Brawn appeal: Abhi, John rule roost
The two are considered best of the lot in Bollywood, writes Diganta Guha.
Dhoom happened in 2004, but for two actors it changed things forever. Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham, the two leads in Sanjay Gadhvi’s speedy crime thriller, are now being looked at as The Next Big Things in Bollywood.
Directors and producers are now flocking to them. John, who commands a price of around Rs 1.5 crore per project, has Yash Raj Films’ Kabul Express, Ravi Chopra’s Babul, Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq and others. At Rs 2.5 crore per film, Abhishek is pricier but he, too, has a string of films, including JP Dutta’s Umrao Jaan, Mani Ratnam’s Guru, Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Gadhvi’s Dhoom 2 and Ram Gopal Varma’s sequel to Sarkar. In 2006, Abhishek is working in films worth around Rs 100 crore. John’s worth this year is around Rs 70 crore.
Contemporary Hrithik Roshan once called Abhishek a lambi race ka ghoda. This was when Bachchan junior’s films were flopping. It was in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (which was otherwise a dud at the box-office) that Abhishek stood out. Successes like Dhoom, Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar, Dus and Bluffmaster followed. John, too, reversed his fortunes slowly. The model-turned actor lived in the shadow of his more successful girlfriend, Bipasha Basu for some time. It was after a series of flops, barring Jism where Bips stole the show, that Dhoom happened. John needed a Viruddh (where he held his own alongside veteran stars Amitabh Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore) and Sanjay Gupta’s Zinda, to prove critics wrong. Now with Milan Luthria’s Taxi No. 9 2 11, he is on a roll. Deepa Mehta’s Water has also given him global exposure.
Why the sudden stardom? The logic is simple: both are young (in their 30s) and have developed a tremendous fan following across the country. They have also gained star value with advertisers. John is the face of Yamaha, Pepsi and Bombay Dyeing among others. Abhishek endorses Ford and LG.
But beyond star appeal both John and Abhishek have given mature performances. Agrees Luthria: “The film industry hasn’t seen a two-way rivalry since the Amitabh Bachchan-Vinod Khanna battle. These two seem to be going that way.” Both have also held their own when pitched opposite powerful actors, be it Abhishek in Bunty Aur Babli and Sarkar (with Amitabh Bachchan) or John in Viruddh and Taxi No. 9211. Rohan Sippy, who directed Chhota B in Kuch Naa Kaho and Bluffmaster and co-produced Taxi No. 9 2 11 says, “Both are good actors.”
Both Abhishek and John have had decent openings recently. “The opening for Bluffmaster and Taxi No. 9 2 11 was 60 – 75 per cent in metros,” says Pravin Nischol, CEO, Entertainment One, Production Division of Adlabs Films Limited, which co-produced both films. They seem to be pitched against each other. The Khans (Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir) are in their 40s. Hrithik Roshan is doing fewer projects. Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar are in different slots. Are John and Abhishek fighting for the number one spot? The race has just begun.