Many A-list actors are teaming up with new-age directors for a slew of films. Will this potentially deadly pairing script a new chapter in Hindi cinema and bump up box-office collections?
In most films, one of the truly pivotal collaborations is between actor and director, and we are used to seeing the following combinations – a veteran director launching a new face or a seasoned director teaming up with A-listers and superstars.
But here’s a fresh pairing – the three Khans are teaming up with relatively NEW directors, a risky proposition but one that could deliver impressive results. And this, when paired with amazing content, is a sure-shot winner at the box-office. We saw what happened when R Balki worked with Amitabh Bachchan in films like Cheeni Kum, Paa and Shamitabh, which showcased the megastar’s persona in an altogether new avatar. Now the Khans are changing and the industry and audience are all agog.
Come next year and we will see Shah Rukh Khan’s film Fan directed by Maneesh Sharma, and the superstar also teams up with Rahul Dholakia in Raees. Salman Khan is working with Ali Abbas Zafar in Sultan and Aamir Khan is working with Nitesh Tiwari in Dangal.
There’s an instinctive curiosity that accompanies a seasoned actor’s collaboration with a new-age director. And, other than the Khans, there are many new actor-director collaborations currently in the making. With the kind of content these collaborations are working on, it seems they have the potential to go on to develop into something exciting and different for the audience. This year, we saw Zoya Akhtar directing veteran actor Anil Kapoor in Dil Dhadakne Do, and in the upcoming film Brothers we have Karan Malhotra directing Akshay Kumar, whose look in the film is quite unlike what we have seen him portray before. In Wazir, directed by Bejoy Nambiar, we have megastar Amitabh Bachchan bound to a wheelchair. Ajay Devgn too is not far behind as he teams up with Nishikant Kamat for Drishyam.
This week, we ask tradewallahs to comment on the changing tide, where seasoned actors are working with new directors. Do they think these new directors will approach the stardom of these actors differently? And how will these new jodis reflect on the big screen? Here’s what people from the trade and B-Town have to say…
I am sure the actors have chosen to do these movies as they believe strongly in the scripts and in the director’s vision for these scripts. The working rhythm between the actor and director would get started earlier in the process even before the shoot and right from the first narration. We are excited to be working on Dangal with Nitesh and Aamir. Once our creative team came up with the story idea of Dangal, Nitesh was our first choice as writer-director for this story. He developed the script and Aamir loved it! In fact Aamir has often worked with first time directors or directors early in their career like Farhan Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, John Matthew Mathan, Ashutosh Gowarikei and many more, and the work that comes out of these collaborations has invariably been so exciting and fresh. And we’re sure it’ll be just the same with Dangal!
A part from having charisma and amazing screen presence, the Khans are also good judges of creativity and what works. That’s why they have been so successful for such a long time. I am sure they look for what excites and challenges them. I don’t think it’s about new or old directors; rather their decisions are driven by content. Shah Rukh Khan has always worked with new or first-time directors at various stages of his career. The outcome of such collaborations was hugely popular and successful films – Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Main Hoon Na or even Kal Ho Naa Ho. All these films were made by first-time directors. And how can we forget Chak De! India, which was made by a relatively new director at that time? Also, let’s not forget that the creative business is a collaborative process. The Khans are seasoned actors with a huge body of experience, so their involvement itself adds significant value to the creative.
It is always exciting to see the three Khans experiment with their roles and films. Be it Fan or Raees, Sultan or Dangal, each film is said to be starkly different from the other. When a filmmaker works with any of the three for the first time, it is a great opportunity for him to introduce them in a new light. Moreover the new age directors know the pulse of the audience and do not come with any baggage thereby bringing in a fresh perspective. The stardom of these three can be used as a huge advantage to present something fresh because they are constantly pushing the envelope. They aren’t tied to their image and therein lies the route of success for any filmmaker working with them for the first time.
