Bollywood still banks on Khans, Akshay, Ajay and Hrithik
Every decade, a fresh crop of actors make it to the big league. Usually star sons, these actors are welcomed into the industry with fanfare and hailed as the next best thing. And yet, there’s been no change in the Top Five actors list in the last two decades.
Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh… the new lot of actors are charging upwards of ` 10 crore per film, but it is the old guard that keeps the film business profitable. Even today, a total of ` 1,200 crore are jointly invested in Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Hrithik Roshan. These are the actors that producers want to invest in. They are the first to be approached whenever a project is being put together. While there are a dozen stars who get the fees they quote, only these six rule the roost. Proof of that is the fact that only these actors’ films have netted over ` 100 crore at the box office.
The commercial aspect
So what makes these six click in such a huge way? Aamir holds the record for the biggest earner with 3 Idiots and was the first actor whose film ( Ghajini) crossed the ` 100 crore mark. Salman has three films (Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard) that have earned upwards of ` 100 crore, while Shah Rukh Khan (RA.One, Don 2), Ajay Devgn (Golmaal 3, Singham) and Akshay Kumar (Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore) have two films each in the same category. These actors understand how important commercial cinema is, while the younger lot seems more inclined towards acting in new-age films that attract a niche audience, but doesn’t translate into big numbers. Ranbir Kapoor chooses to act in Rockstar, apart from the upcoming Barfi! and Bombay Velvet. Even Imran Khan’s next few choices are less commercial. Like Maatru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, whose films are more for niche audience than the masses, say tradesmiths. Shahid Kapoor, who stepped away from formula films with Kaminey, went on to act in two films — Mausam and Teri Meri Kahani — which failed to make a mark at the box office.
Indore-based distributor Aditya Choksey points out that if Ranbir, Imran and Shahid do all out massy entertainers, their films too will make money at par with big six. “The kind of films the top six actors are doing cater to pan Indian audiences. So if a Dabangg ensures full houses in Central India, so do 3 Idiots, Bodyguard, Rowdy Rathore and Golmaal 3,” he asserts. That’s where smaller cities and towns gain more importance for mainstream movies, reiterates Delhi-based distributor, Sanjay Ghai. He explains, “While Saif Ali Khan, Ranbir, Imran and Shahid may get an opening in major metros, they have no draw in places like Nagpur, Lucknow, Kanpur. Unless a star gets into the interiors, his films can’t do huge business. And connecting with the smaller cities takes time. That’s where they’re lagging behind.”
Mass VS Youth
Mumbai-based distributor and exhibitor Hemant Shah attributes the success of the top six to their films being entertainers. “The younger actors are doing more romantic films, targeted towards the youth. They don’t have the universal appeal of mass entertainers,” he says, adding, “They don’t work in B and C centers. Which is why despite netting about ` 70 crore across India, business wasn’t good enough for Rockstar, just as Shahid and John’s biggest openings weren’t good enough for Mausam and Force, respectively. Ditto Imran, whose hits net ` 58 crore in total, while the top six stars’ movies rake in just as much in less than a week.”
Veteran filmmaker Ramesh Sippy says top actors are apprehensive about doing non-mainstream films. “This is why I don’t think they’ll continue to enjoy their current position five years down the line. Then, Ranbir, Imran and their likes will be the reigning actors.”