Sunday, December 27, 2009

Box Office Ki Raani: Katrina versus Priyanka, Round 2

Aishwarya Rai's marriage to Abhishek and the subsequent brakes she voluntarily put on her career resulted in a gap - a huge one - at the top. Several actresses were in pole position to make a bid for #1 (Kareena, Bipasha, Rani, Preity), which admittedly for female actresses remains a nebulous distinction (for e.g. its not necessarily tied to box office clout). The two most interesting contenders were relative newcomers: Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra.

They've both gone about climbing the ranks with distinctly different career choices. The results were neck and neck in 2008. But in 2009, one actress pulled ahead. Its interesting to take a closer look at their career arcs because it results in an examination of Bollywood trends.

Katrina Kaif Priyanka Chopra Kareena RaniKatrina's breakthrough hit was Namastey London (Akshay Kumar, 2007). She has followed that up with a series of roles in movies starring tried and tested box office luminaries. In effect, she's been happy to play prop or second or third cog in the wheel. The strategy resulted in a really good year in 2008 - Katrina logged blockbusters with WelcomeRace, and Singh is Kinng. She became an instant internet goddess and a contender for Aishwarya's vacant position at the top.

Priyanka, on the other hand, made significantly different choices. She chose to sign fairly meaty roles - often at the risk of casting herself as the main draw opposite lesser known actors (remember Love Story 2050? No, well ok). Wisely (or un-suicidely, take your pick), she also made sure she signed up with big name actors. But this mixed strategy seemed to be going wrong last year (Drona, God Tussi Great Ho) until the arrival of Fashion, which not only delivered the biggest hit of Priyanka's career - but did so entirely on the back of Priyanka's name and performance. This was significant: was Priyanka on the way to becoming a star of Aishwarya's standing, tapping into a female demographic thus far inaccessible to most other female stars?

Priyanka's box office momentum was cemented by Dostana late last year, but a single movie ne kiye kare par paani pher diya. That unfortunate distinction belongs to What's your Raashee - a movie that would have vaulted Priyanka to the top because she would ended up with all the credit had Raashee not crashed and burned in cinemas.

Katrina, on the other hand, was happy to motor along as a part of the larger picture. Her strategy delivered a steady stream of hits in 2009: New York, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and De Dana Dan. None of her roles were particularly memorable or often less than one-dimensional, but nevertheless they clearly vaulted her to the top.

I'm left with the feeling that although Katrina delivered an impressive year, Priyanka delivered the more memorable one. It makes you wish that her bold choices - the bravery here is relative - are rewarded. Here, she has a problem. If she continues to headline movies she will have to hit her target demographic - which has to be women (box office rules dictate that men won't go to see a movie headlined by women unless vampires or tightly fitted leather outfits are involved). But to hit that demo she needs the help of female directors, who can tell the stories to connect with female audiences. She has none on the horizon - and the few who exist have had to be so much smarter than the men, that they've intellectualized themselves out of the range that can deliver a mainstream hit.

Priyanka has a couple of movies lined up with the Akthar family (Kismet Talkies - with a female director Zoya Akhtar) and Farhan Akhtar's Don 2 (one of the more memorable female roles in popcorn Indian cinema). Katrina's next big project is the multi-starrer Rajneeti (Ranbir, Ajay Devgun).

Let the games begin!

18 comments:

Pitu said...

I'll vote for Priyanka any day over Katrina! Bebo had made me mad with KI and Kurbaan but wow, she was so cute in 3 Idiots. So as a Bebo fan I hope she comes out aces in 2010 :)

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Piggy over Kat any day!

Deep said...

basically what u r saying is can priyanka be the next madhuri or ash and not just another #1. katrina is just another #1.

Sharon said...

Say it ain't so, Katrina at No 1?

What about Kaminey, I thought that did well in cinemas?

meena said...

Aspi, you left out the obvious comparison between the two - one looks like she could pass as caucasian and the other can pull off an earthy south asian look with ease...my vote will go to pc if for nothing else but that..

