Stars & Genres: Finding The Fit

Horses for courses. Yes, it applies to film stars as well. There are genres that suit certain stars well, and don’t suit certain other stars at all. We often say this during our film discussions, e.g. “He is good in romantic roles only”, “He can’t do comedy”, “He is the most versatile actor” and so on.

But what does the consumer think?

We collected data to this effect. It was actually meant to be a fun exercise, for internal consumption only. But when we started sharing the results with the film fraternity, we got excellent response. It seemed that the findings were, as someone said, “directly useful”. Hence, I thought they should be put up here for public consumption.

Essentially, we asked theatre-goers a question for 16 male stars. For each star, they had to pick one out of the following genres that suited him the most – comedy, action, romance, family, none.

Why only these four genres? Because these are the ‘organic’ genres, where star imagery has a strong role to play. Other genres like thriller, horror, sci-fi etc. are not image-driven in principle. Also, we hardly make enough films outside these four genres for consumers to have any real opinions around them.

Why ‘none’? Because there are some stars someone may not want to see in the theatre at all. Why, then, should we force the consumer to pick a genre in such a case? The ‘none’ option handles the forced choice.

The table below captures the results. All figures are in percentage. While going through it, remember that each star has a different popularity level (check OrmaxMedia’s tweets on SIL). So comparing numbers across columns is not necessarily the best way of looking at this data. We need to look row-wise to understand each star’s imagery, than compare them across the columns. The stars have been arranged in the descending order of their popularity according to the March 2012 SIL (Stars India Loves) report.

Star Action Comedy Romance Family None
Salman Khan 57 15 18 9 1
Shahrukh Khan 16 12 42 20 10
Hrithik Roshan 48 12 28 7 5
Aamir Khan 24 33 22 15 6
Ranbir Kapoor 8 25 57 5 6
Ajay Devgn 55 28 8 3 6
Akshay Kumar 32 52 7 5 4
Shahid Kapur 8 14 56 18 5
Amitabh Bachchan 26 7 3 56 8
Sanjay Dutt 51 34 7 5 3
John Abraham 64 14 8 2 12
Emraan Hashmi 8 10 56 5 21
Imran Khan 8 13 51 8 20
Abhishek Bachchan 23 14 13 14 36
Sunny Deol 75 4 2 6 13
Saif Ali Khan 19 18 24 18 21

While the data tells its own story, some observations that may help you read it better:

1. Aamir Khan clearly emerges as the most versatile actor. 3 Idiots gives him a comedy star imagery, but he has substantial share in all four genres. Abhishek Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan too have well-divided share. But in their case, qualitative research evidence tell us that it is because of undefined imagery than because of versatility.

2. Across stars, the last 1-2 releases have an overbearing impact on the imagery, indicating that it is not very difficult to break a star’s image. For example, Shahrukh would have never been associated with action. But with Ra.One and Don 2, his action share is a sizable 16%. Hrithik’s 48% action share seems a combination of his Krrish stunts and the more recent Agneepath.  Akshay Kumar, once a big action star, is now seen more as a comedy star, something that can change again with Rowdy Rathore.

3. Having said that, if a star does a film outside his image-defined space, it will be a real challenge. The film will have to be really good at a campaign and content level for it to work. Examples: Shahid or Ranbir in an action film or Ajay Devgn or Akshay Kumar in a love story.

4. Emraan Hashmi, the rising star of this year, is seen as a romantic star. But evidently, his kind of romance is very different from that of Shahrukh, Ranbir and Shahid. Emraan’s romance is the “kiss wala romance”. The 21% who chose ‘none’ in his case were largely women, who incidentally love the romantic genre and are the core target audience for Shahrukh, Ranbir and Shahid!

Hope you find the data useful. If you have any questions, you know where to find me!

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About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
This entry was posted in Films and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Stars & Genres: Finding The Fit

  1. harsht says:

    My biggest concern has been talked abt in pt 2 that a lot of this is true in hindsight but not necessarily predictive

    • Correct. But point 3 is also important. A producer needs to know when he is breaking a star’s image and when he’s riding on it. Because the marketing will be very different in both cases.

