The next superstar

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 02, 2011 19:31 hrs

With Rockstar’s box office success, Ranbir Kapoor looks like the most likely contender for the top slot after the Khans.

He burst onto the silver screen four years ago as the chocolate-boy hero of Saawariya. It was the best debut he could have hoped for. The much-hyped film was directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, known for his magical touch at the box office. But the film bombed despite its haunting music, breathtaking visuals and Rs 50 crore budget, which made it one of the most expensive films made in India till then. The film’s failure raised doubts about Bhansali’s abilities, but everyone acknowledged the talent of its male lead. Ranbir Kapoor, scion of Bollywood’s first family, had arrived.

Today, eight films later, Kapoor’s latest release, Rockstar, has made him Bollywood’s most saleable young star. Industry experts now expect him to break the nearly two-decade-long domination of the three Khans — Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir.

Rockstar, directed by Imtiaz Ali, has done well despite the fact that its appeal is limited to urban and multiplex audiences. The story of Janardhan Jakhar, a simple Jat boy who transforms into the Rockstar “Jordan” who travels all over Europe in search of his married lady love, has earned over Rs 70 crore in net collections (minus taxes) from the domestic market in the two weeks since its launch. “Rockstar’s opening box office figures were the seventh highest of all time. This is at par with the weekend collections of Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir and Salman movies,” says Komal Nahata, a film trade analyst. According to Nahata, Kapoor, 29, is now miles ahead of others in his age group — Imran Khan, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Ranveer Singh. “He is now at par with the Bollywood biggies. With age on his side, he has a big edge over his counterparts.”

Bollywood’s most successful directors and producers, too, agree that Kapoor is the next big star. “Ranbir’s performance is beyond extraordinary. He has chosen pathbreaking roles. He has the combination of acting brilliance and cinema presence. Now he can only rise as a superstar,” says Karan Johar.

Boxoffice India, a website that tracks star power based on box office numbers, has ranked Kapoor at number three behind Salman Khan and Aamir Khan — and, surprisingly, ahead of Shah Rukh Khan. Such is the consistency of his performance at the box office that five of his seven movies have recovered their money from the domestic market alone. Wake Up Sid, made on a budget of Rs 20 crore, collected over Rs 40 crore domestically, while Raajneeti had net collections of over Rs 94 crore in the domestic box office, making it one of the biggest hits of 2010.

Of course, Kapoor shares credit for Raajneeti’s success with Ajay Devgn and Katrina Kaif. But the credit for Rockstar’s success lies with Kapoor alone. According to independent industry estimates, the producers of Rockstar will recover around Rs 35 crore in the domestic market. (Only 33-40 per cent of gross box office collections goes to the producer; the exhibitor gets as much as 50 per cent of the revenue and also pays the taxes.) That is big money, say industry pundits, pointing to the fact that before Ra.One, Shah Rukh Khan did not have any movie where producers recovered more than Rs 50 crore. And though Ra.One has earned its producer around Rs 80 crore, it was made on a huge budget of Rs 150 crore. Since 2000, only seven Bollywood movies have crossed the Rs 50 crore magic figure for producers. These include three movies by Salman Khan (Dabangg, Bodyguard and Ready), two by Aamir Khan (3 Idiotsand Ghajini) and two by Ajay Devgn (Singham and Golmaal 3). “For a movie which is not mass-based to earn Rs 35-40 crore is amazing. Films by stars like Saif Ali Khan or Akshay Kumar are considered big hits even if they recover Rs 30 crore,” says the CEO of one of country’s largest production houses.

Rockstar, of course, went over budget and cost about Rs 62 crore. Its producers sold broadcast rights for Rs 21 crore, which compares favourably with blockbusters like Singham (Rs 18 crore) or Ra.One (Rs 37 crore). A R Rehman’s scintillating music has also fetched, according to industry sources, about Rs 7 crore.

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Kapoor has alReady cashed in on Rockstar’s success. He has nearly doubled his fee from Rs 8 crore to Rs 15 crore. That is close to what Devgn (around Rs 18 crore) and Hrithik Roshan (Rs 20 crore) charge producers. The Khans, of course, charge more: as much as Rs 27 crore and a share of the profits. Kapoor has two more films in production — Anurag Basu’s Barfee (co-produced by UTV Motion Pictures), followed by Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani (co-produced by Dharma Productions).

Kapoor’s endorsement fees, say those in the business, have also sky-rocketed to Rs 10-11 crore for a one year contract, from around Rs 7 crore earlier. Only Aamir Khan commands a higher fee at Rs 13-14 crore; Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are available for much less — Rs 8-10 crore and Rs 6-8 crore, respectively. Post-Rockstar, as many as four or five new advertisers want to sign Kapoor. “He has all the qualities an average Indian seeks — he is an obedient son, a talented actor and has great looks. He is a combination of star charisma, acting and warmth,” says Anirban Das Blah, managing director of KWAN Entertainment & Marketing Solutions which handles Kapoor’s endorsements.

So what makes Kapoor tick? Perhaps the most important factor is the lacuna at the top, with most of the current top stars — the three Khans, as also Devgn, Roshan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar — aged between 35 and 45. “If you are making a movie for the youth and looking for a hero who is in college or has just started working, you have no choice but Kapoor, Imran and now Ranveer Singh. And Kapoor is surely the best actor and your first choice,” says and industry veteran.

It is this youthful image that makes Kapoor such an attractive brand ambassador. “He connects to our market, which is all about usage,” says Gurinder Singh Sandhu, Tata Teleservices’s head of corporate marketing. “Our brand is now among the top three in its category. Kapoor’s advantage is that he appeals to all sections of society. He is also a great actor.”

That is also why PepsiCo hired him. “The inherent brand attributes of Pepsi — youthful spirit, irreverence and a ‘Change The Game’ attitude — form the basis of signing on a brand ambassador. Kapoor is all that and more. He truly reflects the confidence of the Indian youth today,” says Sandeep Singh Arora, executive vice-president (marketing), cola, PepsiCo India.

Kapoor has also chosen his directors carefully and, in most cases, kept away from masala commercial films. But that, some say, is changing. Kamal Jain, Group CFO of Eros International, which co produced Rockstar, points out that “although very successful, Kapoor’s first few movies were city-centric. Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani was the real game-changer, since it catered to a very wide audience. If you see Rockstar’s figures, even single-screens have done reasonably good business for a movie of this genre.” After all, the movie was shown on over 2,000 screens across the country.

Yet, unlike Shah Rukh Khan, Kapoor still does not have an international following. So while Rockstar earned around Rs 10 crore in the United States and Britain, the collection numbers fell dramatically in the second weekend. Only about 12 per cent of the film’s revenues have come from the overseas market. This pales in comparison with Shah Rukh Khan’s films, whose international collections range from around 25 per cent for Ra.One to 40 per cent for Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. So even if the movie flops in India, he makes it up with international takings.

For Rockstar, shot extensively in Europe, Kapoor made the special effort of going to London and giving lots of interviews to the British media. But, says Suniel Wadhwa, an independent film distributor who distributed Wake Up Sid during his tenure as UTV’s head of distribution, “The overseas market works purely on charisma. Shah Rukh Khan has built himself over the years in the international market. He is followed by Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar. Even Salman Khan has become popular only post-Dabangg.”

But then, Kapoor has time to learn and break into the global market. He has youth on his side.

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