Karan Johar: What's It Like For Industry Newbies
Image: Dabboo Ratnani
Forbes India Celebrity 100 No. 37
Bollywood is no Hollywood. We’re still a star-driven industry, contrary to what has been happening in Hollywood, where studios have taken over; where computer graphics films, franchise films, superhero films, iconic pop and pop iconic books are drawing in the opening weekend. But ours is a very star-driven market. Creating a movie star has become a resource factor for a studio or a production house.
For that to happen—to control and leverage new talent—you have to first create that talent. That’s what everyone has suddenly realised this year.
Present-day stars are still going strong, be it Shah Rukh, Aamir, Salman or Akshay. Their age doesn’t matter. They will go strong; they will go on as lead [actors] for another three to five years. Movies will be written with them in mind.
If you think about it, while an audience who saw [these actors] when they were really young still loves them, they still do movies that appeal to youngsters. So, in a family you have a young kid of four dancing to a Salman Khan song, and her father who grew up loving Salman Khan. The stars have managed to bridge a gap, which normally does not happen.
They are extremely talented but they are also lucky. They had a scenario that played a big part in their longevity. When I was growing up, I was a loyal fan and I was loyal because I didn’t have other verticals to turn to and I did not have options. I was loyal and I will be loyal to that movie star in my head and heart for years.
Things have changed. It’s like in the West. Every two years there’s a new teen icon in the West. Today it’s Channing Tatum, tomorrow it’s somebody else. They’re a very shifting audience; they’re not going to remain loyal if you don’t keep delivering something.
The younger generation [of actors] will not have it easy because there will always be too many options breathing down [their] neck; they will also have to combat Hollywood, because the young audience are watching movies [from] across the globe, they’re watching sports stars, they love too many people. So their love is also divided; the intensity of love is much less; that mad fandom that you see is not that hysterical because it is divided.
They get that [hysterical fandom] in a burst, in a two- to three-year window. So, you have to constantly reinvent, re-evolve. Managing the younger generation and their career is much tougher today than it has ever been because we’re combating too many options, and too many hurdles.
But, if they [audience] stick to you and like you, you are on your way to stardom. That’s what has happened with Ranbir Kapoor. When I saw Ranbir deliver in Wake up Sid, I felt he had the making of a star. He started and he took off, and now he’s inching towards that superstardom bracket.
He’s been here for five years and he’s already in the Rs 100-crore club. Not only has his repertoire of work been fantastic in terms of acting, but he has also had commercial success. Barfi!, an alternative kind of film, crossing the Rs 100-crore mark just shows he has the eyeballs waiting for him and those eyeballs will give him any movie today. He is at the [threshold] of mega stardom, and now he has to choose the right films that will take him there.
And it’s not because of lineage or nepotism. It has to do with the fact that he is a genius artiste. Lineage is not necessarily an audience factor as it is a media and industry factor. Audiences don’t go by the history of a movie actor, they have a different perspective.
Which is why, outsiders have gone on to become legendary stars, whether it is Dilip Kumar in the beginning or Amitabh Bachchan in the 1960s and 1970s or Shah Rukh Khan in the 1990s. They have been outsiders who broke the mould and emerged as stars.