Devesh Sharma and Akash Nihalani take a look at the men and the women who created the most buzz in 2020
2020 is a year we would all like to forget. The coronavirus pandemic caught us by the neck in March and slowly squeezed the life out of everything. We kind of got jailed in our homes. The death toll kept rising and so did the horror and the hysteria. The film industry was one of the worst-hit sectors. Shootings stalled, release dates got postponed. While some producers sought relief by releasing their films over the OTT platforms, others decided to wait for conditions to improve. Daily wage earners among the film workers were the most affected. Stars like Salman Khan reached out by depositing money directly in the accounts of the needy. Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Hritihik Roshan, Varun Dhawan, and every actor worthy of his/her name, came forward to help out in this time of crises. While every one chipped in, Sonu Sood appeared as the symbol of hope for the thousands of migrant workers forced to flee the cities. He helped arrange transport for them and has been helping the needy ever since. Besides the human tragedy that unfolded this year, we also lost several of our gems like Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Saroj Khan, Wajid Khan, Jagdeep, Nishikanth Kamanth, Bhanu Athaiya, SP Balasubrahmanyam, Soumitra Chatterjee and Sushant Singh Rajput. Sushant’s death by suicide created a social media storm that refused to die down. The investigation of his unnatural death led to the CBI, the ED and the NCB getting involved and numerous industry folks being hauled in for questioning. It wasn’t all gloomy though. Kareena Kapoor Khan and Anushka Sharma announced their pregnancies. And the social media thankfully basked vicariously in the afterglow of their maternity. Taking a look at the stars who rocked the headlines in 2020.
Sushant Singh Rajput
His fans couldn’t digest the fact that he did himself in and started a witch hunt for ‘culprits’ whom they thought ‘killed’ Sushant. Their rage made them target everyone from Karan Johar, star kids to even the poor food delivery guy. Friends and family insisted Sushant Singh Rajput just wasn’t the sort of person who’d kill himself and cried themselves hoarse shouting murder most foul, never mind that the initial police and the subsequent CBI enquiry, as well as the AIIMS report clearly stated it was an act of suicide and nothing else. #JusticeforSushant trended as widely as a bushfire and stoked flames of hatred for Bollywood. People swore off Hindi films, decided to boycott films starring ‘nepokids’ — which resulted in Sadak 2 becoming the most disliked film ever. What’s more, the worldwide hue and cry even brought the CBI into the fray as even Bihar CM Nitish Kumar wanted a probe. A whole new can of worms was opened when accusations of havala, drug running and what not started flying fast and thick. It became a hugely politicised mess which is yet to get unentangled.
Chocolate hero Rishi Kapoor was without a doubt one of the most iconic stars to ever grace the silver screen. He made his debut with the mega-hit Bobby (1973) and starred in many commercial hits like Khel Khel Mein (1975), Rafoo Chakkar (1975), Karz (1980) and many more. He won the Filmfare Critics’ Best Actor Award for his performance as a middle-aged father yearning to buy his own car in Do Dooni Chaar (2011) and won a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor trophy for his role in Kapoor And Sons (2016) as well. He was bestowed with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. He was on the road to recovery and there were talks that he might even do a film together with his son Ranbir but it was not to be. He passed away on April 30. Even though he isn’t between us anymore, we’re sure his legacy will live on forever. Jeena yahan, marna yahan…
Rhea had the misfortune of being Sushant’s girlfriend at the time of his suicide. People pounced on her like she was the culprit behind it, despite the fact that she’d left his place days before the incident. In people’s mind, the lovers’ tiff became an act of betrayal. Sushant’s family reportedly accused her of everything from mind control, misappropriation of Sushant’s money and also his murder. She became the most hated figure on social media. She was a scarlet woman who was literally hunted down with a vengeance. It was even alleged that she was Sushant’s drug supplier and made him depended on drugs. On July 30, the actress was called in by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after a money laundering case was filed by Sushant’s father KK Singh against her in Patna. Eventually, Rhea was arrested for being linked with a drug syndicate. The NCB continued with their investigation on the matter and Rhea was granted bail on October 7, 28 days after her arrest. Her brother Showik Chakraborty got bail in December, three months after he was taken in for questioning. After her release, Rhea’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde stated that the actress would file cases against those who’d made defamatory statements about her and her family without any substantial proof. Her media trial really was an eyeopener as to how feral our society has become nowadays.
