Why write off Ranbir? The Khans, Akshay Kumar once fared worse

Four successive duds and the knives are out for Ranbir Kapoor, but even the superstars of Hindi cinema have experienced the lows.

Mayur Lookhar

Leave alone on one's birthday, no one likes to hear of one's failures on any day. Yet, it cannot be denied that the stock of Ranbir Kapoor, who turns 34 today (28 September), has dipped alarmingly over the past three years.

The GenNext Kapoor has had a tough time since his last hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) — which is still his biggest commercial success. The last three years have seen him dole out duds — Besharam (2013), Roy (2015), Bombay Velvet (2015), and Tamasha (2015).

The successive failures have punctured Kapoor's stardom and questions are being raised about his saleability. There is no doubting his talent, but at the end of the day it is the box-office numbers that decide an actor's fate.

But while he tries to answer the question mark over his box-office draw, Kapoor can take solace from history which shows us that even superstars like the three Khans and Akshay Kumar have been through similar slumps in the early part of their careers. And, of course, didn’t Amitabh Bachchan, the biggest superstar the Hindi film industry has seen, start his career with a dozen flops?

So let's turn the clock back and see how some of Hindi cinema's biggest stars fared in their early years:

Aamir Khan 

He has long been hailed as Mr Perfectionist of Hindi cinema, one who can’t put a foot wrong. Critics may be divided over some of his films, but over the last 15 years, Aamir Khan has often pumped in a blockbuster — Ghajini (2008), 3 Idiots (2009), Dhoom 3 (2013) and PK (2014).

But a careful look at his career will reveal that Aamir Khan has had more than his share of flops. He made his debut with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988). The film was a smash hit and turned him and co-star Juhi Chawla into stars. But this success wasn’t matched by his subsequent films. The period from 1989 to 1991 saw Aamir Khan dole out just one hit, Dil (1990), and seven flops — Raakh (1989). Love Love Love (1989), Tum Mere Ho (1990), Deewana Mujhsa Nahin (1990), Jawani Zindabad (1990), Awwal Number, (1990) and Afsana Pyar Ka (1991). Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahi (1991) did average business.

Aamir Khan then turned to his Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak director Mansoor Khan to help restore his credibility as a box-office draw. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992) was critically acclaimed and widely accepted by audiences, but it wasn’t a runaway box-office success. 

While Jo Jeeta... restored Aamir Khan's credibility as an actor, he continued to dole out poor films like Isi Ka Naam Zindagi, Daulat Ki Jung and Parampara — all 1992 releases. Parampara was Aamir Khan's first association with Yash Raj Films but it flopped badly.

After Dil, the actor took five long years to give his next certified hit. That transformation happened with Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela (1995). A year and a few more flops later, Aamir Khan produced his maiden blockbuster Raja Hindustani (1996). This was also the period when the actor cut down on his projects drastically, choosing to do just one film at a time. It paid rich dividends as, from 1996 to 1999, he had just one release every year. Raja Hindustani was followed by the success of Ishq (1997), Ghulam (1998), and Sarfarosh (1999).

After Lagaan (2001), the actor has been delivering one hit after another.

Salman Khan

It is well known that Salman's career really kicked off only with Wanted (2009). For a man who enjoyed an all-time blockbuster in his maiden film as a lead — Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) — Salman Khan gave us a few hits after that but was never taken seriously as an actor. He would star in hits, but those were attributed to his co-stars — Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit in Saajan (1991), Dixit again in Hum Aapke Hai Koun..! (1994), and Shah Rukh Khan in Karan Arjun (1995) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). 

After Saajan, Salman delivered six successive duds — Love (1991), Suryavanshi (1992), Ek Ladka Ek Ladki (1992), Jaagruti (1992), Dil Tera Aashiq (1993) and even Andaz Apna Apna (1994), 

His acting was monotonous and lacked conviction. Add to that his bad boy image and it took nine years for Salman Khan to be taken seriously as an actor when he earned praise from crtics and audiences alike in Tere Naam (2003). 

The ups and down continued till Wanted (2009), which showed Salman Khan the kind of cinema and the destiny that awaited him. After Dabangg (2010), there has been no looking back as Khan emerged indisputed king of the box office. Remarkably, this transformation happened when the actor was in his mid-40s. Well, Kapoor is just 34.

Akshay Kumar

At 49, he is going through the best phase of his life, becoming the only actor to score a hat-trick of Rs100 crore films in a calendar year — Airlift, Housefull 3, and Rustom (all 2016).

However, it was an altogether different story for the first decade and a half when Akshay Kumar made a name for himself as the Khiladi of Indian cinema, Of all the eight ‘Khiladi’ films, just two were hits — Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994) and Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995).

In fact, all through his 25 years so far, Kumar has had only 21 hits (including two blockbusters) while the flops (37) and disasters (13) add up to 50. 

In the mid-2000s, Kumar shifted from cold-blooded action films to light-hearted comedies, and the move worked wonders. Garam Masala (2005) was followed by five successive duds, but Kumar turned the wheel around with Phir Hera Pheri (2006).

The following year 2007 was the golden year for Kumar as he had three hits — Namastey London, Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiya — and a blockbuster, Welcome. From here on, Kumar pumped in more films every year; some worked, some didn’t, but the consistency has enabled him to become the most bankable star in Hindi cinema. After all, does Salman Khan do four films a year?

Ajay Devgn

A relative underdog in the 1990s, with the Khans taking the spotlight, Devgn had only six hits in the first decade of his career. He had done 32 films by then, having started his career with a bang with Phool Aur Kaante (1991)  and followed it up with a hit in Jigar (1992). But through the next decade, Devgn struggled to compete with the Khans.

The new millennium saw Devgn cut down on the clichéd subjects and experiment with different roles. Gangajaal and Bhoot (both in 2003) were prime examples. In 2004, he experimented with the sex comedy Masti and it clicked. However, after Masti, Devgn struggled to deliver a hit. It took two long years before Devgn scored with Golmaal (2006). Surprisingly, the critically acclaimed Omkara (2006) was a box-office failure.

Devgn produced his first big commercial success in the multi-starrer Prakash Jha film Raajneeti (2010), nearly 20 years after making his acting debut. Ranbir Kapoor is barely 20 films old and he already has one blockbuster to his credit, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), and two hits, Rockstar (2011) and Barfi! (2012).

Shah Rukh Khan

Perhaps the only star who showed remarkable consistency in the 1990s was Shah Rukh Khan. That does not mean King Khan did not have his share of duds. It was just the sheer power of hits/blockbusters that made people forget his bad films. For instance, if there had been no Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or Karan Arjun, Shah Rukh would have notched up five duds that year (Guddu, Zamaana Deewana, Oh Darling Yeh Hai India!, Trimurti and Anjaam).

Shah Rukh has done 57 films in his 24-year career, which includes five blockbusters, five super hits, 14 hits, and 20 flops.

All said and done, it is evident that the above names did not achieve superstardom in a jiffy. It has taken them decades of struggle, several flops, and a few blockbusters to be where they are today. Kapoor is barely 20 films old and only aged 33. As they say in the business, all it takes is one film to turn the corner.

Here’s wishing the actor a happy 34th birthday and luck for his next — Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.