On the surface, Ranbir Kapoor enters Bollywood with the Kapoor name riding on his back. He fully admits and makes a claim to this privilege, proves to be a good actor and delivers on certain instances and not on others.
People, despite him consistently failing to deliver at the box office, tell him they have got his back. They tell him he is a good actor, and this is a phase, and all actors have their phase.
That is true, all actors do have their ‘phase’, especially when they are male, upper caste, upper class and nepotistic, and even slightly good at their job. It is a phase, and they have the privilege to go through this phase. Why not capitalize on it?
If you buy into ‘its just a phase’ narrative, I am slightly reluctant, but I think its very important for me to tell you – you might be complicit in perpetuation of nepotism. Let me make my case.
Why exactly am I writing about an upper-caste nepotistic male on a feminist platform? Precisely because of those things. I want to lay bare the casteism, classism and sexism of Bollywood.
I think Ranbir Kapoor is a good actor, but here is the thing – That is not enough.
There are literally – and this is by no means an exaggeration, thousands of people who are just as talented, if not more, than Ranbir Kapoor. Due to systemic discrimination and uneven distribution of resources, are not able access the kind of resources that will facilitate their dreams.
all actors do have their ‘phase’, especially when they are upper caste, upper class and nepotistic.
I am just going to put this out there – Bollywood is not that competitive. You can count the number of good actors who are dominating commercial cinema literally on your fingertips. Even these actors display terrible acting skills on certain instances, and of course, for reasons we are all initiated with, they get away with it.
Not to mention his female counterparts are far more phenomenal than he is. Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut are immaculate, and they have performed consistently over a period of time despite the mindless sexism and objectification they are subjugated to by virtue of being women. They have increased their marketability with consistency, and Ranbir Kapoor’s marketability on the other hand comes from nepotism.
If this TOI report is to be believed, Deepika Padukone, who is currently the most bankable actress in the country, has charged 12 crores for Padmavati. That’s a significant hike from what she used to charge earlier. Ranbir Kapoor allegedly charges 25 crores per film. If this is true, then that would mean Ranbir earns more than double of what Deepika earns in a film, despite Padukone being far more successful than him.
Priyanka Chopra, despite the international acclaim after the release of Quantico, allegedly charges 8-9 crores per film, one-third of what Ranbir Kapoor charges. She has also been in the industry than Ranbir has and displayed phenomenal acting skills in Fashion, Barfi, Bajirao Mastani and Saat Khoon Maaf.
Both Deepika and Priyanka, much like Ranbir, are critically acclaimed actresses. But they happen to be more consistent in their work. The wage gap in Bollywood is baffling.
Ranbir Kapoor admitted in an interview, if given a choice between critical acclaim and commercial acclaim, he would choose the latter. He said people had to love the film and that is all that matters. He has been failing to deliver to people for a while now.
Let me substantiate that with his career trajectory in Bollywood. In 2007, he made a debut with Saawariya, a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. The film was a flop. His next film was a Yash Raj film (YRF) – Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008). It was a semi-hit.
In 2009, he did three movies. A coming of age movie produced by Dharma Productions – Wake up Sid, a slapstick comedy by the name Ajab Prem Ki Ghajab Kahani and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the year, again a YRF film. The first one was a hit, second was a superhit, and the third was a flop.
In the year 2010, two of his films released. Rajneeti – a family political drama inspired by The Godfather, and the other was Anjaana Anjaani which was about two suicidal people finding love in each other. Former was a hit and the latter flopped at the box office.
In 2011, he did his breakthrough role in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar where he portrayed a disenchanted, heartbroken artist and the film was a commercial success. Barfi (2012), directed by Anurag Basu, also did critically and commercially well (aside from allegations of plagiarism). In 2013 came Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani, one of the highest grossing films in Indian cinema, after which Ranbir found himself at the cusp of superstardom.
Things since then have gone differently, he delivered three flops in continuation – Besharam, Roy and Bombay Velvet. Tamasha got mixed reviews and and had an average performance at the box office. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was a hit, but Jagga Jasoos flopped.
You can count the number of good actors who are dominating commercial cinema on your fingertips.
In the past 4 years, 4 films of Ranbir Kapoor have flopped. Despite only above average performance at the box office, if we take an average of his films, he is still considered a superstar. Why?
I find it slightly baffling that despite the recent flops and lessening of his marketability as an actor, he continues to get offers from leading filmmakers. He is currently working with Vinod Chopra on the Sanjay Dutt Biopic and will soon start working with Ayaan Mukherjee on a fantasy film which might be a trilogy. The latter will be produced by Dharma Productions.
Ranbir Kapoor has done a bad job with consistency, as I have already established. Yet, that doesn’t seem to have any impact on his popularity or career. If this is not textbook classism, sexism and nepotism, please tell me what is.
I wonder if actresses or people without any backing in the industry get to have a ‘phase’. I wonder if actors who don’t come from film families continue to get offers by top filmmakers even if they are critically acclaimed.
Let me deconstruct his fanbase. I will give some credit to the towel dance in the song Jabse Tere Naina which exclusively catered to female desire and changed the way we look at men’s bodies in cinema. He has a huge female following and it is completely understandable.
He is a conventionally good-looking man, and he doesn’t display toxic masculinity either. That does make Ranbir Kapoor likeable. But as much as I condone him catering to female desire, I cannot condone that at the cost of deserving people not getting a chance in the industry.
I admit Ranbir is likeable, but he is not irreplaceable. And that is that.
Featured Image Credit: Filmfare Magazine via Mazale.