In Hindi Cinema, are we losing stars: Part 2 of an Analysis

Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff in the box-office disaster, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. Photo: Universal Communications

As we saw in Part 1 of this feature, stars form an integral part of Hindi cinema. But one of the key reasons why the box-office is sliding down is that stars are falling, failing and fading! Let us examine this phenomenon.

Falling Stars

The quantum of stars across the board in Hindi cinema is falling, and falling terribly. The three Khans, for a long, long while, were considered mega-stars. Films were announced and sold on their name and even their music created magic. Since 2010 and Dabangg, Salman, then in the 23rd year of his career (he began in 1988), had an unbroken spree of super-hits, and the Eid release was his safest bet, for seven long years. Today, he is on shaky ground despite the fact that his last film, the atrocious Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, still touched a net business in India of Rs.10 billion largely due to his phenomenal fan following. Even before this movie, he had duds in Radhe—Your Most Wanted Bhai and Antim: The Final Truth.

Maidaan had to do only with critical appreciation despite its excellence. Photo: Universal Communications

Shah Rukh Khan, who once grandiloquently stated that he was a superstar “only in urban India and overseas but a dirty name in small-town and rural India”, was rescued by Pathaan and Jawan in 2023. But Dunki underperformed and it is clear that all his future films will be taken on merit. After all, pre-Pathaan, his last hit had been Chennai Express a decade before.

Aamir Khan too realizes that he has to be super-careful now. Not only Laal Singh Chaddha crashed but it was preceded, except for 3 Idiots, PK, Dhoom:3 and Dangal, by a few touted rather than genuine hits.

It has long been proved by now that the movies of Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor work strictly on audience resonance, which is also why Akshay had an unbroken stream of success or hits between 2016 and 2019 and is having a flop run now. A solid movie like Ajay Devgn’s Maidaan too had to do only with critical appreciation. The same applies to a Ranveer Singh, whose movies are also not flop-proof. If a Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is loved, a catastrophe like Circus will be rejected outright.

The same goes for Shahid Kapoor, John Abraham, Varun Dhawan, Tiger Shroff and Sidharth Malhotra. Ayushmann Khurrana, frankly, is no star and neither are Vicky Kaushal, Rajkummar Rao, Manoj Bajpayee or Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The last three are said to be demanding the kind of fees that are in multiples of the business most of their films do!

Only Alia Bhatt has recently pulled in audience on her own—in Raazi and Gangubai Kathiawadi. Photo: Universal Communications

Among the heroines, with the exception of Alia Bhatt (Raazi, Gangubai Kathiawadi), there is no other crowd-puller. Deepika Padukone, Kriti Sanon and Katrina Kaif are not anywhere in the league of stars who can pull in audiences on their own steam. Like them all, Kareena Kapoor Khan hardly counts alone either but scores with a big name co-star and a quality product. And—there is no one else!

Speaking of filmmakers, the most bankable names in the industry—the hitherto-infallible Rajkumar Hirani and Rohit Shetty—have disappointed with their latest releases, Dunki and Cirkus, respectively. For every Yash Raj Films’ success, there is more than one damp squib from them and so is the case with Dharma Productions. As of now, the next films of Nitesh Tiwari and Rakesh Roshan are nowhere in sight, while Sanjay Leela Bhansali is being keenly-watched, because his web debut, HeeramandiThe Great Diamond Bazaar has had mixed reactions.

The music scenario is totally barren. Despite Amar Singh Chamkila’s modestly-appealing work, A.R. Rahman no longer is considered a magician, and Pritam is doing decent work off and on but does not command the rage his music once did. Arijit Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal are only—and transiently—as good as their latest song. These five command great crowds at solo concerts, but not within cinema.

So what is wrong?

Popularity today is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the classic requirement for a star is exclusivity. Today, thanks to overall media glitz, stars are available 24/7—seen or ‘papped’ at airports and malls, blazed on social media and on TV and mobile screens.

Dharmendra with Dilip Kumar. Stars were barely seen outside films then. Photo: Publicity Photo

Gone is the era when Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra or Amitabh Bachchan or even Shah Rukh Khan or Madhuri Dixit-Nene were spotted or seen only through their films or at unpublicized outdoor shoot locales besides in pictures (very rarely on TV) and features in print. Most stars today either converse with fans or share pictures and details of everything on Twitter or Instagram. How then can an Alia Bhatt elicit the kind of madness that a Mumtaz, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman or Sridevi once evoked?

And so the elusive element of a star that added to his or her enigma and chimera is gone forever. There is thus no frenzy or curiosity when a star’s new film is releasing, even if he or she has had milestones like matrimony or parenthood.

The rest of the story is again of sheer value for money. The budgets for watching a film in a movie hall have soared alarmingly high, when the world is available to a viewer at the touch of a remote, mouse or mobile. Who will splurge then when the material, if worth consuming, will be available anyway within a few weeks at home on an OTT platform?

And so, if we are going to patronize someone’s work only conditionally, the very definition of a ‘STAR’ is nullified. And a valid question emerges on which we must duly reflect:

Are stars left in Hindi cinema today?









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