Two films released on Friday, the much-hyped Katrina Kaif starrer Fitoor and the much less talked about Sanam Re. Yes, Sanam Re did get some pre-release news coverage because of the love affair between the main leads Yami Gautam and Pulkit Samrat, (which allegedly cost the latter his marriage), but it was not even a blip on the publicity blitzkrieg unleashed by the makers of Fitoor, which also stars Tabu and Aditya Roy Kapoor.
So, guess which film did better at the box office? Yup, Sanam Re.
Yami Gautam's multitude of fans have waited since at least 2012 to see her in a role that will do her acting talent justice.
Hopes for Sanam Re were not high pre-release. While both Samrat and Gautam are talented actors, it was thought they were unlikely to save a film that was widely rumoured to be a vanity project of director Divya Khosla. Khosla is the wife of Bhushan Kumar, the owner of T Series, which was bandied in industry circles as the only reason the movie went into production.
And yet, the film has done well. Not just well, but beaten stiff competition (Rs 17 crore over the weekend) helmed by the director of Rock On (Rs 14 crore). It seems good times are finally here for Yami Gautam, who is also set to star opposite Hrithik Roshan in Sanjay Gupta's Kaabil. All this should be a source of relief to her multitude of fans who have waited since at least 2012 to see her in a role that will do her acting talent justice.
That year saw her star opposite Ayushmann Khurrana in Vicky Donor, the story of a virile sperm donor whose life is turned upside down when his wife discovers that she cannot conceive. In spite of its ribald central theme, Vicky Donor became an unexpected hit, riding on the back of its stars' intense chemistry and a storyline that was more charming than lusty.
As the Bengali Ashima in love with the Punjabi Vicky, Gautam was perfect in the role of a literary-minded banker from an eclectic background who falls in love with the well-intentioned ruffian in Vicky. The film, written by Juhi Chaturvedi and directed by Shoojit Sircar, the same team that helmed the delightful Piku, derived much of its power from the commingling of two different communities and their traditions. It playfully evoked the stereotypes these communities are burdened with in the Indian imagination.
With the upcoming Kaabil, Gautam can hope to build on her cachet after starring opposite Hrithik Roshan.
After Vicky Donor, however, Gautam struggled to make her mark. She appeared in a number of films, none of which set the cash registers ringing. Some were not even bad, such as 2013's Total Siyaapa, in which she played an Indian woman in New York who falls in love with a Pakistani man, played by Ali Zafar. While not perfect, the comedy, which also starred the always-brilliant Kirron Kher as Gautam's mother, was smart enough in parts. It failed, though, to work at the box office.
The only other noteworthy part that Gautam has done since Vicky Donor was last year's Badlapur, in which she played Varun Dhawan's wife who is brutally murdered 15 minutes into the film. That film, which earned rave reviews on the back of Varun's performance, failed to increase Gautam's currency. Her fans wondered why she kept doing bit parts when she had the potential to do prominent roles.
Now, it looks like Sanam Re and Kaabil will turn things around for the actress. While the controversy over her relationship with Samrat has brought her negative publicity, as has her endorsement of the skin whitening cream Fair & Lovely, she is generally well-liked.
Sanam Re's success should bring back a spring in her step. With Kaabil, she can hope to build on her cachet after starring opposite Roshan. The film will be produced by Rakesh Roshan and given that it's a Sanjay Gupta product, is likely to be action-based. Even so, the possibility of its being a romance caper, in the league of Bang Bang, Hrithik's last release, cannot be ruled out.
This is the golden age for women in Bollywood from non-film backgrounds. From Deepika Padukone to Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut to Vidya Balan, nearly every top star of today was not born into Bollywood. The common theme connecting their professional success is the choice of roles, with which all of them have taken utmost care.
Gautam seems to have played the same game. She started her innings with television back in 2008, when she starred in one of Colors' first shows, Yeh Pyar Na Hoga Kam. In spite of that show not doing well and wrapping up early on, Gautam was noticed for her powerful screen presence. Following that, she waited, in a story entirely reminiscent of Vidya Balan's debut in Parineeta, until Vicky Donor to make a Bollywood splash. With delayed success finally finding its way to her, here's wishing her all the luck.
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