Everyone is looking for the Don -- the original one in Bollywood. And that is with good reason. In the fickle business of stardom, Amitabh Bachchan, who turns 75 today, has managed to remain relevant, anchoring Kaun Banega Crorepati, starring in films, and endorsing products.
Currently, he is one of the busiest actors in the country. After he is done shooting for KBC for Sony TV, he will be on the sets of 102 Not Out — a feature film in which he plays Rishi Kapoor’s father. It is expected to hit the screens next year. According to the latest Forbes’ list of richest actors in the country, he is ranked nine, with earnings of $9 million. This puts him ahead of Ranbir Kapoor (earning $8.5 million). He is the only one on the list above 60 years of age.
While his last film Sarkar 3 (2017) bombed, producers believe he can still hit the jackpot if the content of a film is good, such as Piku (2015) or Pink (2016). That’s the reason he still commands an attractive fee of Rs 7-10 crore per film, according to analysts.
Age is no impediment to his work as an endorser, either. Bachchan is the first choice for many corporate brands and also for governments looking to push social messages. Currently, he endorses 10 brands — ranging from inner wear (Lux Cozi), mobile phones (One Plus), jewellery (Kalyan Jewellers), air conditioners (LLoyd), to e-commerce sites (Just Dial), to name a few.
Bachchan is also the brand ambassador for the goods and services tax.
Companies are happy to fork out Rs 2 crore a day (most companies generally hire him for three to five days), because they know his magic will work. So what makes him tick at 75, when most stars are content with a Lifetime Achievement Award? (He has already got the coveted Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.)
Sam Balsara, chairman of Madison World, one of the leading advertising firms in the country, said, “He (Bachchan) brings two key elements to the brand: Statesmanship and maturity through his iconic status, which no other cricket or Bollywood celebrity can match. He brings credibility to the brand. Whenever someone is looking to project that, his name will be on the top”. Corporate entities who have hired him endorse this view. Ramesh Kalyanaraman, executive director, Kalyan Jewellers with who Big B has been associated for over five years, said, “He is our first global ambassador and truly represents the brand value of trust.” There are others who are leveraging his mass appeal across cities, towns and rural India. Lux Industries has recently signed up with Big B for two years to endorse its economy brand Lux Venus. Udit Todi, senior vice-president of the innerwear company, said: “We were looking for a celebrity who has an appeal across Tier-1, -2 and -3 cities, as our product is meant for the masses. Bachchan’s appeal cuts across all such segments”. Movie producers say with good content, Big B can create magic. That was reflected in the success of Pink last year, which earned nearly two-and-a-half times of its Rs 23-crore budget from domestic collections alone.
But, if the content has not been strong, his movies have gone down under like Sarkar 3 (It made only Rs 9.25 crore with had a budget of Rs 35 crore).
Bhusan Kumar, chairman of Super Cassettes that owns the T-Series brand and is producing 102 Not Out, said “Piku and Pink have shown that with good content, Amitji’s movies do very well. What makes him different is his energy level — the discipline, his contribution in promotions, and his professionalism” Kumar is already talking to Bachchan to produce another movie. Film analyst Komal Nahta also pointed out that while some of his movies have flopped, no one has blamed Big B. “He is talented and disciplined as well as professional — that is a potent combination in Bollywood,” he said.
Big B is also the star in the idiot box. After a gap of three years, he is back with a reformatted KBC 9 on Sony. There were doubts whether the superstar would be able to attract audiences and speculation that a new anchor might replace him. But the magic of Big B has surely not waned, though the show’s appeal might be limited to urban India.
Based on data by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), KBC is in the top slot in ratings in the urban India Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) market for the 23-29 September week. However, it is not among the top 5 in the rural GEC market ratings. So its overall rank in GEC Hindi, which combines rural and urban ratings, fell to four in the same week.
According to estimates, the programme has been a money spinner for Sony — it has been able to get advertising of over Rs 400 crore. It has been a money spinner for Big B, too; according to estimates that he is charging around Rs 1.5 crore per day from Sony. With about 30 episodes (He shoots more than one a day for each) industry analyst said he would be easily raking in more than Rs 30 crore.
Danish Khan, executive vice-president and business head, Sony Entertainment Television said, “He (Bachchan) continues to be the constant force behind this phenomenon. His ability to empathies with people from various backgrounds, his command over languages, and his ability to entertain and Inspire the entire country makes up for KBC magic.”