Who is the next No.1?
One thing that everyone knows for sure in the ﬁlm industry in India, is that stars rule. The star system is as old as independent India with two to three male actors ruling the roost at any point of time. Of course, there have been exceptions such as when Mr. Bachchan cut sway across the business like the phenomenon he is, but this reality is something we have come to accept.
These days this is still the case. The three Khan’s are far and away India’s biggest and brightest stars, setting new marks in terms of Box Office performances with every release,every new year. Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh are the mass market giants, straddling across the country and across the world, reaching out to millions. They are the mega heroes of Bollywood and they still have much more to give. Beneath them, perhaps not very far, are heroes like Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan, again with a huge fan following and a mass base that continues to grow and evolve. Akshay, certainly has added plenty of new admirers in the last few years with sterling work and some terriﬁc ﬁlms. He is swiftly becoming Mr.Consistent in Bollywood even though he does more ﬁlms than his immediate peers.
However, this reality got me thinking. Who’s next? None of the actors I have mentioned are getting any younger. Hrithik perhaps has the longest way to go but even he is moving away from traditional Hindi ﬁ lm hero roles as he perhaps feels his age is not appropriate anymore. So, who will ﬁll this void? Or is there a void to ﬁ ll in the ﬁrst place? Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra, Arjun Kapoor are Bollywood’s next generation. They have had seen a huge success in their ﬁrst few years but also have seen some large failures. Their ﬁlms seem to connect with a section of India’s avid cinema going audience but perhaps not to the scale that their more illustrious predecessors do. At least not yet anyway. Which of these emerging heroes will be the big mass market star of the 2020’s? Or will this star come from somewhere else? Its perhaps a little radical to suggest that this mass star could be a female actor. Traditionally heroines have had some hold over the audiences in India but very few have managed to do this effectively without a equally towering hero to share the billing with. Sridevi and Madhuri became huge stars and managed to drive the audiences to theatres, with or without big heroes opposite them. The recent past though has seen more and more of these ﬁlms emerge. Vidya, Priyanka, Deepika, Alia, Anushka, Kangana and even Sonakshi, Sonam and Parineeti have helmed successful ﬁlms sans any of the big actors to fuel audience interest. What does this trend point to? Perhaps more and more ﬁlmmakers are writing heroine oriented scripts but equally perhaps more and more producers are serious about the viability of these ﬁlms being able to sustain strong audience from both women and men.
Further Priyanka and Deepika are swiftly becoming international stars. Priyanka is now a recognized face in the US with her hit show into its sophomore season. Her ﬁrst big Hollywood ﬁlm comes out in the summer and this will catapult her further into the international media’s limelight. Deepika’s debut in the recent XXX revival will certainly see her agents get plenty of calls to see if there is an opportunity for her to do more such international projects.I have no doubt that these two will be the trailblazers for more Indian actresses to crack the US market. There seems to be a serious interest from there and our actresses seem perfectly willing to back themselves with it, which is a truly wonderful thing. So, is Priyanka a bigger star than Ranveer Singh? If her US ﬁlm career takes off like her TV career, is she India’s biggest star? And how will the Indian industry react to this?
Despite the recent wave of populism and conservatism sweeping political change in the world, the opportunities for Indian actors has never been greater as Hollywood looks out for inclusive faces representing the new audiences they are catering to across the world. Who is to say that the ﬁrst big international star from India won’t be one of Bollywood’s own and will be one of our amazingly talented leading ladies and not our traditionally loved, home-grown heroes?