Bollywood’s Star System

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Bollywood is dominated by stars & is notorious for its “star system”. Who are these stars? Why are they so important? Read our article to find out why & how these stars dominate Bollywood!

While getting a break in Bollywood itself is even tougher than cracking the IIT-JEE, CA, or UPSC exams, becoming a star is even tougher. We know of National School Of Drama(India’s best acting institute) or FTII toppers who are barely making a living appearing in TV commercials or bit roles in movies. On the other hand, actors including outsiders like Kartik Aaryan & some star kids, who learned acting from other acting schools are now bonafide movie stars.

While one can learn acting or filmmaking either at NSD or FTII, any of the several private acting/filmmaking schools in Mumbai, nobody teaches you how to become a star. You either have it or you don’t. While some people will want you to believe that all star kids turn out to be stars, nothing is further from the truth. In our earlier articles, we had mentioned how not many star kids have turned out to be successful.

Who Is A Star

While there are many definitions of a movie star, for Bollywood trade analysts a star is someone whose presence or involvement in a movie can substantially increase the chances of a movie’s success. It need not necessarily be an actor. The star can also be a director or producer. There are star singers, music composers, lyricists as well, but they come lower in the pecking order vis-a-vis actors, directors & producers.

For the sake of keeping it simple, we will speak about only star actors in this article.

Why A Star Is Uber Powerful

While many movies release every Friday, only a handful turn out to be successful. Out of the 69 odd movies that released last year, only 21 were hits ie a success rate of barely 30%. 4 of these movies starred Akshay Kumar. Ayushmann Khurana starred in 3 hits, Ajay Devgn, Kartik Aaryan & Hrithik starred in 2 hits each. The other hits starred Sushant Singh Rajput, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Shahid Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Prabhas, Tiger Shroff, Ranveer Singh & John Abraham(these stars gave 1 hit film each). Aamir, Ranbir & Shahrukh did not have a single release this year. No male star was born in 2019. None of the hits can be attributed to female stars

2018 had 21 hit films. Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, John Abraham, Varun Dhawan & Ayushmann starred in 2 hits each. Amitabh Bachchan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Urvashi Rautela, Shahid Kapoor, Rajkumarr Rao, Ishaan Khattar, Tiger Shroff all starred in 1 hit each. Ishaan Khattar was the new star Bollywood gave this year.

Many of the stars mentioned above co-starred in a project & the hits were attributed to both of all three of them(Deepika, Ranveer, Shahid in Padmaavat).

If you look at the list, or even extend this study till 2010, you will find that barring that one odd Tashkent Files, or Hate Story which turned out be sleeper hits, despite starring no big names, most of the hits have the same odd actors playing the male/female lead. These celebs are referred to as Bollywood A-list. Barring Deepika Padukone & Alia Bhatt, there is no female star who can assure good footfalls for a movie. Kangana’s movies get a good initial, but she hasn’t had a clean hit since 2015.

These 10-12 odd ‘stars’ are hot property & are literally chased by all producers & directors. They get the best scripts, best directors & the best producers. An A-lister has a heap of scripts sent to him/her regularly & it is them who decide which 1-2 projects they take up. Directors, scriptwriters, lyricists, etc save their best work for A-listers. That explains why YRF, Dharma, Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Sajid Nadiadwala films have the best music, scripts, costumes, etc. They think that doing their best work for an unknown hero or small-time filmmaker like Sachiin Joshi, Jackky Bahgnani would go unnoticed.

If you were a music composer would you give your best tunes to Sachiin Joshi or save it for Kartik Aaryan/Ayushmann or any other A-lister?

A movie starring an A-lister is promoted on a large scale & gets all the people involved loads of recognition thanks to star’s ardent fans who track their every movie.

The celebs outside the A-list have to take up whatever work that comes their way & just pray that the movie succeeds. Sushant Singh Rajput too was probably scared, not of being out of work, but of not being an A-lister anymore.

What Is Required To Be A Star

There is no clear cut requirement list to be a star when it comes to male actors. A star is anyone whom you love to watch on screen. A star is someone who is expected to look good, act well, dance well, & has a great physique. Very rarely do you find someone with all the above qualities? Hrithik, Ranbir, Ranveer, Kartik Aaryan are exceptions.

