Looking at your releases in the last seven years – Raavan and Khelen Hum Jee Jaan Se (2010) Dum Maro Dum and Game (2011), Players and Bol Bachchan (2012), Dhoom 3 (2013), Happy New Year (2014), All is Well (2015) and Housefull 3 (2016), one can’t help feeling that either you have lost all enthusiasm to prove yourself as a talent to reckon with or else you are just plain complacent feeling utterly satisfied doing the same kind of stuff that you have been doing from the time you made your debut in 2000. You have not shown any interest whatsoever in taking up any challenging roles or pushing your boundaries to experiment. That is sad because you are talented…
For someone who has spent sixteen years in the industry, except for a handful of films like Guru, Bunty aur Babli, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Paa, Dostana, Bluffmaster, etc., not many have really hit the bull’s eye. You don’t seem to have done any particularly spectacular role and we cannot recollect exclaiming over any role “Yes, Only Abhishek could have done this!” So there is definitely that special ‘X factor’ which seems to be missing which probably explains why most of your solo hero films have been utter disasters, eg., Raavan, Dum Maro Dum, Dhai Akshar Pyar Ke, Run, Naach, Khele Hum Jee Jaan Se, Umrao Jaan, Delhi-6, Kuch Na Kaho, etc. The above list also indicates that your choice of films has unluckily not worked in your favour.
One can understand that it is no easy task being under the shadow of your illustrious father- Superstar Amitabh Bachchan, but to take efforts to purposely remind the audience about your lineage… is it really necessary?Take the case of your latest comedy film Housefull 3. There are three main heroes- Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh and you apart from a strong supporting cast of Boman Irani and Jackie Shroff. Yet it is only your character which constantly keeps reminding us of Amitabh Bachchan.
The movie is set in London and you play the role of a rapper. The very first scene has you taking blessings from Amitabh’s wax statue at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and even clicking a ‘selfie’ with him. As if this was not enough, you are shown to have a mobile phone in which the ringtone is the song picturized on Amitabh Bachchan from ‘Bol Bachchan’ and the phone also flashes Amitabh’s face when the song is played. Does all this make sense or is it even remotely funny?
You then proceed to murder Amitabh’s famous dialogue from the film Namak Halaal, “I can walk English, I can talk English… “. Pray why? Towards the climax of the film, there is an unnecessary scene wherein you go out of the way to save the wax statue of Aishwarya Rai from falling on the ground. You then pat the cheek of the statue asking if she was alright and then declare to yourself that now the climax fight has become a personal issue. Are we really supposed to laugh at this? All this when you actually have a heroine in the film-Nargis Fakri! What exactly are the directors achieving making you do all this silly stuff?
It is not as if you are the only person belonging to a film family. Take the case of the Kapoors. Each of them starting from Raj Kapoor to Rishi Kapoor and right down to Kareena and Ranbir took the trouble to come out of the shadows of their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts to make an impact of their own.
Seniors, contemporaries and ‘gen-next’:
Actors who started their career around the same time like you- Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor have created a niche for themselves. Youngsters like Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra and Arjun Kapoor are taking up such challenging roles and surprising the audience with a variety of characters. While Ranveer Singh was brilliant in Bajirao Mastani, Shahid Kapoor is experimenting with roles like Haider and Udta Punjab, Varun Dhawan did an all-out dance film in ABCD 2 and Tiger Shroff notched up a hit with his superb fight sequences in Baaghi. Even Fawad Khan is being appreciated for Kapoor & Sons.
Senior actors like the three Khans are still at the top with their tremendous fan-following. Actors like Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn are always trying to present something new in every film and are open to trying different genres every now and then. So you see, while you have been busy being repetitious, a whole new generation sprang up and you have now missed the bus. It is not as if they are all far more talented but their drive to prove is far more…
You did not take advantage of your on-screen chemistry with Rani Mukherjee to build a romantic image. You have not done any workouts to build a physique either so action films are also ruled out. But look at the plus side- like Sanjeev Kumar you do not have a set image so you can take that as an advantage.
