At the very onset, we need to define what is a star and what differentiates a star from an actor. An actor acts. It’s about the performance on screen that you expect out of him/her. But when it comes to a star, the expectations are much higher and the responsibility involves much more heavy lifting because the star’s job is to not just act but sell tickets as it’s his/her face on the poster. This doesn’t happen just because the content or the writing is interesting. Definitely, at a basic level, your content has to cater to a larger demographic of the country.
Opinion: Back in the 90s, we experienced the last phase of a true blue star. We now have actors who have become inaccessible not just to the audience but even to the industry
Equally important is that the persona of the star should be attractive, should create intrigue and connect with the common audience. And when I say ‘connect’, it means that the common man should feel that the star is one of them. Look at how it happens with stars down South, be it the Telugu industry or the Tamil industry. On their birthday or film releases, it’s almost like there’s a celebration that the stars and their fans have together. It’s the way for fans to show that this is their star and they want to root for him.
And this rooting doesn’t just happen on Friday or the day of release. They root for him or her for life. That process of connecting with the common man is crucial. I am not saying that our actors should be out there all the time or put out reels on Instagram every day. It’s about having a personality that the audience can love 24 x 7 x 365.
A lot of our newer actors are quite bohemian or inaccessible in terms of how they dress, the way they talk and behave and from the stuff you read about them. A huge glass ceiling is being created between these stars and the audience when it comes to understanding their personality. Sure, they become a little unique, funky etc. But there’s barely any connect with the audience. And that’s the reason that when the moment of truth arrives on a Friday, you don’t see the audience turning up to root for them. You see the audience turning up on the basis of the merit of the content that they are a part of. Until that happens, you know you aren’t a star.
Back in the 90s, we experienced the last phase of a true blue star being generated. After that, in the newer generations, we have never witnessed it. We now have actors who have become inaccessible not just to the audience but even to the industry in a certain manner. They isolated themselves so much that they lost the opportunity to even understand the audience. The talent management agencies isolate the star from the press, the audience and the rest of the industry. We see them flying private jets and making appearances at airports and gyms. It has disconnected them from the aam aadmi.
The nonsense that is happening on social media that fake it till you make it. Unfortunately, the way they are going, some of them are going to make it! We are in this rat race of making ourselves trend on social media for the silliest of things, paying for PR and buying editorial space to write anything about yourself. By doing this, you are only amusing yourself, you are not building stardom. Stardom is one thing, the perception of stardom which is fake is another. We are unfortunately chasing the latter.
One actor from the new generation who is making the right choices when it comes to his films and off-screen persona, which is a sea change, from what it was a few years ago, is Ranbir Kapoor. If you look at the way he dresses off screen to the things he talks about to the kind of movies he’s doing, he’s certainly a lot more relatable to the audience than a lot of his contemporaries.
Finally, there’s this very silly notion that the era of stardom is over. It’s pure nonsense! If you go to Andhra Pradesh-Telangana and witness what happens when Allu Arjun, Jr NTR or Mahesh Babu meets his fans or go to Tamil Nadu and see what happens when Rajinikanth, Ajith or Vijay are out there, you really wonder if the cynics are living in the same country and same era! The era of stardom exists and is thriving. India is still a nation that loves to root for our heroes. It’s just that we haven’t given them the heroes that we deserve in the Hindi film industry.
(Compiled and edited by Fenil Seta)
The writer is a film exhibitor and distributor
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