Mixing and matching lead pairs Bollywood tries new recipe

The glamorous and the intense, the star and the actor, the reigning heartthrob and the quiet performer… filmmakers are trying out unusual pairings in the belief that opposites will attract.

Sample Akshay Kumar-Chitrangada Singh, Irrfan Khan-Priyanka Chopra or Abhay Deol-Sonam Kapoor.

Thanks to experimental scripts with offbeat themes — and adventurous filmmakers — these unconventional pairs will soon be seen on the big screen. While Chitrangada of Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi fame has been paired up with successful star Akshay in Rohit Dhawan’s Desi Boys, offbeat actor Irrfan and Bollywood’s glamour girl Priyanka will be seen together in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Saat Khoon Maaf.

Abhay, known for his many experiments with unconventional cinema, will rub shoulders with Sonam in Aisha. The young actress has done commercial movies like Saawariya and Delhi-6 and her next is I Hate Luv Storys.

Another unusual pair soon to grace the silver screen will be Ajay Devgn and Kangana Ranaut in Ekta Kapoor’s forthcoming underworld drama Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai.

According to film critic Omar Qureshi, directors are opting for such unusual pairings due to a lack of big ticket stars in the Hindi film industry.

“There are a handful of big stars and many a time directors run out of stars because of their busy schedules. These days scripts give directors the freedom to experiment and give a fresh look to the story,” Qureshi says.

“Now people are looking for performances in films. Star value is not the only unique selling proposition of the movie, unlike earlier when we mostly saw fixed pairings of Dharmendra with Hema Malini and Amitabh Bachchan with Jaya Bachchan.”

Last year, when National Award winning actress Konkona Sen Sharma was paired with Ranbir Kapoor in Wake Up Sid, critics were skeptical. But the fears were unfounded as the crackling chemistry between the lead pair struck an instant chord with audiences.

“Konkona was the perfect match for that role. The role demanded someone who did not look like a typical teen but someone who is mature, unlike the slacker played by Ranbir,” said film critic Anupama Chopra.

Before Wake Up Sid, Konkona had teamed up with Saif Ali Khan in Vishal Bharadwaj’s critically acclaimed Omkara.

Recently, Konkona was paired opposite Ajay Devgn in Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, a comedy directed by Ashwani Dheer. The movie fared well at the box office and the pair was well accepted by viewers.

Filmmakers have tried the “mix and match” pin earlier as well, though not always with commercial success.

In Main Meri Patni Aur Woh, director Chandan Arora brought together popular Bengali actress Rituparna Sengupta and Rajpal Yadav. Despite the fact that they defied typical norms of filmy couples, the film was hugely appreciated by critics and people liked watching them in this simple family drama set in a small town that turned out to be a moderate success.

Irrfan’s pairing opposite Lara Dutta in Billu and with Juhi Chawla in Krazzy 4 were, however, rejected by audiences. But his chemistry with Tabu in Mira Nair’s The Namesake was applauded.

“There is a dearth of good and saleable stars in the Hindi film industry, which produces more than 200 films in a year. When it comes to casting, the choice usually boils down to four Khans (Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir and Saif), Hrithik (Roshan) and Abhishek (Bachchan) and the topmost four heroines (Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai),” said Chopra.

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