Most of us vented our anger on social media after seeing the images of thousands of migrant workers walking from metros like Mumbai and Delhi to their homes in faraway places. Sonu Sood however turned his anger into something productive. He started arranging buses to get the migrants home. Later, using his goodwill, he arranged for interstate travel for anyone who called him and even arranged for flights for the needy. He’s said to have helped thousands. It’s said he mortgaged two shops and six flats to raise a loan of 10 crores for this humanitarian act. A grateful public responded by naming their shops, institutes and even their sons after him. Villagers in Dubba Tanda, Telangana, have erected a temple for him. And the Election Commission in his home state Punjab has made him a state icon. He’s written a book about his experience, I Am No Messiah. The actor, known for his villainous roles, is now getting cast as a hero. He’s a hero in the real sense of the word, alright.
Films like Haasil (2003) and Maqbool (2004) brought Irrfan Khan mass acceptance. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Villain for Haasil. Besides that, he has won the Filmfare Best Actor In A Supporting Role (Male) trophy for Life in a… Metro (2007), Best Actor (Critics’)for Paan Singh Tomar (2012) and the Best Actor In A Leading Role (Male) trophy for Hindi Medium (2017). His commercial hits include Life in a… Metro (2007), Paan Singh Tomar (2011), The Lunchbox (2013), Haider (2014), Gunday (2014), Piku (2015) and Talvar (2015). His Hindi Medium (2017) became a sleeper hit in both India and China. A sequel to Hindi Medium called Angrezi Medium (2020) was released on March 13. Irrfan also acted in many acclaimed international films like The Namesake (2006), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), the Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire (2008), New York, I Love You (2009), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Life of Pi (2012), Jurassic World (2015) and Inferno (2016). He passed away on April 29.
Alia Bhatt and Mahesh Bhatt
Mahesh Bhatt was seen as the villain of the piece in the Sushant and Rhea Chakraborty love story as it was he who’d allegedly advised her to move away from a toxic relationship. He was mightily trolled for his support for Rhea. His daughter Alia Bhatt, who’d once said on a chat show, ‘Sushant who?’ too faced the ire of the troll army when this clip resurfaced. She was branded as a nepokid and suffered a huge loss of followers online. The Mahesh Bhatt directed Sadak 2, where Alia was playing a prominent role, too got caught in the crossfire. Its trailer became the most disliked trailer on YouTube in no time and the film, when released, made history by pulling in the lowest rating on IMDB. People were even miffed over the fact that Alia was using her phone during Rishi Kapoor’s funeral, never mind the fact that she was live-streaming the proceedings to Ranbir Kapoor’s sister Riddhima, who couldn’t fly down from Delhi, because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Her silent 25 minutes support to the students protesting against the establishment at the JNU became the target of haters. And she was mercilessly trolled for it for days on end both on social media and on national TV. She played an acid attack survivor in Chhapaak, a film made on the real-life struggle of Laxmi Aggarwal. But because of her anti-establishment stance, the troll army derided her for her noble portrayal and a campaign ensued to boycott the film. Her comments on Sushant Singh Rajput’s death too were misconstrued and she was accused of hijacking his death. Deepika kept her calm throughout and didn’t let that affect her. Then, strangely, chats from years back were dredged up as evidence suggesting she’s a drug user. She was called in for interrogation by the NCB for her alleged links with the drug mafia. Her serenity won her the day, through this maelstrom of madness. Deepika is quietly finishing off her upcoming projects and has wisely chosen not to retaliate against all those who targeted her.
Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor And Rakul Preet Singh
They were all accused of being part of an active drug nexus and were summoned by the NCB for hours and hours of gruelling interrogation. Sara and Shraddha both had worked with the late Sushant Singh Rajput while Rakul’s friendship with Rhea was rumoured to be the reason why she was hauled in for questioning. Again, both social media and the TV media mercilessly milked the opportunity. It was seen as if these actresses were running the drug mafia in Mumbai, never mind the fact that nothing came out of the investigation. Rakul even approached the Delhi High Court to summon a gag order against the private TV channels to stop them from spreading malicious gossip against her.
Kumkum’s claim to fame was Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar (1954). She is best known for her roles in Mother India (1957), Ujala (1959), Kohinoor (1960), Son Of India (1962), Mr X in Bombay (1964), Aankhen (1968), Geet (1970), Lalkaar (1972), and Ek Kunwari Ek Kunwara (1973) and Bhojpuri film Ganga maiya tohe piyari chadhaibo (1963). She passed away on July 28.
By now, we’re pretty much aware of the fact that Ayushmann Khurrana loves challenging stereotypes. The fact that the actor began his career with the role of a sperm donor speaks volumes about his penchant for swimming against the tide. In the 2017 release Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, he played a man suffering from erectile dysfunction and in his 2020 release Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, he played a homosexual man who wants to marry his partner. Though homosexuality is no longer held illegal by law, it’s still considered taboo in our society. And it really took courage for an A-list actor to play an openly gay character.
Sanjay Dutt’s life has seen more ups and downs than the Delhi-Shimla highway. From getting himself out of serious drug addiction, geting jailed under TADA to putting his career back on track despite the odds, Baba has done all that and more. The actor found himself facing another roadblock in life when he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer on August 11. Ever since the lockdown was imposed in March, Dutt had been living alone in his Mumbai home, his wife Maanyata and children Shahraan and Iqra were away in Dubai. However, upon learning about her husband’s condition, Maanyata immediately took a flight home to be by his side. The actor underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and finally on October 21 announced that he’d emerged victorious in his battle against cancer, proving once again that he’s a true fighter and not one to back down when things look bleak.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. For some reason, Kangana feels she’s been scorned by her colleagues in general and the society in particular. As a result, she comes out all guns blazing at the slightest provocation. Sushant’s death proved to be one such outlet for her and she took it upon herself to be an avenging angel for the late actor. Playing the outsider card, she blamed his death on the insider gang in Bollywood. She claimed that a certain section of the film industry ganged up against Sushant and was directly responsible for his mental deterioration. This led to a war of words with different personalities on social media. Then she took on the Maharashtra government, saying she felt like she was living in POK rather than Mumbai. That led to a bout of angry words between her and MP Sanjay Raut. Kangana further hit the headlines, when her office was demolished by the BMC. She claimed she was a victim of a political conspiracy. Last heard, the Mumbai High Court had ordered the civic body to pay her compensation. Her allegedly offensive comments against the Farmers’ agitation led to another verbal spat with Diljit Dosanjh, where the Punjabi actor chastised her in pure Punjabi. The jury is still out as to who won that fight.
S P Balasubrahmanyam was a giant in both South and Bollywood cinema when it came to playback singing. SPB made his debut as a playback singer with the Telugu film Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna in 1966 and slowly established himself as the numero uno playback singer down South. To have the entry song sung by Balu, as he was affectionately known, soon became a tradition in Rajinikanth films. He became the voice of Salman Khan after giving playback for the actor in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) and continued to sing for the actor in many films like Saajan (1991), Patthar Ke Phool (1991), Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994), Andaz Apna Apna and many more. The singer, who also acted in some films and was an ace dubbing artiste passed away on September 25.
