Is a successful actor-director jodi merely juicy bait for the audience or does it alsoring in big numbers at the box office?
No matter what the audience and the trade feel about the potent chemistry of the lead pair in a film, there’s another equally critical formula that seems to spell success at the box office – and that’s the chemistry between an actor and a director.
That’s because when a director is able to convey his vision through his actors, it’s a sure-shot way to win the hearts of the audience. Perhaps that’s why directors are increasingly keen on signing actors who they have already delivered hits with in the past or with whom they have shared a great rapport during shoots.
And when we talk of successful director-actor combinations, the following immediately come to mind: Amitabh Bachchan and Prakash Mehra, Amitabh Bachchan and Manmohan Desai, Rajesh Khanna and Shakti Samantha, David Dhawan and Govinda, among others. And if Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol produce sizzling on-screen chemistry, fireworks light up the box office only when the film is helmed by director Karan Johar. That’s why Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and My Name Is Khan were super hits. SRK has even struck a perfect score with director Yash Chopra for films like Darr, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer Zaara and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Ayan Mukerji, from the younger lot of directors who after delivering a success with Ranbir Kapoor in Wake Up Sid, made his second film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani with the same actor and the two are now all set to work again in a film based on a superhero.
Then we have box-office kings Rohit Shetty and Ajay Devgn. Not only have they had the audience fall hook, line and sinker for their Golmaal series, their other films shook the box office too. Devgn is, in fact, known to be a hot favourite with many other directors as well.
And now we will also see Shah Rukh and Rohit Shetty working together again in Dilwale after Chennai Express; and Sooraj Barjatya and Salman Khan working together in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo after their previous collaborations like Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Hum Saath Saath Hain. Katrina Kaif reunites with Kabir Khan in Phantom after having worked with him in New York and Ek Tha Tiger. Hrithik Roshan will be teaming up with Ashutosh Gowariker for Mohenjo Daro after Jodhaa Akbar. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone will be seen in director Sajay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani after working with him in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. Akshay Kumar will team up with Prabhudheva in Singh Is Bliing after Rowdy Rathore; and after Kaminey and Haider, Shahid Kapoor is working with Vishal Bhardwaj in Rangoon, which also stars Saif Ali Khan. After Rockstar, Ranbir Kapoor is working in Tamasha with Imtiaz Ali, and again with Anurag Basu in Jagga Jasoos after Barfi!. John Abraham will be teaming up with Rohit Dhawan after Desi Boyz in Dishoom and with Nishikant Kamat in Rocky Handsome after Force.
Is this director-actor rapport a winning formula to attract the audience to movie halls or is it merely helpful in creating a buzz around a film? Here’s what the industry has to say…
We know that it’s always a collaborative process. Everyone has their style of filmmaking; while few stick to one specific style, some can adapt to all styles. So the output of such styles coming together is always interesting. And once such a successful outcome is accepted, we always look forward to a repeat. We definitely want to see them work together again as it raises expectations manifold.
In Dilwale, SRK and Rohit Shetty are coming together for the second time after Chennai Express which was the biggest grosser in 2013 and still stands 5th on all-time highest collecting films. Not only in terms of box office numbers, the film was also widely followed across all platforms and is the highest rated film on television in recent past. With such great popularity trailing behind, I am sure everyone is looking forward to this jodi doing wonders again this Christmas.
The chemistry between a director and the actor is an integral part of a successful film…On our film Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which once again brings together Salman Khan and Kabir Khan after the hugely successful Ek Tha Tiger, it was Salman and Kabir’s joint vision, and implicit trust in one another that translated into a blockbuster. The audience of course is excited to watch a film when a successful director – actor bring another film to the theatres, but we believe the challenge is to not do repetitive genres, which is what we have done with Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Instead of making another action film, which might have seemed a safer bet on paper, we made a larger than life human story with strong emotional content with barely any action, and yet the audiences both in India and overseas loved the film. Actor director combinations historically have made great business sense but reinvention of the genre of film and strong content seem to be key to successful films each time.
We believe that good filmmaking is a lot about great teamwork. It is imperative therefore to have a certain amount of trust between the director and the actor while working together on a movie. If the off-screen equations are great, it immediately translates magic on-screen too. This is also a reason why so many directors choose to work with certain actors repeatedly. And not just that, as a studio, we see immense potential in great rapport with our talent too, for instance – Remo D’Souza and Prabhudheva post ABCD back together in Disney’s ABCD 2, or Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor teaming up for Disney’s Jagga Jasoos post a successful association with them in Barfi!
In fact some of our forthcoming films like Phantom and Mohenjo Daro will also witness Kabir Khan teaming up with Katrina Kaif post Ek Tha Tiger and Ashutosh Gowariker and Hrithik Roshan working together in Mohenjo Daro post the success of Jodhaa Akbar. Imtiaz Ali too will be collaborating with Ranbir and Deepika for Tamasha.
As a studio, we deeply value our long associations with Aamir Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor, Anurag Basu, Abhishek Kapoor, Vishal Bhardwaj, Ashutosh Gowariker and many more who have not only chosen to work repeatedly with talent of their choice but also with our studio time and again.
Since our success rate with several actor-director duos is really high, there is obviously a lot of buzz around films that mark our collaboration with them. Thus it helps us to build a strong promotional build up right from the word go, which additionally fuels audience expectations.
