Youth invasion in 2019...but don’t count the old guard out just yet

Vicky Kaushal and Ayushmann Khurrana sharing the Best Actor trophy at the National Award ceremony held this week is hugely symbolic of the charge of the youthful brigade which is currently invading the Hindi film industry. 2019 was the year when a glossy posse of burgeoning stars confidently claimed a large share of the spotlight, and there were several new and youthful additions to the industry’s go-to list of saleable stars.

Vicky Kaushal & Akshay Kumar at the National Awards

2019 began with a smash success in Uri: The Surgical Strike, which made a star of its athletic leading man, Vicky Kaushal. He may have played supporting roles as recently as last year (think Raazi, Sanju) but now the 31-year-old actor has been snapped up by filmmakers such as Karan Johar and Shoojit Sircar. His co-winner at the National Awards, Ayushmann Khurrana’s year has been nothing less than stellar — the actor delivered a hat-trick of successes with Bala, Dream Girl and Article 15 and has achieved something truly rare — he has firmly entrenched himself in the A-list now even while maintaining his position as an actor consistently willing to take creative risks. Kartik Aaryan too is now seen as a star with an opening draw. The profits spun by two of his romantic-comedies this annum — Luka Chhupi and Pati Patni Aur Woh — have established that he is no flash in the pan.

Vicky Kaushal & Akshay Kumar at the National Awards

Another 30-something star Tiger Shroff energetically held his own against two-decade-old star Hrithik Roshan in 2019’s biggest blockbuster, War. Shahid Kapoor made a spectacular return to form as the disgruntled lover in the superhit Kabir Singh. Sushant Singh Rajput scored with Chhichhore. Early in the year, Ranveer Singh reiterated that he is one of the most popular stars today with an impassioned performance as a troubled rap musician in Gully Boy.

Among the actresses, young Alia Bhatt (Gully Boy) and Shraddha Kapoor (Saaho, Chhichhore) continued to do well in 2019, but several former middle-level names have also whizzed up the ladder. Bhumi Pednekar delivered strong performances in Bala and Pati Patni Aur Woh and she shared an award for Saand Ki Aankh with Taapsee Pannu. After racking up a hit with Badla, Tapsee has signed an eye-widening number of women-oriented films such as Thappad, Shabash Mithu, Haseen Dilruba and Rashmi Rocket.

Kriti Sanon is riding high with Luka Chhupi and Housefull 4 and can now balance big-male-star vehicles like the Akshay Kumar starrer Bachchan Pandey with an author-backed role in Mimi. Kiara Advani has come to stay with Kabir Singh’s super-success and we will see her in numerous films soon. And Yami Gautam made her presence felt in the gritty Uri: The Surgical Strike and bagged an award recently for her deliriously daffy turn in Bala.

While the award season’s first major televised jamboree saw Ranveer and Alia bagging the top honours, don’t count the old guard out from awards or continued box office dominance just yet. Hrithik Roshan has just had one of the most successful years in his 20 years of stardom with twin triumphs in the blockbuster War and the critically acclaimed Super 30. In his 30th year as a star, Salman Khan continues to make hay with Bharat which grossed over Rs 200 crore in India and the recent Dabangg 3 which has already crossed the 100-crore rubicon. Most significantly, Amitabh Bachchan celebrates 50 years as an actor with a box office success in Badla!

Ajay Devgn had reason to rejoice this year courtesy Total Dhamaal and De De Pyar De. And Akshay Kumar has already banged out three hits — Kesari, Mission Mangal and Housefull 4 with the release of Good Newwz this week bringing the number to four. Not only is he our most prolific male star but he has also witnessed two of his films cross the Rs 200 crore mark this year.

The fact that reigning queens like Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma had no films releasing this year did contribute to the rise of newer names. But their contemporaries like Katrina Kaif (she has just signed a film with youngsters Ishaan Khattar and Siddhant Chaturvedi!) and Kangana Ranaut stayed in the news with Bharat and Manikarnika. And after 20 years of stardom, Kareena Kapoor continues to have a crowded dates diary — Good Newwz has just been released and it will be followed by Laal Singh Chaddha alongside Aamir Khan, Hindi Medium 2 and Karan Johar’s directorial venture Takht. As Akshay put it recently: “Kareena gets better with every year; like wine.”

So while the youthful revolution is raging at the Hindi film industry, the Bollywood Bastille has not fallen as yet. One of the pleasures of 2020 will be to witness whether either of the two sides will be able to outdo the other.