I think katrina has looks that appeal across borders and will take the international market. smartest thing she has done is stick to the vapid empty prop roles :)

Rashee or not...Dostana and Kaminey rocked because of pc. nothing rocked because of Katrina but she made a great detail in the background :)

Aspi said...

meena, well said and good point about the looks and what each actress gets from it.

Speaking of which, PC's lips look like they are about to explode one of these days.

aspifan said...

It is PC all the way, ignore the Lips !

joules said...

2009 definitely belonged to PC but ...

saw the promos of Rajneeti and I rather like Katrina in it. PC has a few years on Katrina so she is done with the running around the tree roles and has moved on to more mature cinema a la Karisma Kapoor.

Also Indian movies require a certain level of acting from the actresses but it is not really earth shattering. Kat has the backing of some good directors and immense screen presence just like bebo who gave mostly flop movies but is still quite sought after.

m said...

Priyanka got way overrated (in acting) in like a year.. she's so mediocre..but even then she's better than katrina who is way overrated in looks.. paratha face.. i think its her skin tone that makes her so desirable to a lot of Indians..

i thought you'd do a post on avatar aspi..and tell us what motorsandal and the other munchkin thought about the movie

Ace said...

Hey aspi. a nice write up again.

b'town actresses leave alot to be desired, and i mean tht in context of their acting skills. and to the guy saying PC has earthy south asian looks, i agree, but she even has hints of eva mendes( every time i look at eva mendes, specially in hitch- she scream 'priyanka' to me)

that said, Kat is the most overrated actress in town.a penguin can act better than her. she and her bully/abusive on/off sallu need to be sent to noth korean cinema. where they will be a hit with....errr penguins?

sorry but how can one not look thru kat's poor acting skills. she can do us a favour and be a card board cut out in the background of her upcoming movies

Aspi said...

m, I did want to do a post on avatar but ran out of both time and something different to say :(

To add to this discussion, I'm a little surprised by how aware both Kat and PC seem to be of their limitations. For e.g. Kat has an excellent understanding that she is popular because she is congenial i.e. she is of the Jessica Simpson school of popularity. And PC seems to understand that she is a smart actor rather than an organically good one.

Since everyone (except Joules) is running out of good things to say about Kat, I'll add this: she has probably the best dress sense among all the actresses today. She looks good in both western and indian wear. She seems to have a career plan.

Anonlee said...

No, Katrina does not have the best dress sense. I would vote for Sonam or Neha or Dia. Katrina wears some ridiculous looking outfits sometimes and I hate how she drapes and sexes up the saree when it is not necessary for such a sensual garment.

I agree that PC is overrated but compared to Katrina she looks like Meryl Streep. Unfortunately for PC her upcoming movies look like a move backwards - Pyaar Impossible with Uday Chopra - what was she thinking?

The best female lineup for 2010 belongs to Kareena, Aishwarya and Vidya. They all have interesting movies forthcoming.

Priyanka made her debut in 2002 so has been in the industry for 8 years and Katrina arrived in 2003 so has been around for 7 years. They are not newbies.

BTW, Katrina puffed up her lips too and can give PC competition in that area. LOL

Aspi said...

Anonlee, 8 and 7 years? Wow, time flies! Also Meryl Streep analogy - pretty funny :)

Katrina picks her color combos like a Parsi woman. Maybe that's why I like her dress sense so much.

abhishek said...
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sudipta pal said...
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Delhi is really Cold said...

Happy New Year to Aspi's Blog Readers.
Looking forward to Aspi's take on 3 Idiots more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Priyanka is particularly talented. She has a good image but she doesn't deliver half the time.

and Rani hasn't been fresh since Kuch Kuch Hota Hain.

Kareena is becoming a better actor over time.

She's not a Box Office Rani as of yet but I think Sonam Kapoor is immensely talented.

What happened to Preity this year?

ps.Also, 3 IDIOTS. remember. just reminding.

Aspi said...

Yaar, I can't seem to think of anything new to say about 3i that hasn't been said already :)

But I'm trying to interview someone in the film whose performance I enjoyed a lot. If I can pull that off, we'll have a 3i post.