Filmmaking is all about team work, so it is not surprising that, time and again, we see a lot of director-actor combinations breaking records at the box office. It’s not just the camaraderie that matters but also their artistic vision. Often, a director may interpret a role in a certain way but the actor sees it differently, which creates issues. If a director-actor jodi has delivered in the past, they know each other’s strengths and it’s easier to align on the creative process. They end up being far more receptive to each other’s ideas and there is greater respect for each other’s craft. The audience definitely has higher expectations from a successful director-actor combination and the excitement builds around the film. But the audience comes to cinemas only if the film delivers on the entertainment quotient and promises a memorable experience.
Kabir Khan and Salman Khan gave us Ek Tha Tiger, so when the audience went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijaan, they knew it would have good content apart from being a Salman Khan film. Also, when you have a big director and a big actor, it is anyway a huge project. From this year’s upcoming films, viewers are looking forward to Dilwale, which has Rohit Shetty and Shah Rukh Khan working together after Chennai Express, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali-Ranveer Singh’s Bajirao Mastani.
This is not a new phenomenon in either Hollywood or Bollywood. We had Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio; Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra with Mr Bachchan; and Shakti Samanta and Rajesh Khanna, to name a few hit combinations. Watching a hit director-actor jodi definitely raises audience expectations because of the previous box-office success. There are three things that mark the success of a director-actor pairing: the comfort factor, similar mind set and box-office success of the previous film. But let’s not forget, even if the jodi is a hit because of the box-office opening, in the long run, it all depends on the content of the film.
There are actor-director pairings that always excite the imagination. These are pairs that have delivered films that we have enjoyed and when they work together again, we expect more of the same magic. Their strong track record is a sure-shot way to get the audience to cinemas. Nothing is ever sure-fire but it’s as close as you can get to it.
The audience choice matters and, sure, the look forward to certain teams making a comeback. For instance, I have already started receiving messages from people who say they are looking forward to seeing Nana Patekar-Anil Kapoor’s chemistry in my film Welcome Back, once again. People are also looking forward to Tamasha, where Ranbir and Imtiaz are working together; ditto for SRK-Rohit Shetty in Dilwale. Sometimes, you hear a film’s name and you recollect their last film together. So you look forward to their next film, keeping their track record in mind. So, yes, hit jodis make a difference.
Having a successful actor-director pairing not only creates a buzz around a film, it also helps attract the audience to cinemas to watch that film. The audience looks forward to seeing something new after their previous outing and expects another entertaining film from the pair. Exhibitors also tend to think that films with these seasoned and successful combinations are less risky than a film boasting a totally new combination of actor and director, although new pairings also work wonders these days!
More than the anticipation that these partnerships generate, it’s the match of the director’s and the actor’s sensibilities that makes a huge difference to a film’s prospects at the box office. Rohit Shetty has worked with Ajay Devgn right through his career, delivering one hit after another but the biggest grosser of his career so far is Chennai Express with Shah Rukh Khan. Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra and Prakash Mehra have presented Mr Bachchan like nobody else could. Sooraj Barjatya built an image of Salman Khan that lingers in our minds 15 years after their last film together; and Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar turned Shah Rukh Khan into the romantic hero that no other actor could outdo. The success of these combinations can be attributed to the ability of these filmmakers to harness the stars’ strengths and present them to the audience in a way that generate anticipation every single time they work together.
The actor-director pairing is an old phenomenon, one of the best examples being Amitabh Bachchan and Manmohan Desai. Yes, it raises expectations for both fans of the actor and the director, while their successful record further builds a craze with their new offering. Expectations are also high because as everyone wants to go one step further after their previous performance. Every actor and every director has their own style of filmmaking, and if this becomes a steady and potent mix, their fans want always want to relish this deadly cocktail of talent. Further, it is sone pe suhaga situation if the hit jodi becomes bigger with each successive hit. The current example of this is Kabir Khan and Salman Khan with Ek Tha Tiger and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
I think the most important aspect is the understanding that the director and the actor share with each other. When the pair has earlier delivered a hit film, the relationship deepens and it is automatically easier for both of them to work together again as they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. A director who knows his actor inside-out can get anything out of him and the actor too is very comfortable and believes in the director’s vision. From the audience point of view, they are obviously more excited to see an upcoming film of a hit actor-director pair. In this context, I am looking forward to Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, which has the superhit jodi of Salman Khan and Sooraj Barjatya.
When a director and an actor have worked together on a successful project in the past and they team up again, both of them have a sense of confidence in each other. They are also familiar with each other’s style of work, which helps bring out the best in them. And expectations from the new project are bound to increase because of the success of the previous project. For instance, expectations from Rohit Shetty and Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale are very high simply because of the success of Chennai Express. They are well-versed with each other and know each other’s style of working, which leads to the perfect outcome.
Distributors and the audience alike look forward to bankable director-actor films. It is not new for actors and directors to team up for their films and we have seen such collaborations for a long time. Amitabh Bachchan teamed up with Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra, and Rajesh Khanna worked with Shakti Samanta in many films. We also saw David Dhawan and Govinda collaborating on many films. Upcoming films like Dilwale, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Bajirao Mastani and Mohenjo Daro have successful actor-director associations, which are going to be sure-shot triumphs.
The script is a crucial factor in the success of a film but I also believe that the comfort level between an actor and a director plays a significant role. Once they understand each other, it is easy for them to work together. The audience definitely looks forward to a hit director-actor duo and distributors too are keen on buying the rights to a film when a pair has earlier delivered hits. Producers are also eager to repeat hit actor-director jodis. Creating a buzz is secondary for us but it does help when a hit director-actor duo makes a comeback. The audience is aware of an actor or a director’s work and they judge a new film by their track record. And after the outstanding success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which had Salman and Kabir Khan working together after Ek Tha Tiger, I am looking forward to Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Dilwale, Bajirao Mastani and Mohenjo Daro.