There's something about Sidharth Malhotra: With off-track lead role in Aiyaary, will the understated actor finally get his due?

Aparna Pednekar

February 15, 2018 13:16:34 IST

Sidharth Malhotra, the top-lining eye-candy from Karan Johar’s Student of the Year trio, has always received a middling response to his films, and built an upwardly mobile – if not utterly dazzling – career on the basis of sublime back benching. With an off-track leading role in Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary, will the kukkad kamal da finally come of age?

Of the trio of Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Siddharth Malhotra, Sid was the proverbial dark horse, never mind the irony of his 8-pack abs and a chiseled fair & lovely face. After Karan Johar’s 2012 candyfloss romance, the genetically talented Bhatt and irrepressibly energetic Dhawan didn’t take long to find their groove and respective posses of adoring fans followed by admiring critics. But Malhotra, unlike his fiercely competitive Abhimanyu in SOTY, remained the resolute backbencher, with charmless roles in Ek Villain, Kapoor & Sons and Brothers.

Sidharth Malhotra's next film Aiyaary will release on 16 February.

The blasé boy next door

Two years post his rose-tinted debut, Malhotra unexpectedly hit his stride in yet another Dharma Productions romedy. The year was 2014, in which his peers were pulling out all the stops to play to the galleries. Dhawan charmed and pelvic-thrusted his way to the audience’s hearts via Main Tera Hero and the lovely Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, while Bhatt shone in both Highway and Two States.

In this tsunami of talent, Malhotra casually sauntered onto the screen in Vinil Mathews’ Hasee to Phasee. In that slick, amiable love story between an oddball brainiac and a drifter, Malhotra slid effortlessly into the lackadaisical loser persona, even while being upstaged by Parineeti Chopra’s manic pixie, nail-chomping Meeta. Nonetheless, Malhotra exhibited a rare talent for a je ne sais quoi appeal, while doing nothing much.  “He has great eyes and can hold silence really superbly which is his asset as an actor,” said Mathew, of the actor who’s known to be reserved off screen as well. As Nikhil, the perennially second-guessing boy engaged to the overbearing sister of the woman he’s falling in love with, Malhotra brought an earnestness to his role, which quickly became his trademark.

Perfecting the loser

Even if the 32-plus hunk hasn’t exactly earned hosannas for his histrionics – he’s definitely no stone-faced eye candy either. Malhotra has thus far managed to not make an obnoxious ass of himself, even and especially off screen. He may be Johar’s blue-eyed boy, pitching his best performances in Dharma films, but he doesn’t join in the bonhomie that passes off television interviews.

kapoor and sons

In an industry where actors behave like rowdy cousins at a family wedding off-screen, the six footer from Delhi comes off as a regular guy at just another regular job: unerringly professional. Not that he can't pull off pink floral trousers, gliding down red carpets like prima donna or a temperamental diva, but it’s nice to know that the chap is utterly normal, especially with that face and body. While college girls may giggle at the antics of Dhawan and swoon at Ranveer Singh’s eccentricity, Malhotra remains the clean-cut man for all seasons; tall and manly enough for the job description of a leading man who doesn’t have a frozen face.

The masterful Kapoor & Sons had critics warming up to him; and didn’t even need to take his shirt off, pump muscles or dance up a storm. It was admitted that if freed of dialogues, he had an “attractive, loose-limbed vulnerability” that unraveled at an unhurried pace.

Cruise control

Pacing himself sensibly — last year’s A Gentleman, where he played sundar susheel and somewhat implausibly risky, makes for a decent cable watch at its worst, while in Ittefaq, he cruised by as Akshaye Khanna stole the limelight.  Middling is… well, Malhotra’s middle name.  There’s a feeling that he may break-out anytime now, and until that happens, nobody’s really complaining. 

A still from A Gentleman. Youtube screengrab

A still from A Gentleman. Youtube screengrab

By playing an army intelligence officer against the formidable Manoj Bajpayee in Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary, it’s unlikely that the pretty, well-behaved boy can cruise by on laidback charm and understated ease. The befuddled look that he wore – unsuccessfully – throughout Baar Baar Dekho (2016) won’t pass muster mainly because he’s not up against Katrina Kaif, she of the other legendary cruise-by talents.

There are many who like Malhotra and root for him, presumably as much off screen as on screen. That his gorgeous face and somewhat limber eyes move beyond his comfort zone is something that both the actor and his fans must definitely wish for.  Placed in front of redoubtable actors and a non-romantic genre director backing him, will this lambi race ka ghoda pull unexpected punches, reaching out beneath his placid exterior to make the audience feel more and deeply, with him?

That might just be the film’s ultimate Aiyaary (trickery).

Updated Date: Feb 15, 2018 13:16 PM