This weekend the Ranbir Kapoor starrer Sanju crossed the Rs. 500 crore mark worldwide in gross BOC (box office collections). India gross BOC were reported at Rs. 378.43 crore. Overseas gross BOC were said to be Rs. 122 crore. Totaling Rs. 500.43 crore. With this, the Sanjay Dutt biopic has become the single largest grosser of 2018.
The film has garnered a lot of positive critical acclaim. But it has had its fair share of criticism too, the most voluble being a piece in Daily-O which went as far as to say, “Bollywood stars, who are mostly star kids, are in it only for the fame and money and the key to this is to play monolithic supermen who only do good. To the average Indian, who does not understand cinema, the good guys on-screen are the good guys in real life. And voila, fanatic cults around stars are formed. It is only natural that this has evolved to hagiographies of these stars being made by their friends, portraying misogynistic criminals as sympathetic and lovable boys”. Unkind words, some would say.
But out of the two star children involved in Sanju, while Sanjay Dutt has been on the receiving end of much of the derision and negativity, heaps of praises have been showered on Ranbir Kapoor.
Sanju could not have come at a better time for Ranbir. The scion of the Raj Kapoor clan, the first family of Bollywood, was launched in 2007 with the tragic romance Saawariya. The debut film, as BBC put it, was a ‘misfire on a massive scale’ despite winning Kapoor a Best Male Debut trophy at the annual Filmfare Awards that year. Bachna Ae Haseeno in 2008 was Ranbir’s first commercial success, with The New York Times praising the young Kapoor for his ‘puppy-dog sweetness’. 2009 was a good year for the young debutant. Wake Up Sid was a sleeper hit and firmly established Ranbir as one amongst the best in the business. Starring Ranbir opposite Katrina Kaif, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, a slapstick comedy, too did well at the box office. In Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, Ranbir Kapoor put in an ‘astonishingly sincere’ performance but the film tanked at the box office. 2010 saw the release of Kapoor’s Raajneeti. The Times of India hailed the young Ranbir’s performance ‘as the simmering volcano that cannot be held back’. Raajneeti was a major commercial success. But later in the same year, Anjaana Anjaani, co-starring Priyanka Chopra, performed only moderately at the box office. Rockstar in 2012 and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani in 2013 took Ranbir Kapoor to the pinnacle of his career. But there after started a long, lean patch for the actor. Besharam was a disaster. Roy was a disaster too. Bombay Velvet met the same fate. Tamasha went equally unsung at the box office. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil in 2016 offered a flicker of hope. But the next in line Jagga Jasoos was a box office disaster, yet again, in 2017. Thankfully, the strong box office performance of Sanju has re-established Ranbir Kapoor’s stardom.
Ranbir Kapoor has had five terrible, and eminently forgettable years. In fact torrid years. Despite his string of failures at the box office, his love affair with brand endorsements somehow continued. Kapoor has been the face of Pepsi, John Players, Panasonic, Nissan, Lenovo, Tata Docomo, Hero Moto Corp, Saavan, Yatra, Askme.com, Philips, Tag Heuer, Macroman and perhaps a few more brands. Brand endorsements kept pouring in even when Kapoor’s film career was headed southwards. With the success of Sanju, Ranbir has pocketed yet another brand assignment, as the face of Flipkart’s fashion range. But Sanju will surely propel Brand Ranbir Kapoor even further, and farther. That, I am confident. The worst for Ranbir seems over.
Ranbir Kapoor’s bête noire Ranveer Singh who started his Bollywood career in 2010 with the blockbuster success Band Baaja Baraat, further climbed up the ladder of fame with superhits Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013), Gunday (2014), Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018). As Ranbir Kapoor’s career kept sliding, Ranveer’s career kept soaring. Ranveer has been the brand ambassador for brands as varied as Thums Up (where he replaced Salman Khan), Durex, Set Wet (replacing Aditya Roy Kapoor), Adidas, Carrera FW, Jack And Jones, Colgate, Nexa, Switzerland Tourism (#InLoveWithSwitzerland), Vivo, Make My Trip, Rupa, Ching’s, Head and Shoulders, Kellogg’s and Royal Stag. Recently he has signed on Kotak Mahindra Bank. Ranveer’s irreverent attitude and effervescence were responsible for taking his score on brand endorsements from 3 to 16 in just two years. Ranveer is today at his pinnacle, with marriage in sight later this year with Bollywood’s No. 1 leading lady, Deepika Padukone, a former girl friend of Ranbir Kapoor.
Ranbir’s pedigree and his dreamy good looks have sustained him in his fallow years. My own research, as part of my PhD thesis on Human Brands, scored Ranbir very highly on ‘Identify with’, ‘is Attractive’, ‘is Well Respected’. He also has high scores on Trust and Likeability. Especially Likeability. Younger audiences rate him very well on Stylish, Dynamic, High Quality, Innovative, Original, Reliable as also Handsome, Macho, Successful and Rich. But his leading attribute by far is Charming.
It is this charm, and his famous surname, that have carried Ranbir Kapoor this far. Charm of his mischievous smile. Charm of his friendly wink. Charm of his urban, in fact, South Bombay good looks. Charm of his sartorial style. Ranbir, success or failure, continued to ooze confidence. He has, and continues to have, a swag that is unparalleled amongst his peers. Ranveer, despite his continued success at the box office and his enduring rapport with brands, is still not in the same class as Ranbir … at least on sophistication, style and swagger. Ranveer tries very very hard to deliver what comes naturally to Ranbir.
If Sanju had not done well at the box office, Ranbir’s future could well have been in doubt. But the success of the movie has given Brand Ranbir Kapoor a new lease of life. There is a serious shortage of young, aspirational (and inspirational) endorsees in this country. While Ranbir’s career in the movies was in doldrums, Brand Virat Kohli bloomed. Ranveer made big strides too. But there has been very little other competition. Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra and Tiger Shroff are still work-in-progress. Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao are too niche. Kartik Aaryan is too new. In cricket, K L Rahul has the talent but lacks the oomph. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav is not widely recognized despite his sterling achievements. Meanwhile, the likes of MS Dhoni and Salman Khan are showing signs of aging. So, Ranbir, the brand could easily have a smooth and competition-free ride for quite a few years ahead. He just has to ensure a less rocky box office performance. Also, his playboy image so far with highly publicized liaisons with Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone actually enhanced his brand magic. But, impending marriage (who knows?) to Alia Bhatt may dilute some of his boyish charm. However, I am sure the signature swag will stay, and stay good. And that will keep Brand Ranbir Kapoor in good fiddle.
(Sandeep Goyal is an expert in the use of celebrities as human brands. He has recently finished his PhD on the subject from FMS-Delhi.)