Neither the movies Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham nor Dhoom:2 affected ’s career as much as a minute-long television commercial. Until the first John Players advertisement, made before Dhoom:2, Roshan had the image of a good-looking but geeky boy next door—the type who doesn’t realize the extent of his hunkiness. In the commercial, Roshan loosened up his overzealous security guards by taking them shopping to a John Players store—and lost his own buttoned-up self in the process.
Since then, Roshan has appeared only in a handful of movies, but each has gone a long way in exposing his newly minted dangerously adult side. In Dhoom:2, Roshan slunk about the screen like a chocolate-coloured panther. In Jodhaa Akbar, he radiated heat from underneath layers of clothing and armour. In between, he married the act of copulation with the skill of baking biscuits for a commercial for the brand Milano. Now comes Kites, in which he pursues a Mexican beauty across the globe. Some accounts suggest that Indian audiences will be deprived of some serious action between the sheets involving Roshan and co-star Barbara Mori. Is Roshan too adult for his own fan base?
None of the leading men in Bollywood is sexy in the traditional sense. Handsome? Some of them. Charismatic? Most definitely. Cuddly? It often helps. Talented? It’s not always necessary. Shah Rukh Khan is a superstar despite his limited acting skills purely because of his on-screen magnetism. Sexy? It’s not demanded—or even welcomed. Family audiences go to the movies to see better-looking and more accomplished versions of their own ordinary selves. Salman Khan may drop his shirt at periodic intervals to assert his manliness, but his fan following is more attracted to his image of a brooding romantic. Besides, his unreconstructed maleness seems to target men more than women.
It-boy: Roshan is Bollywood’s only sexy hero, in the real sense of the word.
Roshan, however, is the only member in the Indian Brad Pitt club (Pitt wallowed in bit parts in television serials and movies before he played the small but unforgettable role of Geena Davis’ squeeze in the movie Thelma and Louise). Ranbir Kapoor will probably go on to appear in memorable roles and he could even emerge as the superstar of the next generation. But the chances of Kapoor raising temperatures with a bare-bodied shoot are a bit unlikely. Only Tamil superstar Suriya comes close to matching Roshan’s complete package of looks, histrionic skills and fitness.
However, Suriya is probably never going to ruin his squeaky clean family man image by appearing in advertisements such as Milano. On the other hand, Roshan, also a father of two, has evolved into a heat-seeking missile of late. He is appearing in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming movie Guzaarish as a paraplegic, but since he is paired with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, with whom she has better chemistry than with her real-life husband, we can guarantee that his wheelchair won’t come in the way.
Advertising is the art of fleeting pleasures. Whoever thought that a commercial would be this enduring—and career altering?
Kites released in theatres on Friday.
Nandini Ramnath is a film critic with Time Out Mumbai (www.timeoutmumbai.net).
Write to Nandini at firstname.lastname@example.org