Sai Pallavi with Aamir Khan's son, and some more 'odd' film pairings
The emergence of pan-Indian and OTT films has led to fresh romantic pairings on screen, but it's not new in Indian cinema
There are 'formula' pairings that work almost infallibly. There's Deepika Padukone-Shah Rukh Khan, and Katrina Kaif-Salman Khan. They are tried and tested pairings, and have produced blockbusters. There are also fresh pairings like Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Kapoor that just fall into place, leaving you wondering why they were never signed up together earlier.
And then there are the 'odd pairs'. Odd in the sense that two years back nobody would have guessed this might happen. They brighten up the screen with their freshness, though how the box office views them remains a guess. The latest to join this list is Sai Pallavi, a star in the South, who is reportedly being paired with Junaid Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan.
Now that the Bollywood-South cinema barrier seems to be collapsing, and pan-Indian films are emerging in a big way, such odd romantic pairings on screen are only set to become more common. A star each from the North and the South makes good economic sense for the producers by hedging the box office bets.
Sai Pallavi's Hindi debut
There's much excitement over Sai Pallavi's reported Bollywood debut (it's not confirmed yet) with Junaid Khan. The two are nearly the same age, but the former has been acting in lead roles for nearly a decade now, while this would be the latter's second film. His debut film, YRF production's Maharaj, is yet to hit the screens. While Sai Pallavi is a self-made actor, Junaid is a 'nepo kid'. But, for Sai Pallavi, who is a bundle of talent having acted in many South films with leading stars, to match her well-honed skills with an X factor seems like she is playing the ball way out of the field.
No one was entirely convinced when Telugu star Ram Charan’s soulmate besides Junior NTR in RRR was Alia Bhatt. But since Charan and Alia hardly had any scenes together and the movie celebrated the bonding between the two male stars more, their strange pairing went unnoticed. It was passed as a fetish of South Indian directors to cast a pretty, North Indian star without much to do.
But, Atlee turned this formula around and cast South beauty Nayanthara in Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan. The casting stood out like a sore thumb, however. Of course, SRK, who can make love to a chatbot if he wants to, pulled out all the stops. He wore striking shirts and with some wind-whipped hair effects, he tried hard to create some chemistry with his attractive co-star without much success. That’s also one reason audiences are talking more about his love track with Deepika Padukone, whom he anyway has a strong rapport with.
Vijay Deverakonda too went shopping in Bollywood for a heroine and came up with the doll-like Ananya Pandey. The film Liger sank without a trace and the lead pair did not even stir up a ripple.
OTT and unusual pairings
OTT is turning out to be a major playground for unusual pairings. Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor is making people sit up for matching her step perfectly with OTT star Vijay Verma (Darlings, Dahaad, Mirzapur fame) in the Netflix thriller Jaane Jaan. Their chemistry together though brief set the small screen on fire. Though, when she tried to do another Helen dance number, Yeh Mera Dil, desperately gyrating before a grim-looking SRK in Don 2, it somehow never worked.
SRK and Kareena don’t set the temperatures soaring for they are not a thing at all, not like what he shares with Juhi Chawla, Kajol or Madhuri Dixit. Or how Kamal Haasan was in perfect sync striking the right romantic notes with Sridevi on screen.
Indian cinema has always had its share of oddball pairings starting with Rishi Kapoor and South actor Radhika in gravity-defying plait in Naseeb Apna Apna in the 1980s. It was unusual to see the blue-blooded Kapoor opposite a weepy, comical Radhika – no one really bought into it. Similar to when Bollywood actor Kajol chose Prabhu Deva as her love over Arvind Swamy in Minsaru Kanavu (Sapnay in Hindi). There was no connection at all between Kajol and Prabhu Deva and the audience could not digest the ending. That probably goes down as one of the most awkward pairings no doubt.
An equally cringey pair was a feisty Rani Mukherjee with Malayalam actor Prithviraj in a forgettable film called Aiyaa. The Dreamum wakeupum song is still talked about, but that's more about Rani as a dancer than about the pair.
Were there an award for brilliant pairings, Rajeev Menon's Kandukondain Kandukondain would win it hands down. Ajith Kumar and Tabu were the epitome of grace while the excellent chemistry between Mammooty and Aishwarya Rai (he played a wise middle-aged man to her impetuous 20-something) took the story forward effortlessly.
Aishwarya Rai romancing the senior Rajnikanth had made even the South superstar blush. After all, her father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan is Rajini's contemporary. But the lack of sizzle between the two lead actors of Robot was somehow buried in the mega plot of a robot going rogue. The love tracks were glossed over with songs picturised in stunning foreign locations. Rajnikanth would have been happy to be back in the arms of Khushboo, Meena or Nagma with whom he enjoyed a sizzling chemistry.
Now, Vijay Sethupathi, who currently seems to be the flavour of Bollywood, is expected to be seen next opposite Katrina Kaif in Merry Christmas. We have to wait to see how that pairing works!