A female star can make it solely on the basis of her looks, dancing skills. Very rarely do you come across a Deepika, or Kangana, Tabu, Sridevi, Madhuri, etc are notable exceptions. The female actor is only required to bag movies opposite big movies, especially those opposite male stars. That explains why the casting couch is so rampant.


There are some huge & common misconceptions people have when it comes to stardom in the industry

Any rich father can make his son a star – This is a big misconception that people have. It this was true then stars wouldn’t be lining up outside Aditya Chopra or Karan Johar’s office. Vashu Bhagnani has produced umpteen movies for his son – Jackky, but he is not a star. Sachiin Joshi is a millionaire who has produced several movies starring himself, but he is not a star. Harman Baweja too was launched by his filmmaker father, but flopped.

Many Strugglers In Yari Road/Lokhandwala Are Better Than Stars/Star Kids – If this was true then everyone with a few crores to invest would be producing movies starring these strugglers. These strugglers may be good actors, good lookers or good dancers or all the three, but they lack the star-like persona & charm which is required to make it in Bollywood. Of all the outsider newbies that were launched by Luv Ranjan in his Pyaar Ka Punchanma series, only Kartik Aaryan went on to become a star. The other actors too were good looking, acted well, danced well, etc but only Kartik made it. Because he is star material. The same goes for Ayushmann Khurana, Rajkumarr Rao, Sushant Singh Rajput, etc.

Why would a producer pay several crores to a star, literally be at his feet, if he could make hits by making films with any Tom, Dick & Harry from Lokhandwala/Yari Road/Bandra?

A Good Actor Or A Good Looker Or A Good Dancer Or A Good Fighter Can Easily Become A Star – Another huge misconception. The strugglers of Lokhandwala/Yari Road are often cited as examples of great looking people or actors. One struggleR in a viral video claimed how nepotism to be the only reason why they haven’t made it big.

If good looks were all that was required then Fardeen Khan, Jugal Hansraj, Aditya Roy Kapoor, John Abraham, Arjun Rampal, Upen Patel would be the top superstars(John Is a big star, but is not among the biggest stars). If acting skills were all that mattered then Nawazuddin Siddiqur, KK Menon, Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, etc would be among the top three stars. If action scenes were all that mattered then Vidyut Jammwal would have been as big as or bigger than Tiger Shroff. If comic timing was all that was required, producers would be dying to sign up Zakir Khan, AIB or Kannan Gill for their movies & not run after established stars. Johnny Lever is a star comic in the movies, Sunil Pal(winner of Great Indian Laughter Challenge isn’t).

Why Dharma/YRF Are So Sought After

While anybody with 10cr+ can easily make a film, very few filmmakers know exactly what it takes to make a hit film. A Luv Ranjan who made several hit films with complete outsiders is an exception, not the rule. The filmmakers who don’t belong to YRF or Dharma camp who have given hit films starring complete newbies – be it star kids or outsiders are not many. Some such well-known production houses are RGV Film Factory, Rajshri, Vishesh Films, Phantom Films, Ronnie Screwvala & T-Series(they have the backing of their huge music label).

Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Sajid Nadiadwala, etc are geniuses who can just look at a screen test & tell whether the actor is star material. Sadly in Karan’s case, most of the time his star materials are star kids. Dharma is also accused of working only with stars. The world knows why Siddharth Malhotra or Fawad Khan were cast in his movies.

Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Sajid Nadiadwala, Bhushan Kumar & Ronnie Screwvala are also adept at predicting the box office verdict long before the movie’s release, just by going through the first cut of the film or by listening to the script. That explains why Drive, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, etc were either released on streaming platforms or are yet to get released, while a Baahubali made by South Indian celebs got a nationwide release.

For these reasons directors, actors, scriptwriters, musicians, etc also give their best shot while working with Dharma or YRF. Like they say “Success attracts success”.

But even Dharma, YRF or Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV go through financial troubles as movie making is a high-risk business. Watch this space for more details on this topic.

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18 thoughts on “Bollywood’s Star System

  • July 10, 2020 at 4:16 am

    Arjun Kapoor was launched by YRF. Sorry to say but he can’t dance, can’t act and is not good looking. But still YRF considered him a star material??
    Similarly I don’t think Ishaan Khattar has star quality but still he was launched by Dharma.
    Ayushmann mentioned in his book that he was told by Dharma that they work only with stars. But today Ayushmann is a bigger star than Varun and Sidharth. Dharma couldn’t find that star quality in Ayushmann?

