Numerous films are released every year, but only a few leave a mark.
Bollywood is known for its surprising nature. But movies revolving around strong female characters defying the social construct of a perfect lady with the use of cusswords is not new. From Angry Indian Goddesses to Veere Di Wedding, directors have time and again tried to challenge the social construct. But while the former film came and went, the latter with its star power seems to have struck a chord with audiences. Is the success of a film still determined by the star power?
Avinash Das, director of Anaarkali of Aarah, strongly believes that star power always rules the industry. “Many a time, movies never get released because they don’t have a star cast. Pad Man managed to release because Akshay Kumar was the protagonist, but a few years back another director, Amit Rai, made Ipad, which could not even get released because there was no star cast,” shares Das, who goes on to add, “In fact, I would say star cast and money rule the industry. Content rules too but only to a certain extent. But the reality is that if the director does not have a star cast, the struggle becomes longer. But I am happy that actors are taking an interest in content that did not work well earlier. And ultimately it is about the message that has to come out to the public and if these stars are able to drive that then there are no issues.”
Hichki director Siddharth P. Malhotra believes the success of a film is not entirely driven by its content, rather the stars attached to the film also matter as the star has his or her own following that they bring in. “But in today’s times, the audiences are way smarter so only a good and honest film which has something new to offer will bring an audience into the hall. It’s a combination of a strong-hitting content driven film with a face one wants to watch. So, I would say it’s a balance of both but a star can do only so much without being backed by good content and a good team to deliver that content.”
Vivek Agnihotri who dons many hats as a director, producer and screenwriter, shares, “In terms of star power, I have come to realise a little late in my career, that your film is as good as your star. Make Raazi without Alia Bhat, with some ordinary girl who is as good an actress as Alia, the film won’t work. With stars comes muscle. Marketing muscle, money muscle, manipulation muscle. And not to forget that films with big stars get more shows in theatres.” But how exactly did the star card come into play? Agnihotri explains, “This is because our society is in awe of bigness, not of competence or merit. Rather, our country celebrates mediocrity. Because mediocrity comes with a lot of fanfare. On the other hand, competence, merit, talent is self-made. But it’s always an individual journey.”
Agnihotri is quick to add another card that plays a prominent role in deciding which film enjoys the limelight. He believes that apart from star power, money power is important as well. “With money, you can buy the front pages of a newspaper, space on television, you can buy space on digital media, on hoardings; so that you gain the maximum visibility. But without money power, you just have a story, and you have to rely on word of mouth for publicity,” says the director, known to experiment in different genres of film making.
But not everyone believes in the power of the star card as the Indian cinema time and again witnesses an outburst of content-driven films. Film and theatre actor, Neeraj Kabi feels that a lot has changed in the last two to three years because there are a lot of films that are content driven, putting forth powerful performances. “They don’t have star power as such but people still come to watch these films. Stars, definitely, are crowd-pullers, people do come to watch known faces, but in the last two years, many films have come out that have worked despite not having a star face. Things are changing now, as opposed to how it was three to four years ago. Take a film like Raazi, while it does have Alia, none of the other faces in the film are that well known. The same was seen in Talwar,” shares Kabi who is optimistic about the times to come. “Demands are changing, in terms of what the audience wants to know. So, while it will take time, we are on the track, where we will not require star power to make a film run,” he adds.
Actor Pranav Sachdev stands with the idea that things are changing for good. “Though slowly but the society is moving forward and strong women are finally getting their delayed but due representation in the Hindi films. In my view, it’s not about the star or the actor playing the characters but more about how well the story or the character is treated, the scale at which the film is promoted, distributed and accepted by the audiences.”