Year of the underdog

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi:

The assault of Bollywood’s top guns has been so intense in 2004 that in the new year, big names like Shah Rukh Khan and Yash Chopra could take a backseat and let the underdogs take over. What is striking about the line up of major films in store for 2005 is that after an overdose of movies featuring Shah Rukh and Salman Khan, the stars will more or less disappear from the marquees for most of next year.

Shah Rukh’s calendar for 2005 includes producing a film to be directed by Amol Palekar in February, which going by the filmmaker’s repertoire, will hardly be the stuff to entice the masses. The actor, however, says: “It will be a typical Shah Rukh Khan movie. Simple, interesting and nice. And Rani Mukherjee is on.” Besides he will be doing a film with Karan Johar in April but given the lengthy post-production work that the filmmaker is known for, the film is unlikely to see the light of day this year.

Salman, on the other hand, has no big film ready for release in the near future. He is said to be working on his first Hollywood production, but there is no word from his producers about the release date of the film. Salman’s former girlfriend Aishwarya Rai will continue to sculpt a career in Hollywood, though her maiden foreign film — “Bride and Prejudice” — was seen as neither a true Bollywood extravaganza nor a Hollywood flick. No big film of hers is slated for release in the domestic market barring a teenybopper romance with Zayed Khan.

The new year will, in all likelihood, belong to stars who have for long remained under the shadows of the Khans. Vivek Oberoi in “Kisna” is a good contender. Says the film’s director Subhash Ghai: “His role in ‘Kisna’ was not easy. Vivek has the ability to get under the skin of a character. I’ve also heard he’s really good in Soham Shah’s ‘Kaal’.” The bilingual “Kisna” — two versions for Indian and international audiences — will hit the theatres Jan 21. Set in the 1930s, the film recreates the final days of British rule in the Himalayan region through an Indian of humble origin (Vivek) who falls in love with a British girl (Antonio Bernath). Coming after the flop “Yaadein”, this is clearly Ghai’s vital test at the turnstiles.

After watching Abhishek Bachchan deliver in “Dhoom”, “Yuva” and others, it is hoped that this year he will finally shine. Maverick filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma is of the opinion that after the release of “Sarkar”, Abhishek will surpass all. “He’s a man among boys,” says Varma. That Abhishek will leave no stone unturned is clear from that he has agreed to be seen along with his legendary father onscreen. The first official film of the father and son duo will be “Sarkar” which is Varma’s take on “The Godfather.”

Abhishek is also part of a fun film — “Babli And Bunty” which is slated for an April release. This racy chase-flick is about two small-town con-people (Rani Mukerjee and Abhishek) on the run, trailed by a top-cop (Amitabh Bachchan). Incidentally, talk about Amitabh having put in his career’s best performance in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Black” is making the otherwise sober film hot. Saif Ali Khan is among the hot contenders for ruling the marquees in 2005. He will be in Pradeep Sarkar’s directorial debut “Parineeta” and praise has come his way from none other than Karan Johar who says: “He plays Shekhar, the spoilt but vulnerable rich kid who doesn’t know what he wants in life. I think he’ll be unbeatable after this film.”Johar himself will change track this year. He is coming up with a suspense thriller that is being directed by his assistant Soham Shah.

The choice of Ajay Devgan as the lead in the film itself is a clear indication that it will not be a bit like Karan’s trademark products. The only constant will probably be an appearance by Shah Rukh Khan. Hrithik Roshan and Rakesh Roshan have chosen not to stray too far from the beaten track and will come out with sequel “Koi Mil Gaya 2.” Hrithik will be paired with Priyanka Chopra though the film attempts to explore the relationship between a grandmother and grandson. This will be Hrithik’s first film with his father in which he will return to the superhero form, which had brought him instant stardom in “Kaho Na Pyaar Hai”.