New Delhi: One of the most common statements that our Bollywood actors make goes something like this: 'I am an actor. I am versatile. I am always trying to do different roles.' One after the other they roll out 'hat ke' (distinct) films with 'hat ke' characters. Yet, somehow without much effort, we've managed to stereotype 10 characters of present-day Bollywood and attached a face to them.
Saif Ali Khan: Smooth Operator
We all saw his metamorphosis from the pansy-boy in Parampara to the swanky private agent in Agent Vinod. Bollywood in the early 90s had nothing metrosexual about it and Saif's fair complexion, pretty eyes and unusual voice restricted him to play second lead. While Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty with their baritones were breaking bones, Saif was just 'hanging' around in over-sized shirts.
In 2001, Farhan Akhtar directed Dil Chahta Hai and Saif Ali Khan's career took off. We asked each other, "Has he been working out?" He got a neat crop, a killer stylist and probably a dialogue writer who wrote keeping Saif in mind. Still slightly goofy, he was well on his way to become a heart-throb. His characters in Kal Ho Na Ho, Hum Tum and Salaam Namaste were repetitive but people couldn't get enough of his dapper looks, his smooth persona and his comic timing. Saif didn't have to pretend to be hot, or wear 'I am COOL' around his neck, he was not a wannabe. But it was Ek Hasina Thi (for those of us who saw it) in 2004 that Saif Ali Khan had truly arrived. This wasn't your regular predictable Bollywood hero or villain. He was such a natural, so suave. What followed was a series of films - as if custom-made for the nawaab: Omkara, Kurbaan, Aarakshan and the list goes on. Even though Agent Vinod wasn't a blockbuster, we can't imagine anyone else other than Saif playing the secret agent. Now, all the girls want him and all the guys want to be like him.
Ranbir Kapoor: The Buffoon
Isn't he always kidding around? Ranbir Kapoor, right from the time he danced around in a towel in Saawariya to the naïve local-boy in Rockstar, Ranbir is such a clown. Though all his films have different plots, at some point in the story, he plays the same lost, submissive push-over. Look at Wake Up Sid, in which he plays a confused adolescent, or Rocket Singh where he's a young lad trying to make quick money. Or Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani where he's a jobless loverboy and Anjaana Anjaani in which he's a troubled young man ready to give up his life. In the first half of Rockstar too, Ranbir played the hopeless romeo. And yet, he is not boring, far from it. Looking at the promos of his upcoming Barfi! we're sure we'll be entertained by the likeable buffoon.
Hrithik Roshan: Cry Baby
He might be a greek God, and one of the sincerest actors of modern cinema. Hrithik Roshan has worked hard to get where he is. Known to be a perfectionist, from his physique to choreography, Hrithik is a ten on ten. But is there any movie of his where he hasn't cried... Like a baby! Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Yaadein, Na Tum Jaano Na Hum, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Koi Mil Gaya, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Agneepath: He cries so much. We are all for a man who connects with his emotional side, but please limit the lip-quivering, eye-squinting breakdowns.
Salman Khan: Lover-Bhai
"I think no one except Salman should decide at what age he wants to get married," said Katrina Kaif at a promotional event for the film Ek Tha Tiger, when she was asked about the 46-year-old actor's wedding plans. There's also a scene in Ek Tha Tiger where Katrina taunts Salman that he has reached the age to get married. And when a reporter asked Aamir Khan about this dialogue Aamir laughed saying, "We have been telling him (Salman) to get married since a long time now. He didn't listen to us. Maybe he will listen to Katrina." Katrina and Salman had a long alleged affair but parted ways a year ago, peacefully. Salman replied by saying, "I don't know why everyone's after me to get married!" Salman has dated the top heroines of his time, and the time after his time – but it doesn't look like anybody's going to tie this man down anytime soon. At 46, he's single, happy, and available.
On the other hand, maybe Salman has realised that the reason why he's not getting married is because everyone in the industry calls him 'Bhai' (1.Meaning brother in Hindi. 2.Meaning gang leader.). Salman was quoted as saying, "Don't call me bhai! I've got two sisters and that's more than enough!" Incidentally actor Sunil Shetty was at the same event and when he called Salman bhai, Salman said jokingly, "Sohail and I were 5 and ten years old when we came to your wedding. Why are you calling me bhai?"
