Sparklers of the year

It is going to be a dazzling Diwali, lively and luminous, for many people in the Hindi film industry. I can’t recall so many saleable names populating Bollywood and so many big films under production in a long time.

Currently, the film world is surfing on an unprecedented wave of box office successes, and 2019 will see a higher tally of Rs 100 crore plus grossers than in any earlier year.

This long string of hits have either ignited or brightened or rejuvenated the careers of many of filmdom's denizens. Here’s looking at all those who have sparkled and sizzled so far in this year.

One of the brightest stories this year is Hrithik Roshan’s return to form. The bafflingly selective star’s last thumping hit was Bang Bang back in 2014. But this year saw the restoration of any lost lustre with not one but two firecracker hits — Super 30 and War.

While Roshan’s earnest histrionics were the focus in his de-glamourised, award-bait role in Super 30, the star was all buff, polish and style playing secret agent Kabir in the Yash Raj thriller War, which has raced past the Rs 300-crore milestone to become the highest grosser of the first 10 months of the year.

While I had expected that Hrithik would return to the forefront sooner or later, Shahid Kapoor sprang a surprise with Kabir Singh (yes, it was a good year for film characters named Kabir). Though Kapoor has scored thespian triumphs such as Haider and Udta Punjab in recent years, a solo-hero blockbuster had evaded him...till he took on the title role of Kabir Singh.

The role has attracted controversy for its alleged misogyny but there's no mistaking the manic intensity that the actor invests in making his character unique.

One of the most serendipitous surprises of 2019 was the manner in which the spotlight shone on Ayushmann Khurrana and Vicky Kaushal — two actors who re-established the primacy of talent and delivered successes with Dream Girl, Article 15 and Uri.

They have much to celebrate this season as they have also coincidentally shared the National Award for Best Actor a few months back. Another newbie, Kartik Aaryan, proved he was no fluke and consolidated his stardom with the success of ‘Luka Chhupi'. Sushant Singh Rajput smashed a Dhoni-style century with ‘Chichhore’.

Meanwhile, Tiger Shroff and Ranveer Singh remained at the top of their game with ‘War’ and ‘Gully Boy’ respectively. I am impressed at the sheer number of young actors doing well, and that's without counting Ranbir Kapoor who has no film releasing this year and Varun Dhawan who faced a rare setback in Kalank.

In the face of the virtual onslaught by blossoming talents, experienced players like Salman Khan (Bharat) Akshay Kumar (Mission Mangal, Kesari), Ajay Devgn (Total Dhamaal, De De Pyar De), John Abraham (Batla House) all held on to their territorial rights and delivered successes...they did the job of pulling in the audiences and the eventual box office of the films was in accordance with the intrinsic merit of the films.

Most remarkably, Amitabh Bachchan showed his career still had legs and toplined a hit film Badla at the age of 76! The Diwali party at the Bachchan house will be celebrated with special fervour this week.

Unfortunately, it has not been a stellar year for many of our heroines — no Deepika Padukone or Kareena Kapoor film has been released so far. But Vidya Balan has reason to glow like the red planet for her brisk performance as a conflicted but confident scientist in the Rs 200-crore grossing Mission Mangal. Although she had a little help from Akshay Kumar in piling up the box office numbers, I found her performance a standout.

Kangana Ranaut shone as the woman of steel, Manikarnika, and Taapsee Pannu's career prospects were all gleam and glint after she played the cold-as-flint murder accused in Badla. The enduring nature of Tabu’s appeal was validated by the warm reception accorded to De De Pyar De.

The glamour girls too could take satisfaction in venturing out of the box in their hits — Saaho’s gun-toting Shraddha Kapoor went grey for Chichhore as did Katrina Kaif in Bharat while Kriti Sanon took on live-in relationships in Luka Chhupi.

Alia Bhatt balanced out the disappointment that was her author-backed role in Kalank with a firecracker performance in Gully Boy, in what was a supporting role. Sometimes, a small sparkler can light up the brightest.