    • July 10, 2020 at 3:06 pm

      Arjun Kapoor is now a flop star, but Ishaqzaade, 2 states, ki aur ka, gunday, were hits(gunday was a semi hit). it was only post his affair with malaika that his downfall started. Now neither YRF nor dharma want to work with him.
      You or I may think that Ishaan doesn’t have star quality, but Dhadhak was a hit. Its like you may think that your gold bangle or gold chain is pure gold but only a ‘johar’ can say if that’s true. Our singular opinion doesn’t matter. Many people think SRK is an over actor, but for many he is the god of acting. Same goes for Salman – people call him a bad actor, dancer, etc but he is the biggest star.

      As far as Ayushmann Khurana is concerned, YRF did offer him a three film contract but Dharma didn’t. Maybe it has to do with several of his films post Vicky Donor flopping. Dharma works with stars or star kids, because Karan thinks his investment is safe that way. When he is betting 40cr on a star, doesn’t he have the liberty to make the choice? He is working with Kartik Aaryan now that he is star – it doesn’t matter that he is an outsider. If his bets on star kids or any star goes wrong he stands to lose several crores per film. If he wants to burn his cash on undeserving star kids why should people have a problem?

      • July 11, 2020 at 12:06 am

        All this star was hit because they worked in good script I agree with you not everyone becomes a star but remember one thing star always fade away there was a time when Saif Ali khan was superhit you can’t deny the fact Saif doesn’t has star quality his choices of script was not good.

        Many time small films or in that sense underrated films doesn’t has good marketing which goes unnoticed by the audience as they don’t have strong marketing.

        You can’t compare vidhyut and tiger shroff it’s not fair as tiger shroff has gotten more chance compare to vidhyut in your bollywood industry I like vidhyut more then John Abraham in force he has quality to even overshadow John abhraham talk when both of them get equal chance he was not even invited along with kunal khemu by Disney plus hotstar please talk about that too.

        Who are you to decide who is good looking or not good looking we don’t watch movies simply because look to be frank alia bhatt is just an average girl she is not a beauty queen still we watch her movies because her acting and script choice is good we are against seeing glamor doll is movie if item number and dance mattered films like raazi and queen where kangana wore full clothes wouldn’t have been hit.

        We know Katrina gets movie because of her good connection and professionalism but tell me one thing will any big producer spent crore of what they spend on Deepika, alia or kangana still compare to her cotempories she needs a good star to back her up she is neither tabu who will get work if she get old good looks always get replaced by another good looks.

        Karan Johar is genius lol yeah your genius was against aditya Chopra casting anushka sharma into his movie thank god anushka was lucky to not listen to genius and aditya Chopra too thought kangana will not be a star and on sajid nadiawala he has always worked with stars there is rarely he has worked with new Comer.

        Only Ronnie screvwala is the producer who has created balance in his whole career he has produced paan singh tomar as well as rowdy rathore and uri that is called correct balance.

        Lastly I will tell you what really make a person star is originality we as an audience watch star not in films but in interviews too we don’t want copy version of another star and we get bored seeing a person do same type of movie and same type of role.

        Siddharth malothra was cast because of good looks not good acting and fawad khan was already popular in Indian household with zindagi gulzar Hai and fawad got the role after 7 actors rejected that role.

        Aditya Roy kapur film aashiqui was hit and we people only made it hit none of them were star neither aditya nor shraddha and neither arjit singh still the movie became hit because of all the other factors and especially good songs contribute a lot to success of the films when Shahrukh was not even a star still ddlj was super hit in jab we met both Shahid and kareena was flop overall factor like good script, characterisation and good songs make a complete package of good movies.

        If people were that too into star craze films like kalank and thugs of hindustan would have been super hit was it hit no it was not hit because there was only one factor in the movie stars that it.

        True many of scriptwriter and others get label of yrf and dharma but if they keep on producing flop films soon there label will go away they have got this label because of films like ddlj and kuch kuch hota Hai.

        Bahubali was liked by everyone because unlike bollywood who are scared to show its culture they had made amazing movie focusing on all the factors and if you noticed bahubali was inspired by mahabharat the whole visual effect the screenplay and suspense was amazing.

        And regarding sushant I still feel there should be cbi investigation as your bollywood industry doesn’t has right to exploit newcomers and outsiders did we told your bollywood not to invite vidhyut and kunal in there film announcement.