Your own father has been a very big competitor for you. Ironically his second innings as a supporting actor started with Mohabbatein in 2000-the same year you made your debut, making your journey tougher than ever. And instead of sticking to the tried and tested formula of playing ‘typical’ father roles, Amitabh went on to redefine the way the film industry looked at a veteran actor. His romantic act in Baaghban was so endearing. He had the whole nation weeping as the progeria-affected boy in Paa. His roles in Aankhen, Sarkar, Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, Wazir, Piku, Black, Te3n are a lesson in acting and he continues his journey adding more and more wonderful roles to his repertoire.
Even the heroines who started out with you like Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra have all reached the top slot thanks to their hard work, focus and a will to tackle difficult and challenging roles. Wife Aishwarya in her comeback phase post-delivery is busy with mature roles like Jazbaa, Sarabjit and Ae dil Hai Mushkil and showcasing a very different side to her personality.
Films where you have shared screen space with another hero have been hits. In Dostana and Bol Bachchan, you hit the right notes with John Abraham and Ajay Devgn respectively. In the latter film, there is a hilarious scene where Ajay forces you to become his sister’s dance teacher and the scene has you grooving to some funny numbers and to be honest, you were just outstanding in the scene. But such scenes are sadly few in all your films put together.
Whenever you share screen space with dad Amitabh Bachchan – Paa, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Sarkar, Sarkar Raj, etc., your performance seems much better and you show a different and more mature approach to your roles. But then as you are never the main protagonist, you are never given your due credit for the success of the film.
Then there are films where you have been the ‘good samaritan’ in supporting roles but have very little screen-time- as Shilpa Shetty’s lawyer in Phir Milenge, as Rani’s saviour in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, as Preity Zinta’s doctor in Salaam Namaste, etc. Your real life ‘nice guy’ image makes you perfect for such roles. In multi-starrers like Happy New Year, Housefull 3, Yuva, Dus, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom,Shootout at Lokhandwala, LOC Kargil, you seem more relaxed sharing screen time with an ensemble cast. Probably not having the tension of carrying the burden of the film’s success single-handedly makes you act better.
In the case of the ‘Dhoom’ franchise, though you are shown in an interesting camaraderie with your assistant Uday Chopra, unluckily in this series of films, the anti-hero has been presented in a far more glamorous light and only ended up making you look a loser at the end. So these films did nothing to boost your image.
Unfortunately Abhishek, you seem to be stuck in a groove from where you don’t want to get out. Look at Irfaan and Nawazuddin-they have changed the definition of a Bollywood hero. Even talented actors like Paresh Rawal and Boman Irani are always looking out for juicy roles.
Time to introspect?
You do not bother to sit back and analyse your flops or take interest to infuse something new even if the roles are not that great – even a unique mannerism or a different get-up helps sometimes to make a role memorable. You seem very good at comedy and strong character roles but instead of capitalizing on these plus points, your directors continue to give you uninteresting roles where you cannot do much most of the times.
It is not necessary that all star-kids will end up with the same kind of popularity as their esteemed parents. In fact, the film industry is replete with lots of examples where the ‘gen-next’ could not find their footing. Kumar Gaurav, Esha Deol, Twinkle Khanna, Rinkie Khanna, Javed Jaffrey, Soha Ali Khan, Suneil Anand, Kunaal Kapoor, Shadaab Khan, etc., among actors and Amit Kumar and Neil Nitin Mukesh among singers are some of the glaring examples.
There is nothing wrong in not accepting roles you are not comfortable with and steering your career to suit your pluspoints and personality. Right now you have only two upcoming films-Hera Pheri 3 and Dostana 2 after which you have not signed anything new. But now you yourself are a producer. This is your chance…You can get hold of a good script and director and get a novel role for youself or even try shifting to interesting character roles if need be. After all, it is never too late to re-invent and try something new and exciting unless as I mentioned in the beginning you are just content basking in the glory of being Amitabh Bachchan’s son…
Remember your fans are waiting…
The choice of course is entirely yours…