Bollywood’s Star System

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!
Bollywood’s Star System

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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