        Don’t insult your audience we have always supported good movies like ddlj,queen,jab we met, mardani, hum tum, andhadhun, munna bhai mbbs, Kai po Che and band Baja bharat and many more too all this movie was hit not because of the stars in them but because of good characterisation, story line and good songs.

        Left watching bollywood movies moment when foreign actress and star kids and people with no talent started dominating the industry.

        • July 12, 2020 at 7:02 pm

          You have mostly agreed with what i have been saying, so wont reply to those points.

          On the points you disagreed, here is my opinion

          1. Tiger & Vidyut is a very fair comparison. Vidyut has now acted in 5 films where he plays the lead or the second lead. He ahs been in the industry for 9 years Tiger was way ahead in terms of stardom after his 5 films playing the lead. Vidyut’s upcoming film trailer for Yaara received a dismal response. Kartik Aaryan, Ayushmann have achieved lot more even though they too are outsiders & entered the industry at around the same time. Vidyut & Kunal were not invited by Disney as they are not big stars. The response for Yaara trailer proves that. It has nothing to do with nepotism. Akshay Kumar -an outsider was invited to the event. All the people who promised to support outsiders did not bother to see the trailer. Like we have always said the audiences is ruthless. They will watch what they want & reject celebs they don’t like. it doesn’t matter whether the celeb is an outsider or a star kids. Their actions dont seem to be in sync with their words.

          I don’t think you have a question for me as far as alia is concerned. Speaking about Katrina, she has been shrewd enough to build connections with several male stars. She entered the industry as Salman’s GF, but then built on it. She then built friendships with Akshay, Ranbir, Kabir Khan, YRF, etc. This helped her career. Has anyone stopped other actresses from doing the same? She is playing to her strengths – her looks. She knows she is not as good a performer as Tabu, Deepika, Kangana.

          Karan Johar is a genius. we never said he was perfect. He spoke against Ranveer as well. He never thought highly of Ranveer. But now he was about to start working with Ranveer. But just look at Karan Johar’s track record. it is phenomenal. It was Karan Johar who saw the opportunity in Baahubali & gave it a wide release. same goes for KGF.

          Shahrukh was not even a star? Dude…Deewana, baazigar, Darr were all before DDLJ. Shahrukh was a star even before DDLJ. DDLJ just took him to another level altogether.

          You may think a movie was bad, or that XYZ is not talented. But if the audience as a whole thinks other wise the movie will do well. Every star has his share of people who just don’t like him. But then their movies do record business. How is that possible? Bollywood star brigade consists of barely 20 people. But these hit movies get 1cr footfalls. That means 1cr people saw the movie & made it a hit.

          Speaking of storyline, script, music etc – if that was all that was required then producers wouldn’t take star tantrums lying down. Who decides whether the script/music is good or bad. There are many who think A.R Rahman is overrated. A film like Andaaz Apna Apna was a flop upon release. Now it is a cult classic. Just goes to show that a lot of things have to click for the movie to succeed. A great film like Tumbbad flops but Housefull4 makes 200cr – hope you get my point.

  • July 12, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Rightly said by you, if he wants to burn his cash on under serving star kids why should one have a problem.
    I just wish he continues doing it and one day goes bankrupt, so that, we will get to see some good DESERVING ACTORS films + good STORYLINE.
    Or he realizes that NEPOTISTISM will hit him hard and so he starts working with outsiders just like Karthik Aryan.
    Be careful Karthik, chances are he will cast you for a role/movie which may impact your career. Just like he did with SSR & Vicky Kaushal.
    The list of flop films from Dharma is long
    DRIVE , released on digital platform
    Surely deserves to be called FLAG BEARER OF NEPOTISM.

    • July 12, 2020 at 7:08 pm

      Dharma has produced several flops. But success/ brilliance is a relative term. Look at the total number of movies, produced/distributed by dharma & compare it to other production houses/studios which have made equal number of films. You will know why I refer to Karan Johar as a genius. Only Sajid Nadiadwala & YRF come close – but their volume is much lesser. He was the one who saw potential in Baahubali, KGF – south indian films which became pan India hits.

      Speaking of him deliberately making flop movies with outsiders – will you invest 10L on someone or some product & hope for it to fail? How do you expect me to believe that KJo will blow up 40cr of his hard earned money just to pull down someone?