The biggest appeal of a new director is that a good new director can present a star in a fresh way. For instance, the way in which two debutant directors, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar, had presented Shah Rukh Khan was revolutionary and record-breaking during its time. Or the way debutant director Farhan Akhtar presented Aamir in Dil Chahta Hai was something the audience had never imagined before. What they lack in experience, new directors make up for in enthusiasm and do-or-die dedication to their first film.
We are also working with the multiple award-winning ad filmmaker Ram Madhvani, who is making his debut in feature films with the Neerja biopic. The way he is presenting a star like Sonam Kapoor is going to be a career-defining role for her. So the mix of a good new director and a star almost always brings in something exciting and fresh to watch.
Our industry is at a stage where we know that content is working above all else. As a director, it becomes your responsibility to showcase the actors in a never-seen-before avatar. A star opens up your film to a larger audience. As a director, we want to make a film, and if a star buys into it, it’s great. I believe it’s a bonus. Speaking of our three superstars, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, I believe they have always managed to reinvent themselves. Salman Khan did Tere Naam when everyone was doing formula films, which was a great attempt. Aamir Khan did Dhoom 3 when the audience was expecting only different kinds of films from him. Or the Fan teaser which released recently shows the enigma of SRK. So I believe all of them want to do new content, and, as directors, we have to look within to know whether we can create that space where they will be seen. Also, with changing times, and good films breaking records at the ticket counter, the message from the audience is clear – they won’t take a bad film home.
Today, it’s the content which is working. So when you mix stardom with content, obviously it will do outstanding business. Our stars know that the audience is looking for a good storyline and you can’t feed them just about anything. Big-star films might get a good opening but won’t last even a weekend if the content is weak. Films that the audience is raving about are high on content so our superstars have also started giving content a lot of importance. When you do a good film, it brings about a certain kind of dignity as you feel good about it. I am assuming Salman Khan’s Sultan will be totally different from what he has done to date. And with the star power meeting content, it will be a great mix.
I am fairly new to film direction as I am just one film old. I will be working with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Sarabjit. As a director, it’s my job to see that I get the best from my actor because these days, actors are looking for acting-oriented roles.
I feel there is a deliberate effort to work really hard when it comes to narrative. The star will also bring in charisma but you have to work on the subject as our actors are becoming increasingly particular about content. For instance, Aamir Khan is known for content-driven, meaningful cinema but he also did Dhoom 3, which worked wonders at the box office. It was the opposite of what he was doing. Similarly, Shah Rukh Khan will be seen in Raees, a Rahul Dholakia film, and Maneesh Sharma’s Fan.
Salman Khan is known for his action and style and so far his fans used to watch his films only to see him. But Bajrangi Bhaijaan looks very high on content, so a change has definitely happened in terms of choosing a script. Deepika Padukone doing Piku was a fantastic career move. So if you get a big star with a good storyline, it will do mind-blowing business. Today, actors don’t look only at the story; they are also particular about who is shooting the film, the look of the film and the entire craft.
I think everyone has realised that the audience demands good films. Only stardom or only good music can make a film survive only so long. At the end of the day, the story should have something to tell, which the audience can take back home. Hence, actors today are looking for good writers and directors who can portray them in a new way. And that’s what the new breed of directors brings to the table – new sensibilities and new stories. It will be interesting to see the mix of content and a big star doing a film. With two eras meeting each other, the approach of looking at a story will be new. For instance, Maneesh Sharma directing Shah Rukh Khan in Fan will be an interesting watch, as will be Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan.
Ananth Mahadevan, Director
The stars would do well to lend an ear to new directors and ideas, although sheer force of habit might make them put in their precious two-bit. New directors would do well to approach the filming process with confidence. That would help rid the stars of any apprehension about their capabilities. Having said that, it is hoped that the stars who have given a nod to a new experience have done so in total faith and not hoping to resort to their own inputs and experience as the filming progresses. It would also help if the directors don’t get overawed by the larger-than-life image of the stars and play their natural game.