  2. Mit Basa says:

    aamir, srk, salman will have the maximum opening irrespective of the genre…only a + or – 5% difference which depends on the promos. The very fact that they are doing their strength genre or doing a different genre( like when srk attempted ra1..it got biggest opening anyway) dosnt make a difference.

  3. Mit Basa says:

    another serious and obvious flaw here is: 6% say they DONT want to see aamir in theatres( the ‘none’ column) , but only 5% of them dont want to see shahid. that my friend is UNBELIEVABLE. with all due respect to your methods of surveying… and if its ur survey that is not at fault..then i fear the sample is non-representative.

  4. Dipanjan Das says:

    10% don’t want to see SRK and 6% don’t want to see Aamir in the theatres at all. Whoa. Where did that come from?

  5. md says:

    Are you sure sir, that people understood the “None” option correctly ? It seems “None” could have meant “all options” or “None in particular”. Otherwise why should Shahrukh Khan have 10% “None” response ? This is significantly higher than other stars (I’m not talking of Abhishek, Imran, Saifs).
    Or
    Is SRK the most hated star ? This could be another possibility.
    Or
    Is your survey areas more concentrated in some specific areas (e.g. UP, Bihar Single Screen) ?

    What is the reason sir?

  6. Sudipto Sarker says:

    When we would get the Heroines list?

    • No heroines list yet. Wonder if there are action heroines or comedy heroines! Any suggestions on what should be the equivalent of the ‘genres’ for the heroines?

      • Sudipto Sarker says:

        action & comedy could be counted..like in recent times priyanka & deepika even bipasha (but yup it will change after race 2 & krissh 3)

        again comedy – generally actors are leads here (except rani in hadippa in recent times) but again deepika,katrina,kareena all are doing comedy films..but its true its hard to choose a heroine’s genre except e few talented ones like Priyanka,vidya,rani,kalki etc.

  7. Shreyash says:

    Another factor that comes into consideration pertaining to the imagery of the stars is their memorable performances. However, this to an extent was tried to be covered in Point 2 but did not come out in entirety. For eg:- people still relate Sanjay Dutt to the “Raghu Bhai” from Vaastav and Salman Khan to “Chulbul Pandey” from Dabangg. The sole reason, is that they have been memorable films. For majority of people its always easier to recollect a Dilwale Dulhaniya for SRK although they might have equally prefered him in a Chak De or a RA.1. Although unknowingly legendary performances play a crucial role in affecting our choice about the genres of certain film stars apart from their immediate past releases.
    This in my opinion can also be considered while undertaking further research. Apart from that the findings are excellent and shall always play a key role in helping a studio/producer back their decisions with concrete data.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Shreyash Sampat
    K.J.Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research

  8. Anonymous says:

    Noone wants to see Abhishek bachchan in theatres ..he got the highest NONE percentage and thats the fact .. AB jr should retire forever

  9. Himanshu Manroa says:

    A major flaw in this entire exercise Shailesh – It tells us about the imagery of a star in a vacuum. It tells us about the leading imagery of say a Shahid Kapoor. Expectedly, Shahid has a mostly uni-dimensional imagery of a romantic hero (56%), courtesy most of his releases so far. At the same time, it informs us that Ranbir Kapoor too is very strong in the romantic hero zone (57%). However, nowhere does it tell us about the relative distance between these 56% and 57%. Hell, even Emraan Hashmi is in the same zone with romance scoring 56% (as you say, the kiss-wala romance).

    Yes, your SIL data tells us the relative popularity i.e. the fact that Salman is right up there, Saif is at the bottom (below Imraan, Abhishek and Sunny, hard to believe!). However, it doesn’t tell me the exact distance between Salman’s 18% and Saif’s 24% in romance. Exactly how big is this 6% differential ‘romance’ advantage that Saif has over Salman? Eventually, it’s all about ‘share of mind’. A good idea would be to transpose this exercise.

