BENGALURU: The recent string of box-office clunkers has revived the debate about the paucity of stars in Bollywood. Big-budget films such as ‘Jersey’, ‘Heropanti 2’, ‘Bachchan Pandey’ and ‘Runway 34’ failed to even take a decent opening and turned out to be monumental bummers.
Notwithstanding some bummers at the box office, Bollywood is still dominated by stars in their 50s like Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. The new crop of actors seems trifle averse to doing wholesome, mainstream movies with universal appeal.
Movies of all genres and persuasions have ample space and can co-exist in harmony. But to sanctimoniously ask for complete discard of the star system and mass entertainers is like cutting your nose to spite your face.
Talking to The New Indian, Vishek Chauhan, the prominent exhibitor from Bihar, said, “Instead of creating new stars, Bollywood is diluting the impact of already established stars. By scurrying towards so-called content-driven cinema, they’re shrinking the audience base.”
“If you’re making a niche movie, your base is approximately 1 crore footfalls, that is if the movie is really well-crafted. But when a niche movie turns turtle, which they often do, footfalls are negligible. It’s a high-risk, low-reward model. Benefits are moderate if you get it right but losses are humongous if you get it wrong,” he said.
“On the other hand, a movie with a universal appeal has an audience base of 2-5 crore. We have seen many mainstream films such as ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, ‘War’, ‘Sultan’ and ‘PK’ getting over 3 crore footfalls. That was possible because of two reasons: 1) These movies had universal appeal, and 2) They had the presence of stars.”
“Bollywood survives because of stars and franchises. A star like Salman can get over 1.5 crore footfalls even when a commercial film like ‘Race 3’ goes totally wrong. Shah Rukh’s ‘Dilwale’ and Aamir’s ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ did Rs 150 crore net in India despite being bad films. A star can salvage a bad film and ensure full houses at least for the first three days. That’s why we need stars,” Chauhan opined.
Chauhan expressed his disappointment over the choice of movies with young actors. “The young actors are in a hurry to experiment without establishing their credibility and fan base. At least for the first few years, one must stick to mainstream, wholesome movies rather than doing niche cinema if you want to create a massive fan following across India. Who are they working for and trying to impress – the audiences or their elite circle of friends? Bollywood is, unfortunately, becoming elitist,” he said.
“The new crop of actors are trying to become Aamir, but they forget that Aamir started experimenting after he had successfully created a loyal fan base and earned their trust. Also, Aamir is one of a kind who can pull off slightly off-kilter subjects at the box office. He’s a rare genius. Everyone doesn’t have the acumen and assiduity of Aamir,” Chauhan stated.
He said South movies and actors have managed to make inroads in Hindi circuits because the youth no longer connects with Bollywood. “South industry recognised the vacuum in Hindi circuits and started aggressively pushing and promoting Hindu dubbed versions of their films. The youth in mass belts no longer identifies with Bollywood movies and stars,” he concluded.
As much as we can bellyache about the tantrums and eggshell egos of stars, the fact remains that stars are integral to the survival of the industry. Yes, content is the king and it is ultimately the content that creates stars. But the business potential of content is multiplied manifold with the presence of a star. Also, a star can mitigate the losses to a large extent if the content is poor.
Surely, cinema must evolve and fresh, novel themes must manifest on the silver screen. Yes, the star system is far from being perfect and needs a course correction. But why entirely discredit and diss mass entertainers especially when they are the bread and butter for a host of distributors and exhibitors. In fact, the stars – who used to do 10 films at one point in time – have become far more prudent and organised.
So, just have the best of both worlds. A star will exponentially enhance the potential of a crackerjack script with a new idiom, while the wholesome movies with universal appeal must also be given their due reverence as they ultimately pull in huge crowds in the theatres and create stars.