Romeo Akbar Walter, Batla House show John Abraham’s commercially bankable, despite major career setbacks

The first-look of the upcoming Romeo, Akbar, Walter (RAW) not only makes you wonder but, to a great extent, also laud the journey that John Abraham has had. When he started out in films such as Jism (2003) and Paap (2003), he was already a well-known model and like most models who graduate from the ramp to the screen, irrespective of their gender, Abraham, too, was expected to be eye candy.

In his initial films, Abraham had his voice dubbed, barely had anything significant to do besides standing there with smouldering eyes. No one, including his directors, really cared about how he performed. In a particular close-up shot in a film, he placed his own fist right in front of his million dollar face while bashing up his co-star – any other ’actor’ would have given an unobstructed view of his face. Those days are gone. Today, Abraham is not only smarter both in front of and behind the camera, he has also established a pretty decent track record as a producer. Additionally, he has also transformed into a star who has found a niche for himself.

In the last eight years, Abraham might not have featured in the biggest box office hits or the most critically acknowledged films, and even though his films are rarely as hyped as some of his contemporaries’, he has still emerged as a fairly reliable box office entity. Abraham started in an era where the factor that made a big difference between the commercial feasibility of any star was their ability to garner an opening. He was never in the same league as the Khans (Aamir, Salman, Shah Rukh), Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan and in fact, when
it came to box office clout, Abraham was a few paces behind other male stars like Abhishek Bachchan. He managed to switch gears with films like Dhoom (2004), Lakeer (2004), Garam Masala (2005), Taxi No. 9211: Nau Do Gyarah (2006) and Kabul Express (2006) where he shared space with Bachchan, Suniel Shetty, Kumar, Nana Patekar, and Arshad Warsi. He enjoyed greater success in films where he paired up with someone else as opposed to the ones where he was the traditional male – Karam (2005), Madhoshi (2004) and No Smoking (2007), Aashayein (2010)
and Jhootha Hi Sahi (2010).

With the arrival of the next generation of stars – Ranbir Singh, Ranveer Singh, Kangana Ranaut, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan – the parameter to gauge stardom changed. It was no longer about a grand opening but a dedicated audience segment that would turn up solely for the entity. The box office numbers got divided into two categories – opening weekend and everything else. It was probably enough for an actor to get enough numbers over the course of the opening weekend as the other costs could be recovered from different platforms such as satellite rights, etc. In most cases, pre-sales would already transform the film into a hit for the producers. It was here that John Abraham struck gold of sorts with Nishikant Kamat’s Force (2011).

Although Force got a decent opening and at places showed a near 100 per cent occupancy over the opening weekend, it was labeled a flop. Yet the film, a remake of Gautham Menon’s Tamil hit Kaakha Kaakha (2003) managed
to establish John Abraham as someone who could do an action film, which suddenly opened up a whole new vista for him. He had become well known for playing the second lead or the goofy sidekick with films like Dostana (2008) and Desi Boyz (2011), and while he did feature in a typical Hindi action film – Elaan (2005), this was not a genre he was associated with.