Aamir Khan: A mass superstar with astute business sense

Bet your money on Aamir Khan: his movies are critically acclaimed and they earn crores. Several hundred crores.

With Ghajini, he started the trend of Bollywood movies that earned Rs 100 crore or more. The 2008 film took 18 days to cross the Rs 100 crore mark. The next year Khan acted in 3 Idiots, which went on to make Rs 202 crore in India. 3 Idiots’ earning was unbroken till Krrish 3 and Chennai Express hit the screens in 2013.

Aamir, once again, broke box office records with Dhoom 3, a multi-starrer in 2013. Foreign markets had opened up by now and Dhoom 3 went on to become the highest grossing Bollywood film ever with earnings of approximately Rs 550 crore worldwide.

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A year after Dhoom 3, Aamir has surprised everybody with PK. The film began its journey like any other big Bollywood starrer, gathering Rs 26.63 crore when it opened on December 19. This was several crores less than the openings of Ek Tha Tiger (Rs. 32.92 crore on Day 1) and Chennai Express (Rs. 33.12 crore on Day 1), but thanks to largely positive reviews, PK’s business picked up and it is now the most commercially successful Bollywood film ever.

It is the first film to enter the Rs 300-crore club and it has made Aamir the first Hindi film actor to cross the Rs 100 crore (with Ghajini), Rs 200 crore (3 Idiots) and Rs 300 crore (PK) marks.

Aamir and PK’s success was the result of a long process. After the success of Ghajini, deep-pocket producers indulged in mindless competition to be in the Rs 100-crore club. Mindless because the focus was on marketing rather than the content. Audiences winced at each nonsensical Rs 100 crore film, but Aamir stood apart in their view.

He was in the race to make hit movies, but he ‘also’ did meaningful cinema. He came up with Dhobi Ghat and 3 Idiots when Golmaals and Dabanggs were ruling the ticket window. He produced and acted in Taare Zameen Par, the 2007 movie about a boy’s struggles in a boarding school that is now regarded as one of the finest children’s movies made in Bollywood.

Slowly and steadily Aamir found a point of equilibrium for his movies. His support for the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement and his TV show Satyamev Jayate contributed to the image he created as a thinking and socially-conscious actor. His politics was never clear, but he became the superstar who offered you a bit more than other superstars.

Talaash, Aamir’s 2012 thriller, wasn’t a hit but it made headlines and earned more than Rs 90 crore despite mixed reviews. Dhoom 3 was no different than a Kick or a Singham in terms of presentation and content strategy, but it surpassed them because of the image Aamir has created for himself, his brand value.

And then last year’s mega hit Dangal stamped his authority over Bollywood. In a year, when Salman Khan was supposed to top the business charts with Sultan, Dangal came like hurricane and washed out the remains of every other Bollywood superstar.

Directed by Nitesh Tiwari, Dangal was a story about a former wretler who wanted to see his daughters winning gold at international circuits.

Based on a true story, the film broke all the exisiting box office records and collected over Rs 385 crore in the domestic market, an unprecedented figure.

This sum became even more important because it was achieved in the times of demonetisation when films like Rock On 2 suffered big time.

In an old interview with HT, film critic Mayank Shekhar rightly said Aamir commands a “captive audience”. “There is a group of viewers who will anyway watch a mainstream Bollywood film. They are the same people who would watch Singham Returns or Action Jackson or Chennai Express.”

“Now, you add Aamir Khan’s name to this already existing group. It will immediately expand as Aamir has a credibility factor attached to it. This is the reason his mainstream, commercial films would do bigger business than other mainstream films because it attracts audience other than the usual set.”

This assessment is right on money, because he is a superstar and something more. Someone who balances the class and the mass.

As far as the business of his upcoming films are concerned, he has two films releasing this year: Secret Superstarin which he is playing a cameo, and Thugs Of Hindostan. The latter also has Amitabh Bachchan.

Going by the current trends, Aamir seems all set to scale new heights in 2017.

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