Kartik Aaryan Unpacks ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ Success

The stupendous success of “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” has cemented the position of popular Indian actor Kartik Aaryan in Bollywood’s A-list.

In the horror-comedy film, a standalone sequel to “Bhool Bhulaiyaa” (2007), circumstances make Aaryan’s character pretend to be a psychic and he is tasked with exorcising a malevolent spirit (Tabu) from a deserted mansion. Produced by T-Series Films (“Anek”) and Cine1 Studios (“Kabir Singh”), the film released worldwide on May 20. At that time, Bollywood, which makes films in the Hindi language, was reeling from a wave of flops , with only the Hindi-dubbed versions of Telugu-language film “RRR” and Kannada-language film “KGF: Chapter 2” attracting audiences.

“Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2,” made in the Hindi language, grossed $34 million, making it the second highest grosser in the language for 2022 after “The Kashmir Files,” which collected $45 million. The film subsequently began streaming on Netflix where it is currently No. 3 in the global non-English film charts.

“Our intent was clear when we were making ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ that the entertainment quotient has to be up there,” Aaryan told variety. “We created a world which you would get sucked into when you enter the theater. And when you go into the world of ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ you have to believe that this can happen and only then can you enjoy. And that is what we succeeded in.”

“In Bollywood or the Hindi film industry we create dreams. We want people to go into a theater and start believing what we are actually trying to sell over there or showcase,” added Aaryan. “Audiences have become really smart. They’re only going to spend money and go to a theater when they think that this is a good film, and they realize it. No matter what, they get to know if it’s a good film or a bad film. It’s not about larger than life cinema – it’s more to do with the content.”

Alongside Aaryan, the performance of Tabu (“Andhadhun”) has been widely praised. “She is a powerhouse talent. And just to be around her and to actually have a conversation with her, or act and rehearse with her, was a learning experience for me,” said Aaryan. “Watching her perform in front of me was a treat.”

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(LR) Raayo S. Bakhirta, Divyendu Sharma, Kartik Aaryan – “Pyaar Ka Punchnama”
Panorama Studios/Viacom18 Motion Pictures/Wide Frame Pictures

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Aaryan does not belong to a Bollywood dynasty. The son of doctor parents, he hails from Gwalior, central India. To pursue his dream of being a Bollywood star he had to relocate to Mumbai, where the Hindi film industry is based. However, for his parents, Aaryan’s education was paramount. So the budding actor found another stratagem, he applied to institutions in Mumbai and secured admission in an engineering college on the outskirts of the city.

Once in the big city, and not having much by way of industry connections, Aaryan would google for acting jobs and commute for hours to get to auditions. After facing several rejections, during the second year of his engineering degree Aaryan stumbled upon a casting call for debutant director Luv Ranjan’s “Pyaar Ka Punchnama” on Facebook. The trouble was, the audition date coincided with a key academic examination at his university.

“I had to make a choice between my exam and this audition. And I went for the audition. They first rejected me. Then they kept auditioning me, rejecting me, auditioning me and then finally they gave me the contract. And if I would have appeared in that exam, I would have never gone for the ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’ audition,” said Aaryan. In the male-bonding comedy, Aaryan was cast as one of the three leads.

“Pyaar Ka Punchnama” (2011), co-produced and distributed by Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, proved to be a sleeper hit and its 2015 sequel “Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2” was also a success. Aaryan’s breakout film was 2018’s comic love triangle “Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety,” also directed by Ranjan, which was one of the biggest hits of the year. Aaryan says that the success of “Sonu” led to him getting a variety of offers.

Subsequently, satire “Luka Chuppi” and “Pati Patni Aur Woh,” a remake of the 1978 comedy classic of the same name, were hits in 2019 for Aaryan, who also starred in Netflix film “Dhamaka” (2021), an adaptation of Korean thriller “The Terror Live.”

“It is difficult, you really have to earn a lot before you get into the same room – it’s as simple as that,” said Aaryan about breaking into the ranks of the Bollywood elite. “After a point I stopped thinking about it, that whether you’re an outsider or insider – I just started thinking about working on my craft, on my talent and working with blinkers on and not thinking about anything else,” said Aaryan.

“If I’m getting a chance now, I believe that a lot of outsiders will eventually get chances, and the industry is actually becoming really welcoming towards the outsiders when it comes to their talent,” Aaryan added.

Aaryan’s next, romantic thriller “Freddy,” by “Veere Di Wedding” filmmaker Shashanka Ghosh, is nearing completion. “Shehzada,” a remake of 2020 Telugu smash hit “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo” by Rohit Dhawan (“Dishoom”) is starting its last shooting schedule imminently. Next up are an untitled film by Sameer Vidwans (“Anandi Gopal”) and “Captain India,” a patriotic film by Hansal Mehta (“Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story”).

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