Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY - Words AHAD SANWARI

Some time back, Karan Jo­har an­nounced the be­gin­ning of his epic Takht. Ran­veer Singh, Ka­reena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Ped­nekar, Jan­hvi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor have all been roped in to star in this Mughal epic about the con­flict be­tween Au­rangzeb and Dara Shukoh over con­trol of the Mughal throne. While it won’t be out till 2020, it does bring into light an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion: how come there aren’t more suc­cess­ful ensem­ble cast (true ensem­ble) Bol­ly­wood movies?

Bol­ly­wood as an in­dus­try, has al­ways tried to fo­cus more on the ‘per­son­al­ity’ as­pect when mar­ket­ing its films. It’s been about the ‘ac­tors’ and the ‘stars’ that are in it. Takht, for ex­am­ple, has an ensem­ble cast filled with so much star power that it could po­ten­tially blind you. To be fair, that’s a given with any film in­dus­try, but Bol­ly­wood has al­ways liked prop­a­gat­ing it more so. Which is why it’s never easy for the in­dus­try to pro­duce what is a true ‘ensem­ble cast’ film. Now you’d say, “Wait, isn’t a movie like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham or La­gaan an ensem­ble film?” Tech­ni­cally, no. Those films wouldn’t be, since an ensem­ble cast fea­tures a bunch of ac­tors, whether pop­u­lar or not, who share roughly the same amount of sig­nif­i­cance with their roles and the same amount of screen time. What th­ese movies are is a ‘multi-star­rer’. There are sev­eral big names that could be as­so­ci­ated with a multi-star­rer, but the dif­fer­ence lies in the fact that some per­for­mances are no­tice­ably more im­por­tant or just plain longer than the oth­ers. Case in point, the pre­vi­ously men­tioned K3G, in which the ac­tors them­selves have said that the movie mostly re­volves around Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Ka­jol, and the other three are present as sup­port­ing char­ac­ters for the ac­tual cen­tral plot, de­spite Karan Jo­har’s ef­forts (no doubt, still

a great movie). In fact, the last time Bol­ly­wood had an ensem­ble cast movie in the realest sense was Dil Dhadakne Do, where Anil, Ran­veer, Priyanka Chopra, She­fali Shah, Farhan Akhtar and Anushka Sharma were all given equal fo­cus and equal im­por­tance. Sure, there are movies like Bom­bay Talkies, Life…in a Metro and Lust Sto­ries that all fea­ture a sim­i­lar cast, but those are clas­si­fied as an­tholo­gies, movies which in­ter­twine mul­ti­ple sto­ries that may or may not be re­lated; an ensem­ble has one plot. It’s all a bit much, isn’t it? Let’s make it a lit­tle sim­pler. An ‘ensem­ble’ would gen­er­ally con­sist of, say, at least five main cast mem­bers. That would in­stantly dis­qual­ify 3 Id­iots and Zindagi Na Mi­legi Do­bara, each of which have three cen­tral cast mem­bers and other sup­port­ing ones. For greater clar­ity, an ex­am­ple of a clas­sic Hol­ly­wood movie with an ensem­ble cast would be any of the Avengers movies, like In­fin­ity War. Iron Man may be a fan favourite, but that doesn’t mean that Cap­tain Amer­ica, Star Lord, Thor, Spi­der­man, Dr Strange or even Black Widow don’t get as much screen time or weight in the story it­self. Each mem­ber of the main cast is as im­por­tant as the other. And there are a lot of them. Bol­ly­wood hasn’t per­fected that for­mula just yet. And there are a few rea­sons why. Firstly, it’s harder to man­age the im­mense amount of star power that would be re­quired to make an ensem­ble film in Bol­ly­wood, where no ac­tor out­shines the other on the ba­sis of be­ing a celebrity. There’s no point in cast­ing Shah Rukh with, for in­stance, Wa­rina Hussain, Kriti Sanon,

Mughda Godse, Kartik Aaryan and Saqib Saleem and call them all equals, since, whether fairly or not, SRK’s star power would in­stantly make him the main at­trac­tion of the film. That’s why Takht sounds like a dream project, such high-pro­file stars shar­ing the same spot­light is bound to be a treat for ev­ery Bol­ly­wood movie fa­natic. Also, it’s a lit­tle harder for di­rec­tors to man­age so many stars al­to­gether. Karan Jo­har tak­ing that kind of thing on is a brave move, and it’s some­thing he’s done quite well be­fore with movies like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, a film that was close to be­ing an ensem­ble, but Pre­ity Zinta and Ab­hishek Bachchan’s roles weren’t big or meaty enough, even though they were cen­tral to the ac­tual story (again, pretty amaz­ing movie 12 years down the line). It’s a lot of work mak­ing big-bud­get movies with big-bud­get faces. Of­ten times, the stars as well don’t feel the need to ac­tu­ally have to pair up with an­other big name(s), be­cause they know they’re ca­pa­ble of earn­ing the big bucks from the box of­fice on their own, not to men­tion have to share the lime­light. So what is the fu­ture for an ensem­ble (the new ‘word of the day’) movies in Bol­ly­wood? It’s a task, no doubt. It can hap­pen, though. If Hol­ly­wood can have it, so can Bol­ly­wood (an ensem­ble, not a multi-star­rer, we got enough of those). Also, just think of how crazy theatres around the coun­try would get if Shah Rukh, Sal­man, Aamir, Priyanka, Ka­reena and Deepika (one of many ideal sam­ple casts) all end up on the big screen to­gether as one big happy fam­ily. Now that’s how you cause a sen­sa­tion!

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