Abhishek Bachchan's last two solo hero films have flopped and he has not been seen on screen for a while. But, then again, he is doing director Mani Ratnam's Raavan and the combination has never failed so far.
Not surprisingly then, all eyes are on Raavan.
"The combination of Mani Ratnam and Abhishek is unbeatable. People are really looking forward to seeing them once again. With such a star cast and Mani Ratnam as director, the film is bound to work," trade analyst Taran Adarsh sai
Made at a budget of about Rs.45 crore, Raavan, also starring Aishwarya Rai and Vikram, is scheduled for a June 18 release.
Ratnam has played an important role in shaping Abhishek's career - the director's Yuva established him as an actor and their second venture together, Guru, won him critical and commercial success.
In the last two years Abhishek hasn't had any hits - both his solo hero movies Drona and Delhi 6 bombed. Industry insiders feel Raavan might bail out the actor in the way as Yuva did in 2003 when he was under the weather after a string of flops.
"Mani Ratnam and Abhishek Bachchan will create a bigger magic with Raavan than Yuva and Guru. Mani is an expert on dark themes and Abhishek pulls off such roles very well. Raavan will do spectacular work," film critic Omar Qureshi said.
Abhishek bowed into Bollywood in 2000 with J.P. Dutta's Refugee and it was followed by duds like Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya (2000), Dhai Akshar Prem Ke (2000), Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai (2002), Shararat (2002), Haan...Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya (2002) and Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost (2003). All these films saw Abhishek playing romantic roles.
But it was rough, uncouth and ruthless goon Lallan Singh in Ratnam's 2004 movie Yuva that broke the jinx for Abhishek. Despite playing a negative role, he not only wowed critics but also impressed the audience.
After that there was no looking back for Abhishek. In the same year he scorched the box office with another hit, Dhoom. His winning streak continued in 2005, when the actor gave four hits - Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar, Dus and Bluffmaster and he also did a cameo in the hit film Salaam Namaste.
"Before Yuva, Abhishek didn't have an actor kind of image. After Yuva, people were like, 'Oh my god! This guy can act.' But Mani sir was convinced that Abhishek can really do it," said a source on condition of anonymity.
Even Abhishek admits the film was a turning point in his career.
"I got 'Yuva' at a time when I really needed it. It boosted my confidence as an actor. I've evolved with Mani," Abhishek had said in an earlier interview.
Ratnam not only gave Abhishek pathbreaking roles but also presented him in dark roles.
In 2006, Abhishek teamed up again with Ratnam for Guru, which was loosely based on business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani's life. He landed the nomination for Filmfare best actor award for his performance in the film.
"Raavan" will once again see Abhishek as a villain and a lot of emphasis has been laid on his looks and body language. The film has lots of action scenes and stunts.
"It took 200 days to shoot the film. And it was not shot at one stretch. The film was simultaneously made in Hindi and Tamil. And then Mani sir fell ill. But Abhishek didn't do any work for two years because of 'Raavan'. Both Abhishek and Vikram kept their dates free for 'Raavan' because they knew the film is good," said the source.
Ratnam, who loves shooting on real locations, filmed Raavan at places like the Athirapally forests in Kerala, Ooty in Tamil Nadu, Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, Kolkata, and the Malshej Ghats in Maharashtra.
From diving from a 90-ft cliff into water to standing under a waterfall for two hours and braving snakes and leeches in Kerala's forests, Abhishek did it all for Raavan.
"This is the most challenging film I have ever done in my life. I haven't done such a physically and emotionally challenging film in my life. And it's not about going to tough locations or tough scenes.
"The film drains you and you feel so good when you go home at night because you feel that you have done something. Getting a movie like Raavan is so rare. You don't get such a role today," Abhishek has said.
With much hype surrounding the film, expectations are high and people are hoping that the Abhishek-Ratnam combo will strike bull's eye at the box office.