Shah Rukh Khan: The Hero
Where is the love? Shah Rukh Khan is probably the last Bollywood 'hero' with a larger-than-life passion for etching his lover's name on his chest, in blood. Now everyone just gets a tattoo. No more dream sequences, head-tilts or mountain egos. Shah Rukh's films always centre around him, where his character often overshadows the parts of his co-stars. He never plays second lead.
Off camera, Shah Rukh is witty, admittedly arrogant and very charming. No matter how much he is criticised for his over-acting, when Shah Rukh Khan walks into a room, or flashes on your TV screen, his star power gets to you – you stop and look. He has a crazy fan following in India and internationally and is an ambassador for some of the world's biggest brands, one of them being Shah Rukh Khan himself.
Akshay Kumar: Adrenaline Addict
Who knew that the Punjabi boy from Amritsar will establish himself as the 'Indian Jackie Chan'. This guy is seriously addicted to adventure. Akshay is a true 'khiladi' when it comes to bashing up villains and dating his co-stars. He started his career at the prime age of 25 and today, two decades later Akshay is just as fit. A black belt in Taekwondo, he further went on to study Muay Thai, a form of martial arts in Bangkok, Thailand. This rough and tough guy has worked in over a 100 films most of which have been action-comedies.
Thing is, when Akshay opens his mouth, you just can't take him seriously. But when you see him kick a*# or dance emphatically, you can see that he has put his soul in it. And he's been wise to cash in on this. His recent films Housefull 2 and Rowdy Rathore are in the Rs 100 crore club, and Akshay is in a happy place.
Ajay Devgn: Seriously Sincere
No torrid affairs with actresses, no drunken brawls, no arrogant claims – Ajay Devgn is the no-controversy actor. Since 1991 when he appeared in Phool Aur Kaante, Ajay has been this composed, grounded celebrity with no tantrums, no fuss. Maybe Kajol keeps him tied around her finger-tips. He might not be conventionally good looking, but Ajay Devgn has established himself as a critically acclaimed actor who does funny as good as action as good as drama. It's as if he likes to be taken seriously whatever he does.
With brilliant performances in films like Company, Yuva, Omkara, Rajneeti, Singham and now Bol Bachchan, Ajay has proved that slow and steady wins the race.
Sanjay Dutt: Baba
No one dare confront Bollywood's wild-child, actor Sanjay Dutt or 'Sanju Baba' as he is lovingly called. While he kept facing personal tragedies one after the other, we were torn between hating him and sympathising with him. He lost his mother, actress Nargis to cancer – 3 days before the premiere of his first film. He lost his first wife to brain tumour. He lost the custody battle of his daughter. He had a long fight with drug abuse that included years of rehab. He was convicted for the illegal possession of arms and weapons and served in prison for years. He was even accused of being linked to acts of terrorism. Bollywood, more or less supported him through all these, like he was a troubled child.
In fact, even Salman Khan said in an interview that he doesn't know who Ramdev Baba is, but he definitely knows that Sanjay Dutt is the industry's baba!
John Abraham: Stud
If there were 10 stills from 10 of John's films, it would be a task to differentiate them. Specially, when most stills would be of his biceps, dimples or torso. Of course, the women don't mind. But in 9 years of his acting career, he's barely done a film where he's not stripped or where one sees him experimenting with his appearance. From Jism to Housefull 2, he dons the same look. Even Deepa Mehta's Water couldn't get him to look different. For his sake we wish that Bollywood comes out with more films like Dostana and Desi Boyz, and we get to see more of John. (Pun intended).
Shahid Kapoor: Forever 21
Fortunately or unfortunately, it looks like even after a 100 years, Shahid Kapoor will still look like a chocolate boy. That face is not getting any older. He was a background dancer in Taal (1999) and it has been 13 years since, but Shahid looks the same. It's not like he hasn't tried to experiment – he did a remarkable job in Kaminey – but Shahid's fountain of youth flows through. Other than Jab We Met, none of Shahid's films have been super-duper blockbusters and we're waiting to see him in a role where he'll carry a film entirely on his shoulders.