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Over the years, as the Hindi film industry grew, it brought along actors. An actor was primarily assigned a role because the maker was confident that the said actor suited the role and would deliver. Nobody either rated them or gave superlatives like superstar, megastar and so on.
The media's role in those days was limited to reviewing a film where, of course, envelopes were passed, but that was it. The critics in exchange of these envelopes, were asked to manipulate the headings of the review. Say for instance: ‘Sharmila Tagore steals the show', or ‘Rajesh Khanna film all the way!'
It was a perfect arrangement for all concerned. The heading of a review fed the concerned star's ego while the critic enjoyed bar hopping all the way from his office in South Mumbai to home in a distant suburb with a cab kept on hold. No more demands were made of them.
Actually, the actors who later came to be called stars, were more concerned about their work rather than media billings. The stars were on contracts with studios that produced the films and the studios were the ones which needed results.
It was before my time but from what one gathers, there were stars and superstars in each era. Because, in that era, the public adulation and following made a star successful. And, in their times, K.L. Saigal, Sohrab Modi, Ashok Kumar and many others were stars or superstars. But, the media either did not have to indulge in pandering to them or no manipulations existed.
The media dedicated to films was limited back then. A few mainstream newspapers carried reviews while the film magazines stuck to interviews and other such stuff. Being film media, photographs occupied more space in these magazines than the content.
There used to be a great amount of mysticism around stars. That is why fans loved their pictures. It was the era of black and white pictures, which added to the mysticism. Fans made scrapbooks with stars' pictures and pasted their pictures all over. The stars' fan flowing was huge and that reflected in the fan mail that the stars received. These fan mails were taken seriously. A person was appointed only to scan and filter this mail and reply. An autographed picture of the star went with the reply to the fans; that was mandatory. Media had no role to play as such.
But, the media was expanding. The new entrants did not believe in news value. They had nothing to do with the business of cinema, hits and flops (except clinging on to the successful stars). They strived to write gossip about stars. Their personal lives and romance, real or imaginary! They needed ears and ‘sources' in the film industry, mainly among actors. And, in an industry where there were various camps and jealousy abounding, there was never a dearth of ‘sources'. Stars, mainly actresses, ratted on each other.
These media along with some stars sycophants (better known as chamchas in the industry circles), started the name-giving system. Some, the media coined on its own and some with a little help from the PR departments of a star!
The first star I remember getting a title against his name was Rajendra Kumar. He loved to be called Jubilee Kumar as a lot of films with him in the lead would celebrate jubilee/ 25 week run. It did not matter that certain artistes and producers knew how to manage jubilees.
The trend carried on as Dharmendra was tagged as He Man or Garam Dharam, though he had bared his body, rather reluctantly, in only one film, Phool Aur Patthar (1966). For, most of his more successful films were love stories. Jeetendra was named the Jumping Jack, Shatrughan Sinha was Shot Gun. But, the ultimate in crowning came with Rajesh Khanna who was given the title of the Super Star, with additions to follow –- like the First Super Star, the Ultimate Super Star and so on. Then came Amitabh Bachchan and the only title left for him was, Mega Star. Not only did he live up to it but went much beyond.
While the rest are forgotten, the title Super Star remained stuck to Rajesh Khanna even after his death. Probably, because nobody was as popular as Khanna with women as he was while the men identified with him, copied his Guru Kurta as well as his hairstyle. His was another era.
This was a phase when the glossy media liked to believe it made stars. However, most of these titles did not stick and dispelled the myth that the media could build the star. Because, with all the titles that the media bestowed, only one stuck – the Super Star, because, the filmgoers, who make a star were convinced. Media just rode the bandwagon. Rajesh Khanna, as well as Amitabh Bachchan, both had a number of flops before their first hits. Media was nowhere near them at that time.
Like all else in the industry including stars, that kind of media has also passed its best before date and is almost non-existent. However, the trend continues. Now, however, it seems more a doing of the overzealous PR departments of the stars.
The stories of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan make for a recent example. Shah Rukh Khan started off well and was immediately on his way to stardom. But, his appeal and, hence, the patronage was more for, what was called, the gentry audience. He was the loverboy. There was another star who was doing much better –- as a loverboy or while playing second fiddle, as well as an action star –- Salman Khan. His appeal reached mass as well as class.
However, it was Shah Rukh Khan who hogged the title of King Khan! In fact, two Khans, Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan, excelled at using the media to their advantage. The media, always being on the lookout for free footage and bytes, easily complied. Since then, the endowing of titles has taken a backseat. One reason is that, the media is also divided now having their favourites. The other being, the media, mainly the managements, which have now gone commercial: Pay and Publish.
@The Box Office
* "Judgemental Hai Kya?" had a poor opening, although with the "Queen" pair of Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao coming together again, expectations were for a better show. The performances were appreciated and the film picked up over the weekend but failed to sustain Monday onwards.
After a decent opening weekend of about Rs 19 crore, the film could add only another Rs 7.5 crore over the remaining four days to close its first week at Rs 26.5 crore.
* "Arjun Patiala", the other release of the week, found the going tough. The opening was poor, resulting in a low weekend of Rs 4.3 crore. There was no hope to improve thereafter as the first week closed with the total of about Rs 6 crore.
* "Super 30" has been holding well. The film has added another Rs 17.5 crore in its third week, taking its three-week tally to Rs 128.5 crore.
* "Kabir Singh" seems to be coming to the end of its run. The film managed just Rs 2.5 crore in its sixth week to take its six-week total to Rs 271.5 crore.
(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)