Everybody is now trying to make content-based films and that includes the stars. For a long time, our industry has banked on formulaic films. But with audience tastes changing and the demand for good content increasing, our stars have become more cautious while selecting films. But a film can’t be content-driven alone; it also has to entertain the audience. So when you cast a big actor like Salman Khan, Aamir Khan or Shah Rukh Khan, entertainment is guaranteed. Also, the new breed of directors has a new way of looking at filmmaking. It’s more realistic in its approach, so Shah Rukh Khan doing Raees or Fan along with Dilwale will be interesting to look forward to.
I think you will see something special on the big screen. These are films about characters and the big stars are playing something very different from what they are usually associated with. It should make for some great moments on screen as younger directors are presenting the three biggest actors in our industry in a way we haven’t seen before.
The new breed of young directors is already using with advanced content, technology and expertise to excel. Many new cult directors have proved the same in the recent past, like Abhinav Kashyap, Vikas Bahl and Karan Malhotra. The top three Khans possess their own aura and stardom, which influences the films they do. Having said that, I strongly believe, to each his own. And certainly this lethal combination will spell magic on-screen.
Yes, the new-age directors are expected to tell great stories in a new way. They should take their actors’ stardom and present them in a new light and on a much grander scale. Obviously, the three Khans have thought this through because they want to reach newer heights and set new standards with each new film they do. The audience gets to see their favourite stars in newer avatars. So this mix of stardom and fresh directors can be a deadly combination at the box office.
I am sure these new-age directors will bring in a new vision and style to films but it is extremely important that they do not lose the opportunity to harness the super-stardom of these actors and play to the gallery! While an actor’s job is to ‘act’, a star’s job is to sell tickets and draw the audience. All the films in question here are being made on massive budgets and it’s crucial to ensure that these directors play to the strengths of these stars and tap into their massive fan base to bring in the dough. On the flipside, the three Khans have either just turned or will be turning 50 this year, and at this age, they need to reinvent themselves and do films that suit their age besides ensuring their commercial viability. I’m quite sure the directors of these films will have that on their mind.
I think it’s very important to change with the times. Every director has a unique style of filmmaking and it is sad that the older directors don’t innovate. If a particular style of film of theirs has worked in the past, they keep using that same old formula. Meanwhile, the movie-going audience has changed, so the only way to move forward is to innovate and that is something these new directors are capable of. They bring in a new vision and they can use the superstar’s presence and create something completely different. I feel new directors teaming up with our superstars is a great combination.
Girish Wankhede,Distributor, Entity One
This is the best change we have seen in the Hindi film industry for a long time. Just like R Balki showcased Amitabh Bachchan in a new light with his films, whether Cheeni Kum or Paa, these new directors have the opportunity to showcase these seasoned actors in a new manner. Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan have nothing to lose as they have reached a place in their careers where they choose the directors they want to work with, and by giving the new lot a chance they have steered Hindi cinema in a new and positive direction.
These new directors have a new way of approaching films, which when mixed with the experience of these actors will be nothing short of marvelous for the storytelling techniques of these directors. Our audience not only loves these actors but has been connected to them for years. Now they will get to see them in a fresh light. Such an encouraging change in our industry will bring about positive results.
The best example is the recently released teaser of Maneesh Sharma’s Fan, which features Shah Rukh Khan as Fan. The teaser is phenomenal and the way it portrays Shah Rukh Khan’s stardom is outstanding. These directors have already proved their potential with their previous films and their promising future has got even brighter thanks to these actors. It will be great to watch the Khans in a new mould. In last week’s interview, Siddharth Roy Kapur mentioned the kind of research that went into Dangal and this shows how the director will portray Aamir Khan’s perfectionist image on the big screen. Ali Abbas Zafar has shown that he has the ability to make a zara hatke film with Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and also a massy film like Gunday. So when he gets an actor like Salman Khan, the result will be colossal.
The fact that these stars are working with comparatively new directors shows that these directors have huge potential. In today’s times, the audience looks for new and innovative content and when new content mixes with the calibre of these actors, the result will be massive. It will be interesting to see the creative approach of these directors mixed with the stardom of the three Khans.