        • July 12, 2020 at 11:32 pm

          it was ‘just’ a hit? making a hit film is no easy task. as a director he is not as big as Rajkumar hirani or even rohit shetty or s.s rajamouli. but his track record as a producer is very good. he has 100% track record as a director. no producer who has produced as many movies as him can boast of a equally good track record, apart from maybe sajid nadiadwala. kal ho na ho was not average, it was a hit. please follow boxofficeindia for proper, unbiased trade verdicts.

    • July 13, 2020 at 7:44 pm

      this is one reason i did not Karthik to work with Dharma. He will lose his following with this nonsensical movie.

      he played dirty with Tiger Shroff a threat to his proteges and made him act and dance in a very bad way. luckily war resurrected him.

      He will play dirty with anyone who threatens stardom of Ranbir. he went out of the way to get ranveer removed from BV and karma played his dharma and that movie put ranbir out of the league of Ranvir who went miles ahead of him. Now he is kowtowing him to give Ranveer his Kalank like what he did to Varun. I am glad Varun opted out of two dharma projects knowing kjo intentions to kill his career and varun from a very high position was brought down with Kalank a role which varun should have never accepted and should have told karan to cast ranbir.

      karan johar seems like a very big manipulator and evil character

  • July 13, 2020 at 3:30 am

    I understand your ‘opinions’ but what about ‘objectivity’. To just prove your point you can’t write-off other viewers or readers.

    Wish you well and as always you need a reality check. Your posts and replies are quite biased comparatively.

    • July 13, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      Not liking KJo’s movies is your choice. No one can change that. There are many who don’t think highly of Sachin Tendulkar/Rahul Dravid/MS Dhoni either. But their records speak.

      Fyi…I hated kuch kuch hota hai, thought K3G, MNIK, KANK was okay. My favorite KJo movie is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The movies he produces are also okay, nothing great. But when you look at his track record from an analyst point of view you have to admire it.

      He is a bully accepted. He looks down on people & is a snob – agreed. But when someone says he a flop filmmaker – sorry, I can’t agree

      • July 13, 2020 at 2:07 pm

        You sound like a school going child or are you just trying to get more hits on your website. Its you who’s been tagging genius and flop, not me. I just provided you numbers that you’ve been mentioning throughout this post’s replies.
        I don’t agree that he’s phenomenal or genius. Neither his movies nor his coffee show. Period.

        • July 13, 2020 at 3:03 pm

          we are speaking on different lines. I think KJo is not a great director art wise, but business wise he is a top director & producer. i have been labeling people flops or geniuses based solely on their box office track record. you have been doing the opposite. it is your opinion that KJo is a bad director & his coffee show is bad – you are entitled to it, but the TRP’s of his coffee show will say the opposite. if Kjo is sick then so are the people who religiously saw the show & didn’t bother with the bullying till someone killed himself. FYI…I seriously think KwK is a toxic show & KJo had it coming for being part of such a show where celebs were bullied, star kids were invited but promising outsiders weren’t, etc. at some level he deserves all this trolling. all this makes KJo a not good person but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know anything about filmmaking.

          • July 13, 2020 at 7:27 pm

            He knows about filming but he is more of a power broker and using one against the other. Last 10 years he has been yo-yoing between groups and camps.

            He has a filthy mind and has lost all grace and it is his bad luck he got exposed as normally very rarely people face karma in this world. But his dealings which we running underneath got exposed due to sushant’s suicide. he still tried to direct and deflect all that towards salman a much bigger name for instant publicity and kill two birds with one stone and his PR is hyper active.

            He may have been a decent guy when his dad was around who was a known to be a through gentlemen and after his dissociation from srk he literally was peddling with likes of anurag
            ( quickly dumped him to get on the Modi bandwagon ) to ranveer and akshay and even dvgn to bring people down.

            Businessmen are known to be opportunistic but this guy is unethical moron and playing dirty politics behind the scenes and vitiating the atmosphere in bollywood

            This guy is the filth of bollywood and hope he gets exposed to a greater strength.

  • July 13, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    btw your article on star material is very valid and makes absolute sense. Very few have the connect with the audience and sometimes it has to do with honesty in real life. Stars via their actions and sometimes even via eyes can hypnotize audience into believing whatever they are doing on screen .
    Rajnikant and Salman come to my instant mind though Salman has gone through a lot of bad publicity so u cannot put him in Rajni category.

    • July 13, 2020 at 11:26 pm

      you have some solid info. do you have sources from the industry or did you read all this somewhere?

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