Kareena Kapoor surges ahead of all other Bollywood performers

“Main apni favourite hoon (I’m my own favourite),” says the character played by Kareena Kapoor in the 2007 hit film Jab We Met. It was her performance in this film, impressing critics and the box office alike, that made her a frontrunner for the No. 1 actress spot in Bollywood. And today, she is not only her own favourite, but also the country’s, having starred, in the last two years, in four films which grossed over Rs 100 crore at the domestic box office, a feat no other performer, male or female, has achieved.

When the film Ra.One ‘s domestic collections hit Rs 100 crore recently, a delighted producer-cumleading man, Shah Rukh Khan, in a grand gesture, gifted BMWs to some key members of cast and crew. But the same achievement was the culmination of Kapoor’s triumph as well. It started with 3 idiots, released on Christmas Day, 2009, which earned Rs 170 crore locally (see Conquering Queen below), continued with Golmaal 3, which hit the screens in November 2010, mopping up Rs 108 crore on the domestic circuit, went further with Bodyguard , which opened in August this year and collected Rs 141 crore in India, to complete its run with Ra.One, released in October.

The three big Khans currently dominating Bollywood – Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir – have had their successes too during this period, but none of them can match this achievement. Among actresses, Kareena’s biggest current rival Katrina Kaif came close to the Rs 100 crore mark twice, with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, released this year, collecting Rs 90 crore from the domestic box office, and Rajneeti last year bringing in Rs 93 crore. But her run went no further. Indeed, Kapoor’s record is all the more remarkable considering that the last time an actress had three big hits in a similar time span was 1975/76, when Hema Malini scored with Sholay, Dus Numbri and Sanyasi.

“It’s great. I’m aware of it because everyone has been talking about it,” says Kapoor. Business Today met her on the sets of Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine, for which she is shooting at Mumbai’s Film City. “I’m lucky to have got all these different genres to work on one after the other. 3 idiots still stands to be the big film because it relied heavily on Indian emotions and was youth-oriented. Bodyguard was different. Golmaal 3 was a comedy while Ra.One was a totally VFX and gimmicky kind of film,” she adds.

Kapoor’s film career started in 2000 with J.P. Dutta’s Refugee. Milestones along the way include Asoka the following year and Chameli in 2004, both of which, though box office failures, established her acting credentials, while Omkara in 2006, and Jab We Met – relatively small films which made sizeable profits – showed she was both a fine actress and a commercially bankable star. Alongside there were also the big budget successes like Kabhi Khushi, Kabhie Gham and Golmaal Returns which reinforced Kapoor’s commercial credentials. “She chose the right movies that were released at the right time,” says film critic and trade watcher, Taran Adarsh.

Those who have worked closely with Kapoor have only praise for her. “She had lots of attitude and delivered a good performance,” says Santosh Sivan, who directed Asoka. Siddhartha Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, which is co-producing Heroine, vouches for her professionalism. “Once Kareena commits herself, she completes her work without a hitch,” he says.

An advertising industry insider lauds her punctuality and lack of starry airs, qualities celebrities are not usually associated with. “She always reaches half an hour before the scheduled start of a shoot,” he says.

The advertiser’s comment points to another feature of Kapoor’s success: she is also the darling of the advertising industry. She currently endorses 15 leading brands, including Airtel, Hindustan Unilever, Sony and ITC, selling products ranging from laptops to shoes to telecom services. Among celebrity endorsers, however, she ranks third – after Shah Rukh and Kaif – according to Television Audience Measurement, or TAM, celebrity endorsement data. Even the likes of cricketers Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar rank below her. Besides, TAM data shows, the percentage share per ad volume of both Kapoor and Kaif, during the first nine months of this year, was the same at five per cent: both had the same number of seconds on air in advertisements.

“Lots of brands have approached me, but I’m choosy,” says Kapoor. “I like to endorse brands that will fit my personality.” She will never, for instance, endorse a McDonald’s or a Venky’s Chicken or any other non-vegetarian products, being a vegetarian herself. In at least one case, the manufacturer admits, Kapoor’s endorsement made all the difference to the product: the Sony range of Vaio laptops.

Sony cleverly used the label the gossip press had foisted on Kapoor – she was called ‘Size Zero’ because of her ultra-slim figure – to full advantage by naming these products ‘Size Zero’ laptops. “Her stylish and vibrant personality matched seamlessly with our brand,” says Tadato Kimura, General Manager, Marketing, Sony India. He reveals that since Sony signed up Kapoor in November 2009, sales of Vaio laptops have trebled. “The slim laptops and size zero became a topic of conversation nationally,” says Kapoor, smiling.

There is no looking back for Kapoor, who even had a wax statue of hers unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London in October. She has a host of major movie productions on hand, including Heroine, Agent Vinod, Talaash and Ek Main Aur Ek Tu. If her commercial success continues, there will be no dearth of endorsements either.

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