Bollywood’s Five Musketeers

Bollywood’s 5-year report card brings to light that its five musketeers — Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan — have netted a business of approximately Rs 1,830 crore from the ticket windows alone. And, if you add the revenue from satellite, home-video and other mediums to this figure, you can easily see why these men are on top. Year 2009 didn’t start auspiciously for the superstar brigade — Shah Rukh had a lukewarm Billu while Akshay had two duds (Chandni Chowk to China and 8 x 10 Tasveer) and one uncertified Kambakht Ishq — but Bollywood continues to rely heavily on these stars.

It’s easy to explain here. Trade sources estimate a total of Rs 500 crore came from Akshay’s 17 releases in the five year-period from 2004 to 2008, Rs 400 crore from Shah Rukh’s nine releases, Rs 365 crore from Aamir’s five releases, Rs 350 crore from from Salman Khan’s 13 releases and Rs 215 crore from Hrithik Roshan’s three films.

Trade analyst Komal Nahata said: “Despite these actors’ ups and downs, Bollywood depends a lot on these five men because they have a fairly high success ratio. You have to go by aggregates; individual films may run or flop but these men net good averages. Akshay leads the pack with his earnings by virtue of the fact that he has done the maximum number of films.’’

This year, too, he has already had three releases; Shah Rukh has had only one release and Aamir is yet to open his account. Hrithik was seen in a cameo in Luck By Chance. However, when it comes to rating the five men, Nahata says: “Aamir and Shah Rukh are neck to neck at number 1 and Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar are neck to neck at number 2. Salman currently occupies a solo place at number three because he hasn’t had a spectacular release after Partner.’’

Trade consultant Amod Mehra, however, disagrees: “Aamir is a clear number 1 because each of his films in the past five years has been different.’’ Mehra pointed out Mangal Panday was the only dud in Aamir’s bouquet of five; all the other four — Rang De Basanti, Fanaa, Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini — made a killing at the box office.

“Shah Rukh is a close second, Hrithik is third, Akshay is fourth and Salman stands at the fifth position. However, a hit or two here and there and these positions could easily change,’’ he added.

Ashok Ahuja of Percept Picture Company feels Shah Rukh and Aamir are tied at number 1. “It was hard to choose between Ghajini and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Both films rocked. Hrithik is number 2, Akshay is number 3 and Salman is number 4. The kind of excitement generated by Three Idiots, My Name Is Khan and Kites is palpable even though their release dates are yet to be set; the euphoria associated with Aamir, Shah Rukh and Hrithik is very high,’’ he said.

Prabhat Choudhury of Spice says these five men, apart from films, have also taken over the endorsement world because each of these is a very big brand in himself. “Aamir leads the pack because he brings to the table qualities of a discerning thinking actor, who is very sincere and sensitive whereas Shah Rukh’s strong point is that he is entertaining and very charming,’’ Choudhury said.

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