Who’s the queen of the marquee now? The contenders, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Katrina Kaif, are considered the female counterparts of the reigning Khans. At any given point of time since 2009-2010, they command awesome fees for brand endorsements, with Kareena having an edge.
And now there is the sudden dark horse that has suddenly come close – Vidya Balan. With an unending chain of successes and hits from “Paa” (2009), “Ishqiya” (2010) and “No One Killed Jessica” (2011), topped by two back-to-back blockbusters “The Dirty Picture” (2011) and “Kahaani” (2012), the actress is the new Big B on the horizon.
The Track Record
Kareena Kapoor made her debut along with Abhishek Bachchan in J.P. Dutta’s “Refugee” in 2000. Her next, “Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai” (2001), opposite Tusshar Kapoor, was her first hit. Kareena went for middle-of-the-road or different cinema quite early in his career. But her dominant image, for a long while, was of Poo, her character in the 2001 “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.”
With a larger-than-life image, Kareena sparkled as much in classic Indian/ethnic roles (“Aitraaz”) as in the mod acts and got a versatile starry canvas – with acting ability to match. She could jell with the Khans and or Akshay Kumar as much as with a Hrithik, Abhishek, Akshaye Khanna or Shahid Kapoor. Her real-life liaison with the latter, which ended just weeks before “Jab We Met” released in 2007, helped add to her enigmatic quotient.
Ironically, it was after this seven-year wait that this actor began her best professional phase, spinning out an unfailing one super-hit a year: “Jab We Met” (2007), “Golmaal Returns” (2008), “3 Idiots” (2009), “Golmaal 3” (2010) and “Bodyguard” (2011).
Even though “RA.One,” “Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu” “Agent Vinod” failed to make the box office grade, Kareena is not yet affected. “Talaash” is considered a surefire winner, while Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Heroine,” in which she has Arjun Rampal and Randeep Hooda as co-stars, will see Kapoor is what is touted to be her “best” role ever. Kareena is said to be the first heroine to demand and get a share in the profits of her films in addition to a fee that may be anything from Rs 5-10 crore.
She began in Kaizad Gustad’s atrocious “Boom” as one of Amitabh Bachchan’s three vixens in 2003. With her strong firangi twang and NRI looks, Katrina had to wait for two long years for her Hindi breaks that happened with Salman Khan’s “Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya” and her brief role in “Sarkar,” which released within two consecutive weeks in 2005.
With their success, Kaif’s stock went higher, and her NRI accent and looks were cashed on in apt characterizations in “Namastey London” and later “Yuvvraaj,” “Race” and “New York.”
Kaif gradually improved her accent and began giving decent and then really good performances (“Singh Is Kinng,” “Race,” “New York,” “Raajneeti”).
She has now achieved a rare record of having three films with the Yash Raj Films’ banner simultaneously under production with the three reigning Khans – Salman (“Ek Tha Tiger”), Shah Rukh Khan (Yash Chopra’s directorial venture) and Aamir (“Dhoom:3”).
Priyanka Chopra’s debut was in the South film “Thamizhan,” a major hit in 2002. In Hindi, her first film, a K.C. Bokadia movie with Govinda, has yet to make it though the producer has not given up.
After a parallel role in Anil Sharma’s “The Hero” (2003) to Preity Zinta opposite Sunny Deol, Priyanka really began with Suneel Darshan’s hit “Andaaz” in the same year, but the first real impact came with another Akshay Kumar film, “Aitraaz” (2004), wherein she essayed that unforgettable evil turn as Mrs. Sonia Roy and clinched all the Negative Role awards that year.
However, Chopra’s box-office and quality acumen was not really strong – after two more hits (“Mujhse Shaadi Karogi,” “Waqt”) with Akshay Kumar, she starred, but for “Krrish,” “Don,” “Bluffmaster!” and “Dostana,” in major fiascoes like “Aap Ki Khatir,” “Salaam-E-Ishq,” “Love Story 2050,” “Drona” and “What’s Your Raashee?,” in which she essayed nine roles. Her only plus film to call her own was the average “Fashion.”
Relying on her beauty, likable persona, warm nature and professionalism to survive such rough patches, Priyanka finally got a big streak of luck when “Don 2” with Shah Rukh Khan and “Agneepath” with Hrithik Roshan finally made her the member of the elite 100 crore club twice over.
Two old assignments are now in post-production: “Teri Meri Kahani” with Shahid Kapoor, and Anurag Basu’s “Barfii,” in which she plays an autistic girl opposite deaf-mute Ranbir Kapoor.
It was destiny that led Vidya Balan to Hindi films, despite beginning as a teenager in the television serial “Hum Paanch” when she was 17. A few South films did not happen for various reasons, and she passed over 30 rigorous look- and acting tests to clinch “Parineeta” (2005), an average success that got her great acclaim and some awards.
“Lage Raho Munna Bhai” and “Bhool Bhulaiyya” were her only major hits, though “Guru” did reasonably well.
Today, after two blockbusters, Vidya Balan is said to have hiked her rates to a never-before figure, though she dismisses compliments that she is a superstar. Her only forthcoming assignment is an item number, a laavani that she is doing for mentor Vidhu Vinod Chopra in “Ferrari Ki Sawari.” And wonder of wonders, she has reached this level without co-starring with a single Khan or even Akshay and Hrithik – Akshay was not Vidya’s hero in “Bhool Bhulaiyya.”
Facts and Figures:
If A-list filmmakers and co-stars are the yardstick for assessing careers, Kareena’s ahead with her track record of all Khans, Akshay, Ajay, Hrithik and Shahid.
Says Ramesh Sippy of B.R.A. Enterprises, a top-league distributor: “There is no question that Kareena is the Numero Uno. Between Katrina and Priyanka, things fluctuate after every release. Priyanka signs non-mainstream films but she should show versatility, which is keeping her away from the top position. Katrina’s huge success ratio is pure luck rather than acumen.”
However, the Vidya Balan factor has the industry and trade divided. A filmmaker, on condition of anonymity, points out the Vidya neither desires nor has the ability to carry a big-ticket mainstream blockbuster on her shoulders, and middle-of-the-road cinema, though high on the profit margin, cannot match mainstream economic highs. With no film on hand, it is very difficult to assess her future growth.
Meanwhile, led by Sonakshi Sinha and Deepika Padukone, a whole bunch of hotties are waiting in the wings. So who’s the queen of the marquee?