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To Fifty … and beyond!

Written by Omair Alavi

The year 2022 breaks barriers as senior citizens continue to strike gold at the box office!

The year 2022 breaks barriers as senior citizens continue to strike gold at the box office!

There seems to be no age limit on success at the box office, especially in Hollywood where age is just a number for some actors. For people like Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr., and Harrison Ford, there is no limit to doing unbelievable things, no matter how old they might be. The viral video of Hollywood actor Tom Cruise performing aerial stunts at the age of sixty, or Pakistani actor Humayun Saeed dominating the box office after his fiftieth birthday is proof that if you can translate your success into box office gold, the age column doesn’t matter.

Senior Tinseltown citizens are still ruling the film industry even in this day and ‘age’ because they have kept themselves fit after fifty. But then there are those who should take their age into consideration because it’s not working for them. Let’s take a look at the twenty leading men of filmdom from across the globe who are still playing leading roles despite their advancing age. While some are still hitting the jackpot, there are a few who need to understand that nothing lasts forever, and all good things must come to an end!

Hollywood, where age is nothing more than just a number!

He may have celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year but veteran Hollywood actor Harrison Ford is in no mood to slow down or hand over the mantle of Indiana Jones to a younger actor. He reprised the role of Han Solo when Star Wars needed his character after more than two decades and will be seen in the fifth Indiana Jones film, set to be released next year. He will be playing the title character and has warned all those Indiana Jones hopefuls that if they play the character after he is gone, he will come back to haunt them!

If Harrison Ford can do it, so can the 76-year-old Sylvester Stallone who shared the screen with the old man in The Expendables 3. Although he played a comic character Dredd back in the 1990s, Stallone made his first superhero appearance in Samaritan where he played a retired vigilante who is recalled to save the city he once protected. Through this film, the original Rambo told the younger guys how it’s done, and excelled in every way. He is likely to be part of The Expendables 4 as the main lead which, considering his age, is nothing short of an achievement.

Liam Neeson might be a few years younger than Sylvester Stallone, but at 70, he is still playing the angry old man character to perfection, which revived his career in Taken. Before that, he was trying to impress his audience with drama but once he found his true calling, he saved his family, and his friends, and cleared his name in similarly themed films, be it on air (Non-Stop), on land (The Commuter) or even on ice (Cold Pursuit). Two of his films Blacklight and Memory this year featured him in a role of a one-man army, which is likely to change with his 100th film Marlowe set to be released in December, where he will bring Raymond Chandler’s brooding private eye Philip Marlowe to life.

Despite the fact that Denzel Washington’s own son John David Washington is now playing leading roles in films like Tenet, the 67-year-old actor shows no signs of quitting. Not only will he be making a return to action films with The Equalizer 3 next year, but he is also currently doing theatre as well. The Academy Award-winner, who has been ruling the box office since the 1990s, was the one chosen to play the leading man in the remake of The Magnificent Seven in 2016 because of his action-oriented roles that he excelled in after turning fifty. With The Equalizer series, he has a franchise on his hand that will never go out of fashion, even after he crosses 70!

He was the poster boy of all those boys and girls who grew up in the 1980s, and forty years later he is still a youth icon. His name is Tom Cruise and despite turning 60, he is still ruling the box office. His Top Gun: Maverick is dethroning the superhero films at the box office while his next Mission Impossible is likely to create box office records when released next year. What makes Tom Cruise still sellable is his ability to do things that no other actor would consider. If his character is required to climb tall buildings, he will do it himself and the same phenomenon will apply to stunts where he is hanging onto a plane, driving fast cars, or even doing death-defying stunts in the air!

If he doesn’t tell anyone that he is 58 years old, people may not even realize that in two years Brad Pitt will cross 60. In his recently released Bullet Train, he plays an assassin who never has lady luck on his side and surprised his fans with his decent performance. He not only gets to fight but also shows his comedic skills, which is something that he also displayed in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar two years back.

