The lead cast is often as important as the script, if not more, when it comes to the fate of a Bollywood movie. And film-makers talk about perfect pairings — a popular leading man opposite a popular leading lady spells success.
But Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar embody the very exception to this rule. With their ability to generate box-office numbers single-handedly, they choose to work mostly with debutants or new actresses.
Films with Akshay: Andaaz (2003), Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), Aitraaz (2004) and Waqt (2005)
Films with Akshay: Andaaz (2003), Aan (2004), Dosti: Friends Forever (2005) and Bhagam Bhag (2006)
Films with Akshay: Namastey London (2007), Welcome (2007), Singh Is Kinng (2008) among others
Films with Akshay: Shaukeen remake (unreleased); she made her debut with Aisha (2010)
Film with Akshay: Singh Is Bling (unreleased); however, she made her debut with Heropanti
Kriti Sanon, who made her debut with Heropanti, has just been signed to play the leading lady in Akshay’s next. Akshay has, of course, worked with upcoming actresses in the past as well.
He shot with the now-established Priyanka Chopra in Andaaz (2003; it was the first film Priyanka shot for).
He acted opposite a string of newcomers at the time, including Lara Dutta (also in Andaaz), Bipasha Basu (Ajnabee, 2001), Katrina Kaif (Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye, 2006; Namastey London, 2007; Welcome, 2007; Singh Is Kinng, 2008) and Neetu Chandra (Garam Masala; 2005).
The roster now features a bunch of newbies, like Tamannaah Bhatia (It’s Entertainment), Lisa Haydon (remake of Shaukeen), Shruti Haasan (Gabbar) and Tapsee Pannu (Baby).
Does this make Akshay feel like a godfather?
"Absolutely not… God has just made me a man capable of giving opportunities to those who deserve them," Akshay tells us from New York, USA, where he is holidaying with his family.
Film with Salman: Lucky - No Time For Love (2005); her resemblance to Salman’s alleged ex was the biggest talking point
Film with Salman: Veer (2009); she also shot a special number called ‘Character dheela’ in Ready (2011)
Films with Salman: Dabangg (2010), Dabangg 2 (2012); she also did a song with Salman in Son Of Sardaar (2012)
Film with Salman: Jai Ho; before she was discovered by Salman, Daisy was a dancer in choreographer Ganesh Acharya’s troupe
Films with Salman: London Dreams (2009) and Ready (2011). However, she made her Bollywood debut with Ghajini (2008)
Salman, too, has launched and promoted several newcomers. Bhumika Chawla made her debut with Salman’s Tere Naam (2003), as did Aishwarya Rai Bachchan look-alike Sneha Ullal in Lucky: No Time For Love (2005). Later, in 2009, Zareen Khan played his love interest in Veer. In 2011, he also worked with Asin in Ready.
Daisy Shah also made her debut this year with his film, Jai Ho. The biggest success story from this list, however, is Sonakshi Sinha, who made her debut opposite him in Dabangg (2010).
Salman, too, doesn’t like the 'godfather' tag. "Not godfather. Somebody gave me a break, so I’m doing the same… I like people to be successful and have a great future," he told HT Café earlier this year.
The list goes on…
Aamir Khan has worked with a few newbies, such as Rani Mukerji (Ghulam; 1998), Gracy Singh (Lagaan; 2001) and Asin (Ghajini; 2008).
Shah Rukh Khan’s newbie co-stars include Gayatri Joshi (Swades; 2001), Deepika Padukone (Om Shanti Om; 2007) and Anushka Sharma (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi; 2008).
Ajay Devgn worked with new actors like Gracy Singh (Gangaajal; 2003), Asin (London Dreams; 2009), Shazahn Padamsee (Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji; 2011), Kajal Aggarwal (Singham; 2011) and Tamannaah Bhatia (Himmatwala; 2013).