Sridevi - A Very Rare Female Star
Thursday 01 March 2018 12.15 IST
Box Office India Trade Network
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The word STAR is a pretty misused word today due to the paparazzi as the need to put out information and pictures everybody appearing in films and television is a star. But what is a real star? Our reading of it is that it is someone who is liked by enough of the film going audience that makes the audience want to watch them.



The audience is prepared to pay and give their time and this what separates the real stars from paparazzi stars. The former will be very few while the latter will be in huge numbers. Now lets look at the scenario today we have possibly 4-5 genuine box office stars (all male) and then possibly another 7-8 stars (male and female). Now with such limited genuine stars it means the media has to create stars for their needs as the amount of time they have to give to entertainment news cannot be sustained by 11 or 12 people.



The demise of Sridevi has been all over the news lately and as you take a look at the filmography and the numbers then it comes out she was a very rare female star. We have not created a genuine male box office star in the last fifteen years or more so it would take some doing by a female to achieve that status. But Sridevi was one of the four genuine female box office stars that the Hindi film industry has created, someone who really mattered at the box office as a sole entity. Basically in the same bracket as the Khans are today. This is actually unthinkable today that a female star can reach that level today but you can never say never as its happened before. Blockbusters of the proportions of Bahubali - the Conclusion were there in the past but was unthinkable today but it happenned.



Below are the four female box stars that the industry has seen over the last 75 years or so. The period of box office domination is in brackets.



Mumtaz (1970-1974) - The first female star to have real box office clout. The blockbusters came with superstar Rajesh Khanna but the actors who were not doing well like Sanjeev Kumar (Khilona), Sanjay Khan (Mela) and Feroz Khan (Mela, Apradh) got big hits because of her popularity. Many newcomers got paired with Mumtaz as distributors picked up films on her name and one of these newcomers was even future superstar Amitabh Bachchan in Bandhe Haath. Due to the super hit heroine this film fetched a higher price than Zanjeer, the film which made Amitabh Bachchan a star. Rajesh Khanna lost super stardom in late 72 to early 73 but the films with Mumtaz still worked like Roti, Aap Ki Kasam and Prem Kahani in 74-75.



Hema Malini: (1973 - 1982) -  The Mumtaz phase did not last long within the industry as she decided to quit the industry and stopped signing films. Though in the audience eyes Mumtaz remained a huge star till 1974 as her films released, it was over within the industry in 1972 and the biggest benficiary was Hema Malini as many of the rejected Mumtaz films went to her including Seeta Aur Geeta. Hema Malini then probably went on to emerge the biggest female star ever. If the Mumtaz blockbusters came with early 70's superstar Rajesh Khanna then the Hema Malini blockbusters came with the mid 70's superstar Dharmendra including the biggest of them all Sholay and 15 odd other 200 crore nett plus grossers (todays rates). She even gave the fading stars like Rajendra Kumar (Gora Aur Kala) and Dev Anand (Amir Garib) huge hits. The blockbusters continued into the 80's like Kranti and Naseeb and although these were multistarrers, Hema Malini had a huge presence in these films despite the galaxy of stars in them.



Sridevi (1984 - 1992) - Sridevi became a huge star in 1983 with Himmatwala which was a huge hit and at that time there was a vacant top spot and she had grabbed it in no time. Himmatwala is said to be released in the same week of her death but the film was actually released on 4th February in Delhi / UP and East Punjab and clashed with a bigger star cast film Taqdeer (Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman and Mithun Chakraborty) and did not do well with the bigger film out grossing it but later on Himmatwala emerged a huge hit. The hits flowed with Justice Chaudhary, Mawaali, Maqsad and Tohfa. Then like Mumtaz and Hema Malini earlier she carried many heroes in films like Nagina, Mr India and Chandni all which did very well especially Nagina which was a huge blockbuster. There was a film called Guru which had Mithun Chakraborty at his peak in the title role but it was Sridevi who was in the double role. This is like the heroine having a double role in Salman Khan's Sultan. The numbers of Sridevi may not have been high as Mumtaz or Hema Malini but this was also a bad phase (almost as bad as today) in the industry as video had taken over and footfalls had dwindled.



Madhuri Dixit: (1991 - 1997) - Madhuri Dixit is the last female box office star the film industry has seen. Tezaab made her a huge star after a few years of struggle and the success of Tezaab was consolidated in a month with an even bigger blockbuster Ram Lakhan. But at this point of time Sridevi was the reigning star and in a big way and it was films like Dil, Saajan and Beta which made Madhuri Dixit that box office star. Dil had Aamir Khan but it became a Madhuri Dixit film, coincidentally the first four big hits of Aamir Khan (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Dil, Rangeela and Raja Hindustani) all propelled the heroines as they took the credit. Saajan had Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan while Beta had Anil Kapoor but generally it was Madhuri Dixit leading the way in these films. Even Shahrukh Khan played second fiddle to Madhuri Dixit in Anjaam but Shahrukh Khan was on a crest of a wave at the time and the audience could not accept him as an outright villain and the film was rejected. Then came the peak with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Raja and it could be that no heroine had ever reached this level but to live up to these box office expectations would have been difficult even for a huge male star and the downfall started.



After these huge female stars there has been Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, Kareena Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone who at a given point of time have been number one heroines but generally not at a level where they can compete with the top male leads of the time. The next to test this will be Alia Bhatt and here it could be that she challenges the heroes of her generation but will those heroes be real box office stars.



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