And then there is Keanu Reeves also known as John Wick who is still angry for some guys killing his dog! It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that despite celebrating his 58th birthday two weeks back, Keanu Reeves remains the most in-demand actor in Hollywood. DC Comics wants him back as Constantine, Marvel wants him in their camp while The Matrix ‘resurrected’ because of his interest in the franchise. As for John Wick, he will return as the man with few words and more moves for the fourth time next year, which is something that can’t be said for many 58-year-olds out there.

Bollywood has its share of ups and downs with older leading men!

In an era when actors opt for surgery to retain their youthful looks, Sunny Deol stands out as an exception. At 65, he is as fit as a fiddle and it might have to do something with his paternal genes since his 80-odd-year-old father Dharmendra doesn’t seem to grow old as well. Besides being a Member of the Parliament in India, Sunny Deol will be making his return to films with R Balki’s Chup where he will be pitted against a serial killer who likes to murder film critics. His next venture Baap will also feature the 1980s leading men Jackie Shroff and Mithun Chakraborty, but Sunny still looks younger than them, and has a hand that weighs more!

He may be a few months younger than Sunny Deol, but Anil Kapoor isn’t far behind in the success department in this day and age. Despite being 65, and recently becoming a grandfather, Anil Kapoor is doing exactly what Amitabh Bachchan couldn’t in the 1990s, and that’s playing his age. Even in the recently released Jugjugg Jeeyo, he is playing a father to Varun Dhawan who wants to divorce his wife and marry someone else. He can also be seen in the lead role opposite Salman Khan in No Entry Mein Entry next year, which will be the sequel to his 2005 hit No Entry, also featuring Salman Khan.

Bollywood’s Mr. Perfectionist Aamir Khan might not be doing well at the box office at the moment, but he has had his share in the last three decades. The 57-year-old is amongst the most accomplished actors, and producers in the Indian film industry, and even though his last two films – Thugs of Hindostan and Laal Singh Chaddha might not have done well at the box office, he still has a lot to offer. Despite being three years shy of his 60th birthday, he still looks good enough to play a college student and if he sheds the goofy look he has been carrying on from Dhoom 2 and PK, he might once again strike gold at the box office.

The King Khan of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan is days away from his 57th birthday but unlike Aamir Khan, he looks his age which is why only his ardent fans are waiting for his two films Pathan and Jawan. After his last two films Jab Harry Met Sejal and Zero bombed at the box office, he hasn’t done any film, and just had cameo appearances in fellow actors’ films namely R Madhavan’s Rocketry: The Nambi Effect (as himself), Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha (again as himself) and Ranbir Kapoor’s Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva (as Scientist). Although the first two films didn’t do well at the box office, the third one’s journey is in progress and one hopes that its success pumps SRK in such a way that he starts taking acting seriously, for the sake of his fans.

Since 1947, no actor has starred in the highest number of highest-grossing films of the year than Salman Khan and that has more to do with his popularity than his acting. His forthcoming release Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ka Jaan will be hitting the screens in December, while the third film of his ‘Tiger’ series is likely to be released sometime next year. Although before the year ends he will celebrate his 57th birthday, he still can pass for someone in his forties, thanks to his well-maintained body and the fame that has kept him in demand since 1989.

At 54, Akshay Kumar looks fitter than most of his contemporaries but since his three films in 2022 – Bachchan Pandey, Samrat Prithviraj, and Raksha Bandhan – have failed at the box office, he needs to rethink his strategy and make a strong comeback. Otherwise, younger actors will replace him, as they replaced his father-in-law Rajesh Khanna in the 1970s. He continues to appear in more films per year than all the other Khans but that doesn’t help his cause, considering the audience of today isn’t forgiving, and if an actor with three back-to-back flops comes up with another below-average flick, they will vent out their anger on social media without waiting for the box office verdict.

