Bollywood: How Kartik Aaryan is packing a mean punch

The actor is the toast of Bollywood after Netflix's 'Dhamaka'. And though he has made some powerful enemies, he has emerged as a fans’ favourite to offset any ill-will.

By Kaveree Bamzai

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2021, 12:56 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Nov 2021, 2:33 PM

In 2012, Subhash Ghai's cinematographer Sudhir Chaudhary, showed him a few photographs of Kartik Aaryan (or Kartik Tiwari as he was known then). Ghai was looking for a fresh face for his new film, 'Kaanchi'.

"I liked his face and smile, so I called him. He was humble, polite with a promising face. I cast him without an audition because it was upto me to make him perform," the veteran director-producer recalled.

Ghai found him to be a good student, eager to learn more as an actor. ''He also requested if he could be my assistant director and I obliged," said Ghai. He was working on just one film, 'Pyaar ka Punchnama' — the first of his films with Luv Ranjan that launched him as the poster boy of sexist bromances.

'Kaanchi' was a story of a girl, said Ghai, but Kartik stood out with his part as a performer and people loved him. "I’m so proud of him (Kartik) today that he is now counted in the galaxy of stars," he added.

But Ghai has a word of advice for Kartik: he must work with good, smart directors and producers if he wants to be a long-term player in the industry.

Almost everyone has a good word for Kartik, whose star is on the ascendant after 10 years of playing the boy next-door with a solid performance in Ram Madhvani's 'Dhamaka', an angry take on the business-politics-media network in the country. But there's always a little counsel.

Ask Mudassar Aziz, who speaks highly of his 'Pati Patni Aur Woh' star and his sense of comedy. He also says he looks out for himself, above all else, " as must we all in this industry".

It's been quite a while since Bollywood has been faced with a newcomer who is so unabashedly in the service of his own rising stardom. In a world where hypocrisy abounds and everyone is eager to please, Kartik has managed to make powerful enemies, dropping out of 'Dostana 2', after being courted on the 'Koffee with Karan' couch by no less than Karan Johar — one of the industry's most influential filmmakers.

Even as Johar has let it be known that he considers Kartik's behaviour unprofessional, the actor has gone ahead and wooed other producers.

Madhvani said 'Dhamaka' was in fact Kartik's idea.

He had watched 'The Terror Live', the South Korean film from which 'Dhamaka' is adapted, and recommended it. "We'd had many conversations and Kartik wanted to do dramatic work and break out of the likeable, lover boy mould. He doesn't want to play plain vanilla characters," said Madhvani.

The director added that the ensemble cast of Amruta Subhash, Vikas Kumar and Soham Majumdar helped Kartik bounce off energy.

It's taken a while for Kartik to be considered a contender in the industry which is still very much ruled by princesses and princelings.

It is clear that Kartik will do anything to gain the advantage, whether it is flash his new Lamborghini or be chased by paparazzi with a trophy girlfriend.

Kartik is the son of a Gwalior-based doctor couple. He is an engineering graduate from the DY Patil College of Engineering in Navi Mumbai.

He is not above talking of his "struggle", living in an apartment with 11 others, cooking for everyone, giving auditions and getting rejected.

His film 'Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety' (2018) made over ₹100 (Dh4.93) crore at the box office.

The box-office success also marked his departure from a potential career as the king of B-grade bromances.

His upcoming films are promising: 'Bhool Bhulaiya 2' with Anees Bazmee, 'Shehzada' with Rohit Dhawan, 'Freedy' with Shashanka Ghose — the film formerly called Satyanarayan ki Katha produced by Sajid Nadiadwala — and 'Captain India' with Hansal Mehta.

Aziz, who directed him in 'Pati Patni Aur Woh' in 2019, said collaborating with him professionally is great fun as he understands the commercial element of comedies while maintaining the balance without veering into crassness. "We come from the same school of comedy," said Aziz. On a personal level, he said, "I have known him for many years when we both hadn't climbed very high on the success ladder. There's a side to him that is capable of being naughty.”

Kartik is very close to his family, he wants to do everything he can for them.

"If Kartik can balance his personal naughtiness with his professional talent, he will be a force to reckon with for a long time," Aziz added.

He seems to understand the zeitgeist, whether it is the frustrated young householder who thinks of himself as a victim of society, as is evident from his now trademark monologues whether in 'Pyaar ka Punchnama' or in 'Pati Patni Aur Woh'. Or whether it is the ambitious young man on the make, the male equivalent of Rebecca Becky Sharpe — the main protagonist of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel 'Vanity Fair' — looking out for a significant other who will give him significance. The Son of Gwalior as he is known among his friends is aware of his appeal among women, and he is not embarrassed about using it.

Kartik has almost the career Sushant Singh Rajput should have had if he had been less sensitive about Bollywood's innate cruelty and more upfront in manipulating his outsider status to his advantage.

(The author is a senior journalist and author, most recently of 'The Three Khans and the Emergence of New India')

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