Once Upon A Time In Bollywood: Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

With Once Upon A Time In Hollywood over a week away from its India release, we explain why two leading Bollywood stars avoid to share the same frame.

Devansh Sharma August 07, 2019 18:46:11 IST
Once Upon A Time In Bollywood: Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

With Once Upon A Time in Hollywood over a week away from its release in India, director Quentin Tarantino must be lauded. More than his vision, the pat on his back must be attributed to his ability, and pull as a filmmaker, to bring two leading stars of the American film industry together in the same frame.

When Brad Pitt was asked if there was any "trepidation" while sharing the frame with Leonardo DiCaprio, he said to Today, " Hell no man! You don't have to carry the whole thing! These people (Margot Robbie and DiCaprio) will help carry the load." DiCaprio agreed with Pitt, and added, "I've admired his choices of films throughout his career. If you start thinking in that realm of "Big actor!  What's the dynamic'... You're creating a piece of art here. Quentin's idea of two people of the same kind, two sides of the same coin, and Clint (DiCaprio's character) playing a hero and Rick (Pitt's character) playing his stunt double yet they're family, is amazing!"

Once Upon A Time In Bollywood Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the a still of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Hollywood is replete with uncountable instances in the buddy film genre. But there have been only between few and far in Bollywood. While the Khan triumvirate seem to be friends off the screen, they have never worked together in full-fledged roles, in the last 20 years. Shah Rukh Khan has even requested the media not to judge his friendship with Aamir Khan through the cameos they make in each other's films.

'Cameos' has been the glue of SRK and Salman Khan's friendship instead. While they have done cameos in each other's past films as well, their rekindled friendship seems to hinge on their tendency to exchange cameos in each other's potential blockbuster, that turn out to be duds nonetheless.

While SRK played a magician in Salman's Tubelight, directed by Kabir Khan, Salman turned up as himself in SRK's Zero, directed by Aanand L Rai. Clearly, they seem to use each other's star power to drive their respective films.

But now, the cameos never turn into full-fledged roles like they did back in 1995, through Rakesh Roshan's buddy revenge saga Karan Arjun. The two Khans have shared the screen space in over 10 films but have done so as the two male leads only once in their almost 30-year-long careers.

Once Upon A Time In Bollywood Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan

Aamir has never shared the screen space with SRK (do not limit their friendship to cameos!). But he was in the same frame as Salman in Rajkumar Santoshi's 1994 buddy comedy Andaz Apna Apna. There have been numerous reports of a sequel to this delayed classic, and now, the screenwriter has confirmed that he is writing a script, keeping in mind the original cast plus some new additions. Ambitious indeed!

While Aamir, who conventionally does one film in two years, is booked till Christmas next year, when his next film, Advait Chandan's Lal Singh Chadha, will release. On the other hand, Salman is booked till Eid next year, when his reunion with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the romantic drama Inshallah, also starring Alia Bhatt, will release. Post that, he has already signed films like brother-in-law Atul Agnihotri's remake of South Korean film The Veteran, Sajid Nadiadwala's action comedy Kick 2 with Jacqueline Fernandez, and the third instalment of the Tiger Franchise, also directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and starring Katrina Kaif. So dates will be a major issue even if the sequel of Andaz Apna Apna does work out with Salman and Aamir reprising their roles.

SRK seems to have taken a sabbatical from acting right now but it will be great if he leads the example as a prouder, and cast two male leads of the new age together in the same film. However, the new age does not seem to be too different. Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, who seem to be at the same stage of their film careers, right now, do not appear to share the screen space either.

While Ranbir has agreed to share the screen space with Ajay Devgn in Luv Ranjan's next, or given a nod to go lock horns with Sanjay Dutt in Shamshera, or even share the same frame with Telugu superstar Nagarjuna in Ayan Mukerji's supernatural drama Brahmastra, he has yet not given in to play the second fiddle to either the Khans or Ranveer.

Even Ranveer is sharing the screen space with a much younger Vicky Kaushal in Karan Johar's period drama Takht, reportedly after Ranbir, the lead actor of Johar's last directorial Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, refused the part. Stars have not hesitated from working with other stars of less stature, whether old or new (SRK with Amitabh Bachchan in Mohabbatien, SRK with Hrithik Roshan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, SRK with Saif Ali Khan in Kal Ho Naa Ho, SRK with Varun Dhawan in Dilwale; Aamir with Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna in Dil Chahta Hai, Aamir with Rajkummar Rao and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Talaash; with R Madhavan in 3 Idiots; Salman with Saif in Hum Sath-Sath Hai).

Once Upon A Time In Bollywood Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in a still from Koffee with Karan

While female stars are increasingly breaking the ice to star in films together (Jagan Shakti's upcoming sci-fi drama Mission Mangal is an example), male stars are taking forever to rise above their inflated egos. It took decades for yesteryear stars like Amitabh Bachchcan and Rishi Kapoor to work together in 102 Not Out. While promoting the film, they have both maintained that the only issue ever between them was miscommunication.

Once Upon A Time In Bollywood Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from 102 Not Out

The new age stars, given their progressive mindset towards art, can break this age-old myth and share the screen space with each other. However, Ayushmann Khurrana has recently claimed that the makers of his upcoming film on homosexuality, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhaan, could not cast a big name for the second lead of the film, who plays his partner because no other actor in the same league wanted him to get the better, and bigger, part.

In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Ayushmann shifted the onus to the director from the actors. "It's difficult to crack that balance between two actors sometimes. In Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhaan, the director wants a particular face for the second character. So it's not always the actors. Sometimes, it's the director. "Your role is bigger than mine"... these factors come in between sometimes," he said.

While there must have been other, more acclaimed, directors who would have been able to crack that balance between the two parts, like Tarantino did with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the lead male stars need to rise above their insecurities and bow their head towards the piece of art in front of them.

For example, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who recently did the buddy action film Hobbs & Shaw, including all the male stars associated with the Fast & Furious franchise, including Vin Diesel, share the screen space, but reportedly with the caveat of binding the makers how much to hit them in the action scenes or how much they can be hurt. Thus, they are insecure about looking good, and given their box office pull, it is understandable.

Once Upon A Time In Bollywood Understanding the lack of buddy films in Hindi cinema

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in a still from Hobbs & Shaw. Image from Twitter

But Hindi cinema is nowhere there. The unwillingness to star in the same film as another actor of the same league has become unfeasible to a point that writers have stopped coming up with buddy films. Rohit Shetty may change that with his cop franchise of Singham, Simmba, and Sooryavanshi.

Only then, will there ever be a Once Upon A Time in Bollywood.

All images from Twitter.

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