And then there is the youngest Khan of ‘em all, Saif Ali Khan who at 52 doesn’t look old, but instead looks regal thanks to his genes. His father former Indian Captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was among the most handsome men of his time while his mother Sharmila Tagore was a top Indian film actress who ruled the hearts during the 1960s and the 1970s. Saif, who himself has been around since the 1990s, turned his career around through Dil Chahta Hai and since then has been delivering hits on both OTT platforms and films. His forthcoming release Vikram Vedha may pit him against Bollywood’s most handsome man Hrithik Roshan, but he manages to stand his ground, especially in the action scenes.

And then there is Pakistan!

Move over Hollywood, forget Bollywood, Pakistan has its own brigade of fifty-plus leading men who have the ability to attract crowds even today. Although the 59-year-old Faran Tahir doesn’t work in Pakistan, he represents the country internationally as a Pakistani American. From playing the main villain in Iron Man 1 to playing the Captain of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, he has been active in both films and TV, abroad. His most recent work in Pakistan is TV serial Samjhauta Express while, before the pandemic, he did a theatre play Bhai Bhai in Karachi along with his younger brother Ali Tahir. That’s not all, he was also part of the award-winning film I’ll Meet You There as the leading man and will be part of the ensemble cast of Umro Ayyar and The Window, of which he is also the producer.

There is also the everlasting Faisal Rehman who might have made his debut over 40 years ago but at that time, he was a student who played a student onscreen. Today he is still fit and acceptable as a leading man even if it means playing the older guy to a young girl or an elder brother with a mature head on his shoulders. He may not be active in films anymore but that might change with just one good role that can help films more than help the actor. On TV, he is still a force to be reckoned with and might remain relevant until someone with a better ‘dimple’ makes it to the top.

And then there is the simply brilliant Naumaan Ijaz, who doesn’t look over 50 at all. In Raqeeb Se last year he played the leading man who had a wife (Sania Saeed) who loved him and gave refuge to his ex (Hadiqa Kiani) who ran away from her home and whose daughter (Iqra Aziz) had a crush on their saviour. If that’s not enough to prove his longevity as a leading man, then I don’t know what is. Naumaan Ijaz, who began his career in films during the late 1980s, has dabbled in films here and there but continues to dominate the TV scene with his good looks, excellent choice of characters, and acting prowess.

Very rarely do actors from Pakistan make it to the international level but Adnan Siddiqui is amongst those lucky performers who have played important characters in both Hollywood and Bollywood, besides Pakistan. Two years back he was the main antagonist in Mere Paas Tum Ho, and is currently busy playing the host in the reality show Tamasha, which is becoming quite popular amongst the audience. Not only did his name feature at the top of the recently-released film Carma but he will also be part of the Umro Ayyar film as an undisclosed character.

If the box office in Pakistan had a face, it would surely have resembled Humayun Saeed because the actor features in four of the five highest-grossing Pakistan films of all time. He may have turned 51 earlier this year but that didn’t stop his Eid ul Azha release London Nahi Jaunga from becoming the second most successful Pakistani film, ever. As if conquering Pakistan’s box office wasn’t enough, Humayun Saeed moved to Netflix and will be playing Dr. Hasnat Khan in the forthcoming season of The Crown, opposite Hollywood actress Elizabeth Debicki who will play Lady Diana.

For someone who has acted in over 500 films, Shaan Shahid doesn’t look a day out of his forties. The 51-year-old is not just the leading man in nearly every film he is part of, he is always leading the cast no matter who else is in the film. He has maintained himself well and that’s why the audience is looking forward to his forthcoming release Zarrar where he plays a secret agent like never before. Not only has he played the titular character in the film, he has also written, produced, and directed it, and considering that he is right now the most senior leading man in films, the film might change the dynamics of the local film scene, just like Shaan-starrer Waar did nearly a decade back. -Ends

About the author

Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi is a highly regarded journalist, critic, and commentator, specializing in news, sports, showbiz, film, blogs, articles, drama, reviews, and PTV drama. With extensive experience and a keen eye for storytelling, he captivates audiences with his insightful analysis and compelling presentations. His expertise and contributions have made him a prominent figure in the media and entertainment industry.