He has just bagged a three-movie deal with one of the most sought-after studios in the Indian film business. But if the amount of money that he has made for his producers this year is anything to go by, it is Yash Raj Films that has actually scored a major coup by signing him on.
Sushant Singh Rajput, the Delhi boy who, like Shah Rukh Khan, went to the famed Barry John's drama classes to hone his acting skills, may just be a few films old, but there are plenty of jobs rolling his way. Everyone wants to sign him up and broadcasters are quoting a hefty price to grab the satellite rights to his movies. Soon, he will be essaying the role of the much-loved Bengali sleuth, Byomkesh Bakshi, in a film under the Yash Raj banner. Besides, he will also be seen in Rajkumar Hirani and Shekhar Kapur's (Paani) forthcoming projects.
The reason why Rajput is so coveted is not hard to see. Two of his films- Kai Po Che and Shudh Desi Romance- are among the most profitable films of 2013 based on return on investment. The broadcasting rights for Shudh Desi Romance went for Rs 15 core, which is nearly half the production cost of the film. While still new to Bollywood, Rajput already seems to have crossed the line to stardom. From the Rs 20 lakh that he got as fee for his first film, his asking price now ranges between Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 2.5 crore a film.
But he is only one of tomorrow's stars that 2013 has brought into the limelight. As Bollywood embraces a new kind of film that banks on not so known faces and a strong story line rather than star power, many new actors now have a chance to take a shot at stardom. Aditya Roy Kapur (who was trying his luck with non-lead roles since 2009) and Shraddha Kapoor (whose first movie bombed at the box office last year) finally tasted success in Aashiqui 2. Like the storyline, the movie sizzled at the box office, raking in a staggering 224 per cent return on investment. It made Rs 84 crore on an investment of Rs 18 crore. "We never thought it would be such a big hit. We had produced the movie to gain control over good music, which is our mainline business," says Bhushan Kumar, managing director, T-Series, which produced the movie.
In the top league
The movie has catapulted Kapur to the ranks of Bollywood's hottest new stars. He now commands over Rs 1.5 crore for a film. Industry experts say he is also negotiating several endorsement deals at Rs 20-25 lakh for each day of shooting. Aashiqui 2's leading lady, Shraddha Kapoor, has increased her asking price to Rs 75 lakh to Rs 80 lakh. For limited budget movies, that makes her still very saleable- Anoushka Sharma charges Rs 2.5 crore and Sonam Kapoor is not available for less than Rs 1 crore.
Rajput's female protagonist in Shudh Desi Romance, Parineeti Chopra, a business management graduate who made a stir last year with Ishaqzaade, has also managed to break through the ranks and make it to the crore-plus club in Bollywood. According to industry sources, she charges over Rs 1 crore a movie now.
Her connection with the youth has helped her bag a string of endorsements deals from top brands like Nivea, WeChat, a social media messaging company, an undisclosed two-wheeler player, among others. She has also become the first Bollywood star to endorse products from both Coke and PepsiCo at the same time. She endorses Maaza for Coke and Kurkure for Pepsi. It's clear her appeal works for both the beverage giants. Says Neeraj Garg, vice-president (juice business-India and south west Asia) for Coca-Cola: "She is a young achiever and epitomises young Indian go-getters, energetic and wanting to make a difference. She has helped us strengthen Maaza's brand equity and take it to the next level."
A spokesperson from rival PepsiCo says: "We signed Chopra very early on. We recognised her potential and cast as her as part of a new-age family which is modern yet traditional in its values."
Rajput, on the other hand, has become the ambassador for two brands, Garnier Men and PepsiCo. Says Ashish Patel, vice-president (youth films, brand partnerships, talent management) in Yash Raj Films, which manages him: "Both the brands he has taken up are known to sign on popular stars. In fact this is the first time that L'Oreal has picked up a new face for such a high-decibel campaign. This shows the confidence he is inspiring in brands."
Reasonable price tags have certainly helped these actors. Shraddha Kapoor has bagged Vaseline and an undisclosed Deo brand. Industry experts say she charges Rs 10 lakh per day of shooting. If Shraddha's forthcoming films with Akshay Kumar (Gabbar) and with Shahid Kapur (Haidar) make it big, she will be a steal for advertisers who bet on her early on, say experts.
While new stars have made their mark, not everyone agrees the days of the old guard are over. "Every 10 to 12 years Bollywood undergoes a change of generation. That is what happened in 2013. New talent has now emerged with the successes that they have delivered, a power shift will happen. This, of course, does not mean the superstars will go into oblivion," says film trade analyst Komal Nahata.
Surely, 2013 was a lot about new kids on the block (four of the nine movies on the top list in terms of return on investment had fresh faces), but it was also about an old face who made it to the elite club. Farhan Akthar debuted as a director and later as an actor some years ago, and made some successful movies, but it was in 2013 with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, in which he played the lead role, that his film hit the magic number of Rs 100 crore in domestic box-office collections. He also proved his mettle as a producer when Fukrey, a movie that he produced with a friend, also made good money.
To be fair, 2013 was also the year when Shah Rukh Khan showed his critics that he was still not history following a string of not-so-good runs with the success of Chennai Express. Deepika Padunkone, the leading lady of Chennai Express, also kept her lead with two huge box-office successes which made her the number one female star of Bollywood, beating Katrina Kaif to the honour.
However, there is unanimity that in the future, star pull alone won't be enough. Also, with most leading stars in their 40s (Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan), there is room for a new generation in Bollywood. Intones Anirban Das Blah, managing director of Kwan, a celebrity management company: "Bollywood is on the cusp of a change."