Even Salman Khan’s worst critics recognize that he is the biggest star in Bollywood today. In what has possibly been the one of the most glorious periods ever in this industry, Salman has delivered three huge blockbusters between Sep 2010 & Sep 2011, in Dabangg, Ready and Bodyguard. Many of his diehard fans privately recognize that none of these were cinematic masterpieces. But they worked purely on the charisma of their lead star. Take Salman Khan out of them, and there will be no Dabangg, no Ready, no Bodyguard.
So exactly how big is the Salman phenomenon? How far ahead of the pack is he, today?
We started tracking star popularity through our product Stars India Loves (SIL) from November 2010 onwards. Every month, a large sample of cine-goers is asked to name their two favorite male and female stars each. Unlike some other star ratings based on the box office, SIL is based purely on the consumer’s preference for the stars at that particular point of time. Hence, it is future-oriented in nature.
Since the SIL research asks people to name two stars, the total percentage share of all the stars adds up to 200. The chart below shows Salman’s month-on-month progression on SIL. As can be seen, even two months after the release of Dabangg, he was at 34%, just 3% ahead of Shahrukh Khan at 31%. If we back-project, it is safe to say that till August 2010, Shahrukh would have been ahead of Salman. But since then, Salman has simply bulldozed his way to the top, widening the gap, month-on-month. Shahrukh is still no. 2 in October 2011, at 27% share. But the 3% gap is now a staggering 25%.
The chart illustrates that his journey over the last year has been in two parts. The Dabangg phenomenon gave him ascendency till February this year, where he peaked at 46%. And just as his share was beginning to saturate, Ready gave it another fillip, this time a huge one, taking him past the 50% mark. Bodyguard couldn’t take it further up, but even two months after its release, Salman shows no signs of losing share.
Who did Salman grab this 18% share from?
No one person lost a sizeable chunk. But four stars lost some share in this period. Aamir Khan and Ranbir Kapoor (till Rockstar) have not had a major release for a while now. Amitabh Bachchan has had a very lean year by his busy standards. The only “real” drop in share has been Akshay Kumar’s, who moved down from 24% in April 2011, to 16% now, losing three ranks within six months, down from no. 3 to no. 6.
Which target audience is he the strongest in?
That’s probably the secret behind his success – he is appealing to every single target segment today, equally well. He crosses 50% share amongst males, females, youth, adults, and in each research market. All other stars are skewed towards a particular audience profile. For example, Shahrukh, Ranbir & Shahid are heavily female audience skewed. While Ajay, Devgn, Akshay and Aamir are male audience skewed. But not Salman. Evidently, everyone loves him. Just about everyone.
2012 is another big year for Salman. Ek Tha Tiger and Dabangg 2 release on Eid and Christmas respectively. It may be difficult to gain too much share beyond the 52% he currently controls, but it is safe to say that 2012 won’t end on a lower number either.
The best part about Salman’s success is that he seems entirely untouched by it. Though sometimes, I wish he understood the amount of people power that rests with him today, and used it to make better, more path-breaking films.
But then, if we don’t have four action scenes, five songs, six comedy gags and seven clap traps, it is not a Salman Khan film, right?