Mounting a successful comeback is no easy feat. A quick glance at Lindsay Lohan, Sharon Stone and Winona Ryder’s recent filmographies affirms that. And on the Bollywood side, neither Karisma Kapoor nor Preity Zinta nor even India’s present-day Helen of Troy, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has had a successful comeback despite their once massive star power.
Last year, Michael Keaton, the once high-profile Hollywood A-lister who became a complete recluse for a good fifteen years, made a triumphant return last year with Birdman, an unconventional character piece that made both audiences and critics fall in love with the actor all over again as if he never left them.
Sridevi pulled a very similar move a couple of years prior. Like Keaton, Sridevi was one of Bollywood’s high-profile A-listers during the 80s-early 90s who decided to bow out of celebrity pandemonium to tend to her family. When she did decide to come back, twenty years later, she came back strong. With English Vinglish, a beautiful albeit atypical Bollywood film about a reserved, traditional Indian mother navigating through the unfamiliar terrains of New York City. The film was a sleeper hit the world over and turned Sridevi into a bonafide superstar once again.
Remove the Great Divide separating Hollywood and Bollywood and one can quickly ascertain that the similarities between Keaton’s Birdman and Sridevi’s English Vinglish, as well as the impact both films had on their respective actors, are staggering. Both films unexpectedly welcomed the two stars back to the fold after both have been absent from the limelight for more than fifteen years (an eternity in any film industry) and both films just happen to be intimate, unconventional character pieces about two wayward people. It seems as though the two yesteryear superstars, who are oceans apart from each other, share some sort of weird, cosmic connection.
And to ensure that their newly rejuvenated careers have legs, both stars are astutely selecting their follow-up projects. Michael Keaton’s Spotlight arguably eclipsed the success of Birdman and his subsequent film, a biopic on the founder of McDonalds, could likely be bigger than even his Batman films! Meanwhile, Sridevi has aligned herself with the universally loved Nawazzudin Siddique (The Lunchbox) for her next project.
Maybe it wasn’t just happenstance or wise decisions on Keaton and Sridevi’s part that propelled them back to superstardom, maybe some credit should be given to The Big Apple. That’s the fourth similarity between Birdman and English Vinglish, the two films see Michael Keaton and Sridevi’s characters solving their life problems in New York City; a place which even in its sanitized, post-Giuliani state still has the potential to inspire and rejuvenate those that are in need of a rebirth.