How Sara Ali Khan and Jhanvi Kapoor became Bollywood’s most hyped debutantes in recent history

After years of speculation, Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan’s eldest daughter Sara Ali Khan has started shooting for her first Bollywood film, Kedarnath. Directed by Abhishek Kapoor (Kai Po Che, Rock On!!), Kedarnath is described as a love story that unfolds during the course of a pilgrimage. Sara, along with her co-star Sushant Singh Rajput, visited the Kedarnath temple on the eve of the shoot.

Meanwhile, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughter Jhanvi Kapoor’s debut film, a remake of the Marathi blockbuster Sairat, will go on the floors this November. Her co-star, in this Dharma Productions film, is another star kid — Shahid Kapoor’s younger brother Ishaan. The Sairat-remake will be Ishaan’s second film. The 22-year-old will make his debut with Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Beyond The Clouds.

These two newbies are probably the most hyped debutantes Bollywood has seen in recent times. Even Alia Bhatt, who debuted in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year five years ago, didn’t have the kind of pre-launch hype these girls do.

Let’s take a look at how Sara and Jhanvi’s debuts compare.

Sara Ali Khan with Karan Johar. File Photo

The Beginning

Bollywood first took notice of Sara in early 2012 when she posed, with her mother Amrita Singh, for the cover of Hello magazine. The then-16-year-old Science student looked elegant in an ivory-and-gold Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla creation. While it was obvious that the teen had her heart set on a career in Bollywood, her parents insisted that she complete her education. Weeks after the magazine hit stands, Amrita, in an interview, said, “Sara is good at academics. She even plans to go for further studies to Yale University. So we need to give her some time.”

Even while Sara was studying at Columbia University, speculations about the film she’d debut in continued to swirl. There was Dharma productions’ remake of the Hollywood film Fault in Our Stars opposite Shahid Kapoor’s brother Ishaan Khattar, a film opposite Hrithik Roshan which was to be directed by Karan Malhotra (Agneepath, Brothers) and the sequel to Student of the Year opposite Tiger Shroff. It was only earlier this summer that Kedarnath was confirmed by Amrita as Sara’s debut film.

Close on Sara’s heels, Jhanvi also first made her presence felt with a magazine cover. She was seen on the cover of People Magazine (Dec 2012), along with her mother Sridevi and young sister Khushi. Like Amrita, Sridevi also said that Jhanvi ‘was too young to sign a film’ but ‘she’s always wanted to act’. The 20-year-old finished her schooling at Dhirubhai Ambani School, Mumbai before completely focusing on getting Bollywood ready. While Amrita hesitated about Sara’s association with Dharma, Sridevi, it was said, didn’t even bother looking at any other opportunities for her daughter. After Karan Johar announced in 2015 that Dharma will launch Jhanvi, it was just a matter of finding the right film.

Jhanvi with her parents, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor, and younger sister Khushi on the IIFA green carpet a few years ago. File Photo

The Film

In June last year, Karan watched Sairat, the highest earning Marathi film of all-time, and he was bowled over. Directed by Nagraj Manjule, the film is a young love story juxtaposed against caste conflict. With Nagraj keen on focusing on his Hindi directorial debut (starring Amitabh Bachchan), the reins of the Hindi remake were handed to Shashank Khaitan whose previous two films — Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania — were megahits.

What made Parshya and Archie’s love relatable was that Sairat was soaked in realism. From the naturalistic acting to the brutal violence, the semi-rural landscape and even Archie’s inexpensive sartorial sense helped make the film real. It would be interesting to see how Shashank will find the balance between realism and the trademark Dharma sensibilities. After all, Manish Malhotra has been roped in to dress Jhanvi for the remake.

Details about Sara’s film Kedarnath, on the other hand, have been hard to come by. Even the film’s ‘first look’ that was launched to coincide with the beginning of the shoot, gives away almost nothing about the storyline, which is credited to its director. According to early buzz, the Uttarakhand floods of 2013 form the backdrop of this story of human spirit that persists in the face of tragedy. Sushant’s character in the film is a pitthu, who carries pilgrims on their shoulders. The film will mostly be shot in Uttarakhand.

The Mothers

Like the “heroine’s mummyjis” of yore, both Amrita and Sridevi have been working meticulously behind-the-scenes to make sure that their daughters make the right moves. The Mom actress has come a long way from when she wasn’t keen on a career in showbiz for either of her daughters. In the early days when Jhanvi first started making headlines for her Instagram posts, her superstar mom even ordered her to stay off any kind of social media. Sridevi was instrumental in getting Karan to launch Jhanvi and now that the film’s shoot is just months away, it’s all hands on deck. One hears that she is even closely monitoring all the looks Malhotra is creating for her daughter.

While Sridevi was instrumental in her daughter getting a launch as a ‘Dharma heroine’, the buzz is that Amrita is the reason why Sara lost out on the opportunity. Apparently, the actress wasn’t keen on the three-film caveat that a Dharma launch film came with. By debuting with Kedarnath, not only is Sara not tied down to any production house, she is also free to choose managers and staff that she’s comfortable with instead of those ‘recommended’ by Karan. What also tipped the scales in favour of Kedarnath, for Amrita, was that her friend Ekta Kapoor is one of the film’s producers.

Kedarnath is slated for a summer 2018 release and if the untitled Sairat-remake doesn’t get pushed, it should also hit theatres next year. While trade pundits feel that Jhanvi might have an edge over Sara because she has Karan Johar as a mentor, only time will tell how the audience will receive these star daughters.

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