CultureCinema The Illusory Superstardom Of Ranbir Kapoor

The Illusory Superstardom Of Ranbir Kapoor

Ranbir Kapoor has done a bad job with consistency. Yet, that doesn't seem to have any impact on his popularity or career.

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.

Also Read: Dear Bollywood, When Will You Cater To The Female Gaze?

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 ProductionsWake 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.

Also Read: Exploring The Shelf-Life Of Bollywood Actresses And Ageing

Featured Image Credit: Filmfare Magazine via Mazale.


  1. sam Lal says:

    The writer seems to be confused about what she wants to write i.e bashing ranbir or talking about disparity in pay between male and female actors. Ranbir is not just a good actor he is a superlative actor. Success is not just measured in box office numbers but also longevity of a movie and the respect you earn from your colleagues and fans alike. Ranbir’s fans have his back not because they are fools as you seem to suggest but because they respect him for the kind of choices he has made and his consistent effort to excell and do his best. His colleagues and contemporaries look upto him because he has set the bar so high. Many of his so called failures as you put it have become cult hits. Bashing an actor to prove your point is shoddy and Ranbir seems to be a soft target. As a fan I take offence at your unfair analysis of Ranbir. Please do your research next time and get over ‘nepotism’ already. It’s yesterdays news.

    • Shruti Janardhan says:

      Nepotism is not “yesterday” news, and to take that stance just goes on to show you do not get how systemic discrimination and exclusion works.
      And your definition of success is heartening, except Ranbir Kapoor would rather have commercial acclaim than critical acclaim, he has essentially denied that definition of success you just stated in several of his interviews. He does not acknowledge that as “success”. Do your research before accusing me of not doing mine?
      And none of the things that I claimed are not factually verifiable. You probably have a problem with my articulation.
      I have made a clear distinction between critical and commercial acclaim when I talked about the success of his movies, and I wrote that on the basis of information given by credible news outlets, the box office collection and an average of critics’ reviews. This is not exactly “my” definition of his failure. Also, Ranbir considers those movies as failures, does your word overtake his?
      My point is Bollywood enables classism, sexism and casteism, which it does. My analysis is neither factually incorrect, nor unfair. I am not going to pedestalize a man for being good at his job. I am not going to pedestalize Ranbir Kapoor for wanting to do the bare minimum, period.
      Ranbir Kapoor has disassociated himself from arthouse cinema several times. He does not want to be an arthouse actor. And the fact that Ranbir Kapoor has the privilege to experiment with his movies and fail which many others don’t exposes Bollywood’s classism.

    • Shruti says:

      I agree with Sam Lal.. what writer claims to know is all based on other articles written by other journos… which can be their personal agenda to just attack Ranbir.
      If he’s born in a certain family it is not his fault. Why is everyone jealous of him. Someone born in a certain family can’t have dreams to work?
      Miss writer, you are being most casteist here. Look at a person for what they are doing on an individual level not for where they come from.
      You need to have the sensibility to understand his acting skills that is unmatchable. Your write up is so lame and sounds like you picked up other people’s opinions in high school and just wrote it here to sound smart.
      Taking about other actors when they do their PR and keep saying they’re the best actors doesn’t make them one. Ranbir is not into his own promotion in that manner.
      Time will tell how much you need to learn as a writer and how great Ranbir is as an actor.

  2. Raghu Kumar says:

    Shruti your article would have had credibility if you had picked a Tushar kapoor, imran Khan or even ajay devgn(see Phool aur kante to know how bad an actor he is ) but picking ranbir or even ranveer(he is so and cousin btw) your article lost all credibility.brlieve me it’s not by what he has told but by the choices he makes that you know the kind of person he is. To criticise an actor like ranbir kapoor in the name if nepotism is not just wrong but plainly unethical as he has proved beyond doubt that he is much more an actor than superstars like salman khan( who are products of nepotism btw)

  3. Ankit singh says:

    Let me tell you that you don’t know what do you want to say. You are saying that why we think ranbir is Superstar whenever he is giving flop movies on box office is not everything go and see his acting and what critics says about his acting and career then you will know how good he is and if you didn’t understand yet you can wait for dutt biopic.

  4. Sumana says:

    Nepotism definitely helped Ranbir to find his foothold, but going by his careergraph it doesn’t seem that’s the only thing that gets him roles. He is getting roles because of his talent, whatever his BO performance has been recently. Nepotism can only get you so far as a certain Abhishek Bachchan has been, not more than that. I, for example, don’t mind whether a film is hit, but sincerely wait for a Ranbir film because I know he will be phenomenal in it. I don’t want him to do another Besharam to waste his talent though.

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