Saroj Khan, who passed away on July 3, was someone who had the entire Bollywood dancing to her moves. She was the first female choreographer of the film industry and can be said to have created some of the most iconic Bollywood dance moves ever. Saroj was best known for her Sridevi and Madhuri numbers and has some eight Filmfare Awards as the Best Choreographer to her credit, a record of sorts. She won them for Tezaab, Chalbaaz, Sailaab, Beta, Khal-Nayak, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Guru.
Taapsee Pannu proved yet again why she’s one of the best in the business with her last release Thappad. The hard-hitting drama accurately showcased how domestic violence is treated as a non-issue in our country and why it’s high time that it comes to a stop. Her bikini photos from her Maldives vacation too created a mini tsunami on the internet and so was the ‘Biggini’ video she shot with her sisters and boyfriend Mathias Boe. Her transformation into an athlete for her forthcoming film Rashmi Rocket too got her raves from her fans.
Kareena Kapoor Khan Anushka Sharma
Along with heaps of controversies and negativity, 2020 also got some good news. Both Kareena Kapoor Khan and Anushka Sharma announced that they’re with a child. While Anushka is going to be a first-time mommy, Kareena Kapoor is carrying her second child. Both the actresses continued to work till late in their pregnancies, setting an example for all working women. Anushka was trolled for India’s inglorious test defeat in Australia but it’s something she has learnt to take in her stride by now. Along with her husband, she was voted as among the top social media influencers in the world, overtaking many Hollywood biggies in the process.
Karan Johar, who is known for his fluffy romances, never thought he’d get such a hostile reaction from the masses after the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput. Overnight, the blue-eyed boy of the film industry, who always believed that the industry was his extended family, was branded as the uncrowned king of nepotism. Trolls scrutinised all his casting choices and came to the conclusion that he only favoured star kids. Not only that, they alleged that he led a nexus which led to the professional downfall of SSR. Videos of him mocking Sushant on reality shows surfaced. The clips were taken out of context and branded him as being anti-outsider. It was the most trying time for him but he kept his cool and refused to rise to the bait.
The fact that Soumitra Chatterjee, who passed away on November 15 was Satyajit Ray’s favourite actor alone tells you enough of his versatility and range as an actor. His debut film Apur Sansar (1959) is considered to be a landmark in Indian cinema and he followed it up with some equally incredible works with Ray like Devi (1960), Teen Kanya (1961) and Charulata (1964). His other notable works during his heyday include Mrinal Sen’s Akash Kusum (1965) and Tapan Sinha’s Jhinder Bandi (1961). His best work in the latter years can be seen in films like Asukh (1999), directed by Rituparno Ghosh, Shadows Of Time (2004), directed by Florian Gallenberger, Paanch Adhyay (2012) directed by Pratim D Gupta, Hemlock Society (2012) directed by Srijit Mukherji, Rupkatha Noy (2013), directed by Atanu Ghosh, Shunyo Awnko (2013) directed by Goutam Ghose, Bela Seshe (2015) directed by Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee.
Nishikant Kamat who made his directorial debut with the Marathi film Dombivli Fast in 2005, went on to make films like Mumbai Meri Jaan (2008), Force (2011), Drishyam (2015) and Rocky Handsome (2016). He passed away on August 17 due to liver cirrhosis. Besides directing, Nishikant also acted in films like Hava Aney De (2004), Daddy (2017) Julie 2 (2017), and Bhavesh Joshi (2018).
If you need an understanding of the love people have for Amitabh Bachchan you’ll need to head back to 1982 when he had the infamous accident on the sets of Coolie. Millions prayed in temples for his wellbeing, thousands fasted and some even tried to commit suicide. The reports of him getting infected with COVID-19 sent shockwaves not only among the industry but also among the masses. People forgot their own distress and prayed for his recovery. It seems that all the good wishes did the trick as after weeks in observation, he was declared COVID-19 free on August 2. Not only that, he soon recovered enough to start shooting for KBC once more. Mr Bachchan is pure mind over matter, alright.
