The year 2002 was one of the bleakest periods for Bollywood. Hrithik Roshan – who had taken India by storm in 2000 with ‘Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai’ – delivered three flops in the year and his career was fraying at the edges. Superstar Salman Khan also churned out three box-office bummers and seemed like a spent force.
Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn also failed to whip out a big hit. Govinda’s career was over the hill after a spate of disasters, while Anil Kapoor was struggling to even fetch a decent initial.
Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Devdas’ raked in moolah but due to its high production cost, the profits were moderate. Vivek Oberoi made a fine debut with ‘Company’ and ‘Saathiya’ but his hype in the media was belied by his actual box-office prowess.
It was a rare year where Bollywood was struggling for just a couple of pan-India hits. Only one movie ‘Raaz’ – which featured newcomers Dino Morea and Bipasha Basu – hit pay dirt at the box-office.
‘Bigger star than actual success’
At a time when almost all veteran stars were scrambling for hits, the Bollywood landscape was seeking a new phenomenon. On May 9, a small movie ‘Ishq Vishk’ – which was carrying minimal expectations – hit the screens. Due to excellent music and a fresh pair – Shahid Kapoor and Amrita Rao – it caught the fancy of viewers. Though not a blockbuster like Hrithik’s ‘Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai’, it went on to do good business (Rs 7 crore net in India). However, Shahid was lapped up and put on a pedestal both by the media and the industry which was starved for new blood.
Shahid had earlier appeared in movies such as ‘Dil To Paagal Hai’ and ‘Taal’ as a background dancer but went largely unnoticed. The success of ‘Ishq Vishk’ made him a star. In fact, the popularity of Shahid exceeded the actual success of the film. His dancing skills and chocolate-boy looks made him a rage, especially among teenagers.
‘Lull after the storm’
However, his world came crashing down in the next two years as a slew of his films such as ‘Fida’, ‘Dil Maange More’, ‘Deewane Huye Paagal’, ‘Shikhar’ and ‘Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!’ crumbled unceremoniously at ticket counters. Most of these films didn’t even open well which raised serious questions about his ‘pulling power’. Yet, surprisingly, his general popularity didn’t dip, at least in the industry. There were no dearth of offers from top banners and, in fact, he was even getting solo movies.
His pleasant on-screen persona and his roaring affair with Kareena Kapoor constantly kept him in news and perhaps worked as a buffer against his flops. His contemporary Vivek Oberoi, on the other hand, slipped off the radar during the same period after a few turkeys.
A ‘mini’ revival
Shahid heaved a sigh of relief in 2006 as his ‘Vivah’, directed by Sooraj Barjatya’, scuppered his box-office drought and turned out to be a superhit. Though the opening was extremely lukewarm, it picked up on the strength of word-of-mouth and ran for 25 weeks at many centres. ‘Vivah’ netted Rs 36 crore at the box-office and was one of the biggest hits of the year.
The next year, 2007, was a mixed bag for him. On a personal front, his break-up with Kareena created a stir. But professionally, the success of ‘Jab We Met’ buoyed his fortunes and stature.
‘Failure to consolidate’
Just like he was unable to build on the success of his debut film ‘Ishq Vishk’, Shahid once again failed to consolidate his position after ‘Vivah’ and ‘Jab We Met’. He had genuinely cultivated a very good following among viewers and was seen as a sincere, competent actor but Shahid couldn’t up his ante. Once again, a litany of listless films such as ‘Kismat Konnection’, ‘Dil Bole Hadippa’, ‘ Paathshaala’, ‘Chance Pe Dance’ and ‘Milenge Milenge’ pegged him back.
After 2007, he had a chance to secure his place in the higher echelons but, instead, he remained just another star. ‘Kaminey’ was his only film that worked during that period but that too was just a moderate success, not a runaway hit. But it did enhance his reputation as a performer which kept him afloat.
By 2012, new kids on the block such as Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh had pushed him down in the pecking order as he continued to give duds such as ‘Mausam’, ‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’ and ‘Teri Meri Kahani’. Again, surprisingly, he didn’t vanish into obscurity and continued to land plum offers.
‘Moderately successful period’
Meanwhile, ‘Haider’, ‘Udta Punjab’ and ‘R… Rajkumar’ kept him going throughout 2013-2017, though neither of them was a big hit. He won glowing acclaim, and a slew of awards, for his acting in ‘Haider’ and ‘Udta Punjab’. These movies did a world of good to his goodwill as an actor and stood him in good stead.
‘Best phase of career’
Ultimately, he delivered the first true-blue blockbuster of his career, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Padmaavat’ in 2018. Though Ranveer, as expected, got the top billing, Shahid’s presence was also noted. This time, Shahid didn’t squander the opportunity and finally belted out the biggest hit of his career ‘Kabir Singh’ (Rs 275 crore nett) in 2019. Though the reviews and general opinions about the film were highly polarised, the viewers loved his portrayal of an obsessive lover and it proved to be a massive money-spinner at the turnstiles.
At present, Shahid’s stocks are at an all-time high. He’s in the best phase of his career. He must understand that it is very rare when an actor survives despite the onslaught of so many flops and so few successes over a long period of time. He is perhaps the only actor in the last 20 years whose status as a star never completely faded despite a torrent of flops.
The industry has invested immensely in his talent and potential for 20 years. It is time for him to repay the industry and the audience, who have steadfastly stood by him, by fulfilling his potential as a star and a performer. The showbiz doesn’t usually endow anyone with so many chances which he has been given.
His new movie ‘Jersey’ is up for release tomorrow. Will it fortify his position as a star or once again he will fail to capitalize? Watch this space…