Ranveer Singh, Vicky Kaushal, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao: The new male superstars of Bollywood?

2018 was the year of reckoning for the Hindi film industry.

Archita Kashyap January 13, 2019 12:55:44 IST
Ranveer Singh, Vicky Kaushal, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao: The new male superstars of Bollywood?

2018 was the year of reckoning for the Hindi film industry. A change that has been creeping in for a decade, and has gradually cemented itself as the new normal has finally made its presence felt. A new lot of talented, focused, and ambitious superstars have their hearts set on upping the game cinematically. Change is here, and this change is good.

Consider the performance of Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero. With an item number by the most desired Katrina Kaif, a visually stunning romantic song with a leading heroine, Anushka Sharma and Shah Rukh Khan wooing her, the film had all the trappings of a typical SRK film. Add to that, touches of heartland humor from a diminished Shah Rukh, and Zero seemed like a solid package.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

SRK and Anushka Sharma in a still from Zero

While most critics have disliked the film, audiences haven’t really made their choice after reading reviews. As the film’s Holiday weekend business proves, they never chose to buy a ticket for Zero in the first place. Fatigue with a much seen, much heard superstar and the lack of a cohesive story from it’s trailer seemed to have made the decision for them. In a scenario where going to the movies can put a family back by a few thousand rupees in cities, Zero didn’t have enough going for itself.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

Aaamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Thugs of Hindostan

Aamir Khan’s Thugs of Hindostan suffered rejection in the same manner. In what felt like an unoriginal effort from it’s first glimpse, the fantasy adventure, despite bringing together Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, didn’t woo audiences across age groups. With reviews rejecting the film outright, after a couple of days of respectable footfalls, Thugs of Hindostan didn’t hold audience interest. The film rode on major pre-release hype with a lot of buzz created around its first of a kind casting and attempt at Hollywood like immersive action. Yet, nothing was good enough.

Salman Khan’s Race 3 turned out to be a money spinner as this superstar always has loyal audiences among masses. But that the film inspired countless memes and jokes on social media, showed a clear divide amongst audiences- urban middle classes, upwardly mobile and the young didn’t go for it.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

Still from Race 3

In vindication of his underutilised talent, this year actually belonged to Saif Ali Khan among the Khans with Sacred Games turning a corner for original Indian content on Netflix and Bazaar winning him positive reviews. A stock market based film with average treatment still managed to get respectable numbers; audiences opted to watch the grey shades of Saif Ali Khan despite it’s low key release.

But the trend in 2018 was democratic- it’s talent over hype onscreen. Like in most film industries, in Hindi cinema too, heroes make more money. They are more or less, in charge of drawing in audiences and of ensuring decent business for a film. By this measure, fate changed for Ranbir Kapoor. Sanju is at best, an above average film. But his performance as the controversial Dutt was overwhelming in its sincerity and brilliance. Keeping him company, with an equally luminous act is Vicky Kaushal; no doubt, the star that has come of age this year, with films like Manmarziyaan, Love Per Square Foot and Lust Stories.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

Vicky Kaushal/Image from Twitter.

Always the one to surprise, Ranveer Singh re-established his hold as the most versatile and talented superstar of this generation. Playing Khalji in the melodramatic period drama Padmaavat, he brought flair and panache to the part of a mad, obsessive conqueror. Singh has rarely repeated himself onscreen. With Padmaavat, he built a new benchmark for his own body of work, as being bad has rarely been done with such conviction. Starting off with Gully Boy, Singh’s films hold out promise in 2019. And Simmba, his commercial cop flick, has crosses 200 crores at the box office.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

Ranveer Singh's looks as Alauddin Khilji in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavati. Images courtesy Twitter/@RanveerOfficial

The year also saw Rajkummar Rao come into his own; the performing star whose luck with the box office had not been consistent. With Stree, he revealed his ability to do a comedy. Rao has followed up on a great 2017 when Newton and Bareilly Ki Barfi both proved his position as the best actor we have today. His connect with audiences has also emerged stronger now. Varun Dhawan, veering away from his successful commercial films,  played winsome, heartfelt characters with October and Sui Dhaaga. The actor in Dhawan has been itching to show off his range as performer. With both these films, he has made a fine beginning.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor in a still from Stree. YouTube

But 2018 clearly belonged to the common man hero. Ayushmann Khurrana remains one of Hindi cinema’s most underestimated stars till date. Be it his absence from the endorsements race, or his low key personal life, Khurrana has gradually risen in the acting game. He has chosen to play the non-hero like leading man, one that most can relate to. His career is not built on doing action or lots of dancing, although he sings like a dream. That Khurrana, as the blind (or not) piano player in Andhadhun, and the young man expecting a baby brother in Badhaai Ho, is on top of his game, reveals a permanent change in audience preferences.

Ranveer Singh Vicky Kaushal Ayushmann Khurrana Rajkummar Rao The new male superstars of Bollywood

A still from Naina Da Kya Kasoor. YouTube

2018 also brought Dulquer Salman to Bollywood, opening up the gamut of mature, true to life performances that this Southern star delivers. Rumor has it that Vijay Devakoranda will soon make a Hindi film debut; this young actor has surprised with his stunningly real perfomances in NOTA and Arjun Reddy.

The biggest positive of this trend goes beyond the fact that dominance of a certain brigade of superstar is making way for newer and better actors. It lies in the fact that this new lot of stars resists the urge to play safe and be complacent. They stoically work towards delivering memorable performances and with their focus, encourage better writing and storytelling. That’s a sign of a film industry that is adapting and displaying maturity.

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