Anurag Kashyap, Payal Ghosh and Richa Chaddha
In a move straight out of his own twisted films, actress Payal Ghosh accused Anurag Kashyap of sexual misconduct. She even claimed that he mentioned actresses like Richa Chadha and Huma Qureshi regularly granted sexual favours to him and hence she shouldn’t have a problem. Anurag stuck to his guns, despite the media backlash and said the charges were baseless. His lawyer issued a statement saying the director wasn’t even in the country when the alleged incident supposedly took place. Richa Chaddha filed a lawsuit against Payal for making defamatory statements without any proof. The matter was eventually resolved when Payal issued an unconditional apology to Richa. Payal later went on to join Union minister Ramdas Athavale led Republican Party of India as the vice president of the women’s wing.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Arjun Kapoor and Malaika Arora
You know you’re supposed to take the coronavirus seriously when even an actor like Amitabh Bachchan wasn’t spared. Apart from Amitabh, his son Abhishek Bachchan, daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and granddaughter Aaradhaya too were said to be COVID-19 positive. While Abhishek got hospitalised, Aishwarya and Aaradhya were initially quarantined at home, and then hospitalised. Apart from the Bachchan family, several Bollywood biggies like Arjun Kapoor and Malaika Arora, Kriti Sanon, Rakul Preet Singh too tested positive for the coronavirus. Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan and director Raj Mehta contacted the coronavirus on the sets of their upcoming film Jug Jugg Jiyo in Chandigarh. Thankfully, everyone made full recovery.
The iconic costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, whose work spanned from CID (1956) to Swades (2004), passed away on October 15. Bhanu made India proud by winning an Oscar for the costume design of Gandhi (1982). She won the National Film Award for Best Costume Design for Lekin (1991) and Lagaan (2001). She was also a winner of the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Jagdeep started life in Bollywood as a child artiste in BR Chopra’s Afsana (1951). He was later launched by AVM as a lead actor in films like Bhabhi (1957), Barkha (1959) and Bindiya (1960). Jagdeep first became famous as a comedian in the Shammi Kapoor starrer Brahmachari (1968). His most famous role perhaps as a comedian is that of Soorma Bhopali from Sholay (1975). The veteran passed on July 8 due to age-related issues.
Johnny Bakshi started life as a producer by giving a break to Mahesh Bhatt as a director in Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain (1974). His other notable films include Raj Khosla’s Mera Dost Mera Dushman (1984), Raavan (1984) and Khudai (1994). He died of cardiac arrest in the early hours of September 5. The veteran was 82 at the time of his death.
The famous poet and lyricist Dr Rahat Indori, who had written lyrics in films like Munna Bhai MBBS, Meenakshi, Khuddar, Murder, Mission Kashmir, Begum Jaan, Ishq, Ghatak, Jaanam, Sir, Aashiyaan, Main Tera Aashiq, Naaraaz and many more passed away on August 11 in Indore.
Composer Wajid Khan passed away on June 1 due to cardiac arrest. Along with his brother Sajid, he formed the Sajid-Wajid duo. They composed music for several films starring Salman Khan, like Tere Naam (2003), Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), Partner (2007), Wanted (2009), Dabangg et al.
Filmmaker Basu Chatterjee, best known for films like Choti Si Baat, Rajnigandha, Baaton Baaton Mein, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla and Chameli Ki Shaadi passed away on June 4 following age-related ailments. He was 90 years old.
Lyricist Yogesh passed away on May 29. He was best known for his contribution to Anand (1971), including song Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye and Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai, and also Rajnigandha phool tumhare from the movie Rajnigandha (1973).
Veteran actor Nimmi passed away on March 25. Her best performances are said to be films like Sazaa (1951), Aan (1952), Uran Khatola (1955), Bhai-Bhai (1956), Kundan (1955), Basant Bahar (1956). Mere Mehboob (1963), Pooja Ke Phool (1964), and Akashdeep (1965).