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Top Bollywood Actors’ Cinematic & Box Office Comebacks In 2023 (To Date)

Bollywood or Hindi cinema, is one industry which had a tough time during the pandemic. Due to cinema closures and societal setbacks, the fraternity faced a lot of flack and criticism. There have been several flops and even big-ticketed movies flopped due to mediocre content.

As 2023 almost draws to a close, has in fact been a pleasant homecoming for Hindi movies. After a long time, we have seen an influx of the romantic (with comedy and drama) genre gain strike a strong chord with audiences. This is evident with the hits of titles Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, Satyaprem Ki Katha, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani and Zara Hatke Zara Bachke. 

Undoubtedly, it has been a year of ‘comebacks’ where even established stars revive dry patches thanks to box office successes. Some of the movies have either exuded nostalgia, patriotic pride and or bold choices.

Akshay Kumar

The superstar, who has been starring in diverse films for a while, did not strike ‘gold’ (quite literally) at the box office. The post-pandemic exception is Sooryavanshi in 2021. Last year, his multiple releases of Bachchan Pandey, Raksha Bandhan, Samrat Prithviraj and Ram Setu received underwhelming reviews and commercial returns despite being of versatile genres and styles. However, OMG 2 grossed over ₹220.49 crores (US$28 million) worldwide, in which he powerfully plays a messenger of Lord Shiva. This film ranks among the highest-grossing Hindi films of the year.

Ameesha Patel

Patel returned to acting five years after her last debacle Bhaiaji Superhit, which starred several prominent actors. She reprises her 22-year-old and iconic role of Sakina in Gadar 2 (ironically with Sunny Deol again) this time, as a doted mother. The movie managed to gross over ₹690.54 crores (US$86 million) worldwide against a production budget of ₹60 crores (US$7.5 million). The film has undoubtedly revived her career.

Ayushmann Khurrana

Khurrana has always been appreciated for his ‘bold’ script choices. But for the last few years, many of his social comedy movies gained more attention on streaming platforms rather than commercial returns. His pre-pandemic cinema hit was Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. In 2022, promising ventures like Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, Anek, Doctor G and An Action Hero did not gross as highly as they deserved. Dream Girl 2 this year,  however, crossed around 140.26 crores (US$1.90 million) worldwide. Here, he mostly plays a female character even performing dance numbers.

Deepika Padukone

The popular actress has always championed strong roles that are independent of the patriarchal mandate. Her sole pre-pandemic theatrical release Chhapaak, despite an impactful portrayal, did not gather much moolah. Nonetheless, Padukone celebrates two back-to-back successes with Pathaan which grossed ₹1,050.30 crores (US$130 million) and then Jawan (both with Shah Rukh Khan) grossing over ₹1,090.89 crores (US$140 million). In Pathaan, she plays an ISI agent and as a special appearance in Jawaan, she plays a patriot, who is executed after murdering cops who tried to sexually harass her after allegedly killing her husband.

John Abraham

From comedies to developing a stoic action-hero image, John has explored various strands as an artist be it as a producer or writer. In 2022, both of his Hindi theatrical releases Attack: Part 1 and Ek Villain Returns did not succeed at the box office. This year, the dry spells were broken by Pathaan‘s major profits and Abraham revisiting the antagonistic space in mainstream Hindi cinema, which he broke through in earlier works like Dhoom. Here, he portrays the role of a former RAW agent turned rogue.

Ranveer Singh

From realistic characters to period dramas, Singh has had a natural progression as an actor. However, despite his powerful performances, he faced a series of commercially unsuccessful movies including 83 (2021) in addition to last year’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar and Cirkus. However, the dry spell broke this year with Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. Here, he plays a flamboyant, gym character who discovers wokeness through the lens of his love interest’s family. It reportedly grossed over ₹355 crore (US$44 million).

Shraddha Kapoor

Kapoor, touted to be among India’s highest-paid actress, has always shone in pristine yet vulnerable characters. She has observed major successes like in her breakthrough Aashiqui 2 and low commercial collections. Her last pre-pandemic theatrical release in 2020 Street Dancer 3D did not perform as well as it deserved. However, this year, she made her three-year hiatus with Tu Jhoothi Main Makkar playing a commitment-fearing career woman. The movie became a hit receiving a reported sum of US$18.75 million.

Shah Rukh Khan

The superstar SRK is celebrated for playing romantic and anti-heroic roles. He has also produced some edgy titles. Many of his acting works thematise Indian national identity and connections with diaspora communities. However, his last modest box office triumph was in 2017 with Raees. Since then and despite trying to ‘experiment’ with distinct roles, he met with a string of commercially unsuccessful films. Until this year, he was back in action with both Pathaan and Jawan. Both revolve around misunderstood patriots and showcase Khan as a bonafide action hero.

Sunny Deol

In a career spanning over decades, Deol has often essayed action-oriented roles. He has also stepped into the shoes of a producer and director. In the recent past, he celebrated Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011).  Last year’s film Chup emerged as a moderate hit, the actor made his ‘blockbuster’ comeback as the popular character Tara Singh in Gadar 2 after more than a decade. The character oozes with nationalism and anger to fight for one’s family and the country. The movie has emerged (to date) as the year’s third highest-grosser and one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time.

Vicky Kaushal

Kaushal’s journey from independent to mainstream cinema has been a fruitful one as he has often presented the voice of a common person. His last theatrical Bhoot: Part One (2020) did not perform very well at the ticket counters. During the pandemic, we saw an array of effective digital releases like Sardar Udham (2021), but his sleeper hit Zara Hatke Zara Bachke re-instates his commercial viability. In the movie, he plays a middle-class yoga teacher who tries to make ends meet for a separate home with his wife. The movie grossed around ₹115.89 crore (US$15 million).

With just a few months to go and with anticipated pictures like Tiger 3, Animal, Tejas, Merry Christmas, Sam Bahadur and Dunki gearing up for release, it will be intriguing to see which ones perform the best at the box office.

Stay tuned to our list as we update before the year wraps!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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