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Birthday Special: Is Varun Dhawan The Most Bankable “Masala” Hero At The Moment?

Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan stops for a photograph
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Bollywood is filled with mainstream heroes. In fact, after nepotism and films that promote misogyny, one of the major issues that people have about Bollywood is that it is filled with the typical upper class, fair, macho man who gets all the good stories while women are sidelined into doing arm candy roles. The fact of the matter is that producers and directors have only been giving the masses what they have wanted. From the golden age of Bollywood, the masses have thronged to theatres to watch Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan. Till date, a SRK, a Salman Khan or an Aamir Khan movie is given prime coverage in the media over every other thing. In the new age of heroes, perhaps, the only one who can match that level of mainstream success is Varun Dhawan.

Varun Dhawan made his debut in 2012 alongside Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra in Student of the Year. He was the typical muscular jock who looked good, had abs and was only interested in gym and having a good time with the ladies. Dhawan isn’t like Akshay Kumar who does nationalistic films and is an action hero, of sorts. Neither is he a Ranveer Singh who plays around with his outfits and challenges notions of masculinity. He is the typical mainstream hero like the heroes who’ve come before him. And Dhawan has been extremely successful at the Box Office. Student of the Year was a rip-roaring success and Dhawan and Bhatt’s star eclipsed that of Sidharth Malhotra.


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A post shared by Student of The Year 2 (@sotyoffical)

Then he rose to mainstream fame with films like Main Tera Hero, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Dilwale, Judwaa 2, ABCD 2 and Sui Dhaaga. He has attempted to showcase his acting skills with October and Badlapur and he has been appreciated for the same. Till date, since his debut, Dhawan has had two commercial failures – Kalank and Street Dancer 3D. Kalank was not Dhawan’s fault, to be honest. Despite fantastic performances by Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt and Dhawan himself, the film crumbled under its own opulence. Towards the end, it didn’t have a story – just an idea that was slowly burning. Kalank would have definitely worked in the early 2000s and definitely in the 1990s but cinema goers these days prefer “content-driven” films which is short hand for films which focus on the middle class Indian. And coming to Street Dancer 3D, well the film took a great opening, hence establishing and cementing Dhawan boy’s stardom and pull.

The 33-year-old actor was last seen in Coolie No. 1 opposite Sara Ali Khan which was a hit but a critical failure. Then again, Dhawan never really set out to impress Anupama Chopra with this movie. Coming to numbers, his first film (SOTY) grossed around US$14 million at the Box Office while Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania grossed around US$16 million worldwide. It was ABCD 2 which established him as an actor to be taken seriously considering it made US$22 million at the Box Office while Dilwale grossed a whopping US$53 million. By the time Judwaa 2 released, Dhawan had delivered nine consecutive hits at the Box Office and had a 100% success ratio. If not for Kalank or Street  Dancer 3D, he would still be able to boast about that.


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A post shared by VarunDhawan (@varundvn)

Dhawan’s wedding to Natasha Dalal was also covered obsessively by the media despite the fact that only 50 people were allowed at the wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic. Inspite of all that, paparazzi turned up in hordes and pictures from his wedding immediately went viral. The media grabbed whatever they could lay their hands on. This, in the midst of a pandemic that had killed thousands, was proof of his star power. Dhawan is also unproblematic in the sense that brands never have to fear about some errant statement from him. If history is any proof, he’s never going to get involved in any debate about the state of the nation or the current government. That makes him valuable to brands who have to play both sides in an attempt to not get ‘cancelled’.


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A post shared by VarunDhawan (@varundvn)

As of 2021, Dhawan has many films in the pipeline. There is Jug Jugg Jeeyo where he’ll be seen opposite Kiara Advani, Neetu Singh, Anil Kapoor and Prajakta Koli. He’s also set to star in Bhediya opposite Kriti Sanon and Sajid Nadiadwala’s Sanki.


[Image Credit: ANI]