    For each genre, the respondents need to pick one of the 16 male stars that RULE that genre – comedy, action, romance, family or none. A hypothetical result would then be that SRK occupies over 40% of the romance space, Ranbir 30%, Hrithik 20% and Shahid (despite his 57% romantic imagery), occupies just 2% of the romance space in a movie-goers mind. Isn’t this ‘share of genre’ that matters more than share of a star’s personal imagery?

    Imagine, a hot-shot movie maker with a super-hot idea of a breezy love story. Now, going by your research, do you think he’ll get confused between Shahid, Ranbir and Emraan? No way! The 3 may have very similar imagery, but in terms of size (popularity, fan-following, box office clout), Ranbir wins hands down!! I’d say he is miles ahead of Shahid and in a completely different segment as compared to Emraan.

    Sunny scores 75% in action and Salman 57%. Does that make Sunny the top choice for an Action-packed script? By no means! So all that this research suggests is THE OBVIOUS! It’s hardly a revelation that Sunny is the most uni-dimensional of the lot struggling within his strongly-etched Action image. Aamir is the jack of all, no-set image and can virtually pull-off anything. Surprise? Well, not at all!

    I struggle to understand as to how will film-makers find this ‘obvious’ research useful? The data is highly flawed due to the recency effect. As you’ve yourself highlighted, that the once action-packed Khiladi Kumar is now more of a comic hero. Add in a couple of Rowdy Rathores and the Khiladi will reclaim his action avatar. So what then is all the fuss about this research? If it can’t tell me which Romantic hero should I consider for my next project i.e. Ranbir, Shahid, Imraan or Emraan? If it can’t provide me some statistics as to a romantic flick with Ranbir has a high probability of an opening weekend of 20 crores as against 10 crores for Shahid? Or that a Salman actioner will open at 50 crore weekend as against a 20 crore for a Salman love story…then frankly, it doesn’t enlighten at all!

    Also, if it is all about marketing and promo management (whether you’re riding on a star’s image or against it), one doesn’t need research to inform you the obvious. When Vishal Bhardwaj made the romantic Shahid go Dhan te Dhan in Kaminey, do you think he was concerned about his hero’s image? When the never-ever Macho Aamir decided to go completely berserk in Ghajini, was he concerned about treading a completely new territory?

    The days of uni-dimensional caricature heroes went out with kaka. When we could never imagine Kaka (romance), Dilip (tragedy) and Raj Kapoor (the tramp) doing anything beyond what they were doing. Even then, Dilip did try his hand in comedy (Kohinoor, Ram aur Shyam) and was fairly successful. Amitabh touched mostly every genre during his stint and ushered in the new age of multi-generic heroes.

    Movies are promoted based on the director-producer’s conviction and vision. They are promoted based on their premise, the key highlights and the essence. Ajay Devgn shattered his brooding ‘Gangaajal’ image with the Golmaal series. But I don’t see anyway differently in which the Golmaal series was promoted? Or how different it would’ve been if Ajay was not shifting genres and been a comic actor throughout. All Ghajini, Golmaal, Kaminey…would’ve still been promoted the same way regardless of their leading star’s current imagery. Had Salman Khan (the action star) done Ghajini, the first look would’ve had him (instead of Aamir) sporting the beefcake look.

    So then what imagery are we talking about? What’s the actionable intelligence that can be derived through this intellectual-sounding ‘image’ exercise?

    Please guide Shailesh.

  10. Himanshu Manroa says:

    Actually, Shailesh I am quite curious about the excellent response you’ve received from film fraternity on this ‘directly useful’ research. Which ivory tower film-maker could’ve been interested to know that Salman has a dominating action image, SRK has romance, Hrithik has a largely action positioning or the fact that consumers aren’t really interested to see the romantic side of Bachchan, Dutt or Abraham. If any of these results come as a revelation to the film fraternity you’ve shared this with, frankly they don’t really deserve to be in the business!

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