There were two major official film announcements last week: one was the remake of the South hit Kanchana which will star Akshay Kumar, and second was the Karan Johar-produced biopic on the Kargil hero Vikram Batra headlining Sidharth Malhotra. There is one common factor in these two diverse films — the leading lady of both is Kiara Advani.
One of the most interesting aspects of being a film writer is watching the almost weekly changing of power equations among the players here, marking the passage into obsolescence of older stars and the often sudden emergence of new stars. The two plum roles Kiara has landed made me sit up and take notice. Half a decade ago, Akshay Kumar produced her first film Fugly (2014) in which he cast her with a bunch of newcomers and now she is his heroine! And she seems to be Karan Johar’s latest blue-eyed girl.
I knew of Kiara as the heroine of Fugly which co-starred my friend Arfi Lamba and as the step-granddaughter of Ashok Kumar’s daughter Bharti, whom I always find it interesting to talk to. Kiara may not have scored a big role in a hit film yet but she was noticed in MS Dhoni, in the item number in Kalank and of course in the Karan Johar directed episode of the web series Lust Stories, which frankly addressed the topic of female sexuality.
The web series and her successful foray into the South has proven to be her springboard into the Hindi film industry — before 2019 is through, she will be seen in the Karan Johar produced Good News (alongside Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh) and Kabir Singh (a remake of Arjun Reddy) in which she is paired opposite Shahid Kapoor. Soon, no one in the audience will be asking ‘Kiara, who?’
Kiara Advani is not the only one. 2019 is likely to witness the influx of several new girls who are on the verge of becoming marquee names. A filmmaker friend of mine laments, “Where are the saleable young actresses who can be cast in mainstream films? Deepika and Kangana act only in films revolving around themselves. Anushka and Sonam seem keen on entering that zone and are signing very few films. Jacqueline and Sonakshi’s careers no longer have the molten heat they once had. And how many films can Alia and Shraddha do? The film industry needs several new actresses.”
At the start of 2019, based on the numerous films they had signed, I had placed my bets on Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar and Kriti Sanon making a mark. Kriti has already had a hit this year in Luka Chuppi and is a busy actress today while Taapsee has scored a triumph with Badla. After Pink and Badla, she has signed a third film with Amitabh Bachchan, forming one of the unlikeliest steady team-ups in filmdom. While Bhumi’s Sonchiriya bit the dust at the box office, she is biding her time with half a dozen films on hand, including a couple with Karan Johar’s banner opposite 2019’s fastest rising star, Vicky Kaushal.
Seems likely that several other heroines will also make their breakthrough soon. Rakul Preet Singh went under the radar after Yaariyan (2014) but, like Kiara, re-emerged as a successful actress in the South. Now she is witnessing a Bollywood resurrection. She stands her ground opposite Ajay Devgn and Tabu in the trailer of De De Pyar De and has also been snapped up for Milaap Zaveri’s Marjavaan opposite Sidharth Malhotra and Riteish Deshmukh. Disha Patani played it cool and has done just two films (MS Dhoni and Baaghi 2) in a span of three years, avoiding all substandard projects, and now her circus act with Salman Khan in the forthcoming Bharat is the talk of the town. She is already shooting for her next, Mohit Suri’s Malang opposite Aditya Roy Kapoor.
Last year’s debutantes Sara Ali Khan and Jhanvi Kapoor are instantly recognisable faces with a couple of prized projects each. But before we see them on screen next we will learn whether Student Of The Year 2 actresses Ananya Pandey and Tara Sutaria have the capability to graduate to the next level in films. Back in 1990-1991 the was a lot of buzz about two dozen new girls entering films (Karisma Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Pooja Bhatt, Manisha Koirala amongst them). Those numbers are unparalleled but at this juncture, there are several film industry women on the verge of a breakthrough too. I am waiting to see how the chips fall.