in Kabhi Kabhie (1976), which after Zanjeer (1973), Deewar (1975) and Sholay (1975), gave Bachchan an image beyond the Angry Young Man. Later, Chopra was also instrumental in giving the superstar one of his greatest onscreen love stories in the form of Silsila (1980).
Of course, the mere mention of a YashRaj film called Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995) that Khan would go on to feature in is enough to convince anyone about the truth in Chopra’s prophetic advice. But just a year before that, Chopra produced yet another film that changed the status of another up and coming star – Akshay Kumar. Until Yeh Dillagi(1994), which was directed by Chopra’s former assistant Naresh Malhotra, Kumar was largely seen as someone with limited appeal and even a non-actor perhaps destined to do just action films. Kumar’s acting prowess was noticed for the first time in the Sabrina (1954) inspired Yeh Dillagi which was that featured him as the soft-spoken elder son of a businessman who falls in love with the chauffeur’s driver. Post-Yeh Dillagi there was a sea of difference in the way Kumar was seen and it also put him ahead of his core competition (Ajay Devgan, Sunil Shetty).
In the book, SRK 25 Years of A Life that traces the journey of Khan’s career, Aditya Chopra shared an anecdote where an old lady visited SRK on a set and said, ‘Tum itne achche ho, acche roles kyun nahi karte?” (You are a good person, why don’t you do good roles?) The director of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge says that he knew Khan’s ultimate goal was to become the biggest superstar in the country and so he told him that he would have to become every mother’s son, every sister’s brother and above all, every woman’s fantasy to realise his superstar dream.
Perhaps it is the ability to transcend the core audience (read: male) that makes the romance genre the ultimate tool for male stars to increase viewer base. This is what happened with both Akshay and SRK with Yeh Dillagi and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge as it is only after these that they could match the level of popularity that Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were enjoying in the early 1990s.
Although Varun Dhawan has played a version of the lover boy on screen – Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya, Main Tera Hero – a classic Hindi film romance is missing from his body of work. Visually refreshing and thematically intriguing, October also promises to not be a love story but “a story about love” and considering the talent behind – Sircar, writer Juhi Chaturvedi, cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay, music composer Shantanu Moitra – could this be the film that bridges the gap between Dhawan and superstardom?
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