Last week, @OrmaxMedia tweeted annual results of its star popularity tracking research called Ormax Stars India Loves (OSIL). As per the results, Akshay Kumar ranked as the third most popular male star in India, in 2013, behind Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan. Katrina Kaif led the female stars list, well ahead of Deepika Padukone.
Every time OSIL results are tweeted, we get some standard questions in response. These examples capture their essence:
1. How can Katrina be no. 1 when Deepika has given four big hits this year?
2. Akshay Kumar at no. 3? All his films this year have flopped except Special 26.
3. Rani in the top 10! Are you kidding me? When did she last do a film?
4. Salman at no. 1 without any release in 2013? But Chennai Express and Dhoom 3 are the biggest grossers. Your survey is wrong.
Most of these questions (largely from fans and fan clubs) have a common and rather simplistic answer. That popularity and box office are two different metrics.
Box office depends on a wide array of factors. While star cast is the leading factor amongst these, other factors can play more than a significant role in determining the box office fate of any film, be it the opening or the lifetime collections. Some of these factors are genre appeal, music, promos, director, word-of-mouth, reviews and franchise appeal.
Popularity, on the other hand, is only about the star’s recall value and equity amongst the audiences. No other factor, including those listed above, have a bearing on a star’s popularity. In simple terms, star popularity, as captured through OSIL, is a measure of a star’s fan base. OSIL covers an annual sample size of more than 40,000 cine-goers in 29 cities in India. Statistically, that’s as representative as we can realistically get in estimating a star’s fan base.
Let’s take the case Akshay Kumar. His fan base being bigger than that of Ranbir Kapoor, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan, as per OSIL 2013 results. So when his films flop, it simply means that he is not using his equity well. He is either working with the wrong scripts and directors, or signing up films in dead or declining genres (such as masala action in Boss). If he continues to do this for a while, his fan base will obviously take a hit. But fan bases, fairly loyal as they are, don’t desert their favorite stars overnight.
Then there is the other aspect of acting abilities, often mentioned in the Katrina vs. Deepika debate. Katrina can’t act, is a social media argument often given for her supposedly undeserving place on the top. This argument rests of a flawed assumption – that acting skills play a pivotal role in building and strengthening the fan base for a star. In fact, there is very little research evidence to this effect. Katrina’s “personality”, defined in India as a mix of looks, presence, speech and attitude, has driven her fan base for more than five years now. Her careful selection of roles that allow her to use her personality well, has played a crucial role in making her as popular as she is today.
“No. 1 star” and “No. 1 actor” are two entirely different things. And the day they merge, the concept of stardom will die a natural death. Thankfully, we are nowhere close to that happening.
This was a clarification post to settle the incessant twitter debates on OSIL results. Hope it does that at least in some measure!