The power list

The power list

Leading Ladies

So, who is the queen of the Marquee today? The contenders — Kareena Kapoor, born 1977, Priyanka Chopra, born 1982, Miss World 2000, the outsider who never cashed in on her beauty queen tag (so much so that Kareena and Katrina are both considered more glamorous), and Katrina Kaif, born 1984, whose box-office record is phenomenal (she is also the only member of the Tees Maar Khan team who has not been professionally affected).

They are considered to be the female counterparts of the reigning Khans. As of March 2011, over Rs 140 crore is riding on their forthcoming films alone, besides their commanding fees for brand endorsements.

Kareena Kapoor

Kareena Kapoor made her debut with Abhishek Bachchan in J P Dutta’s Refugee in 2000. Her second release, Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai (2001), opposite Tusshar Kapoor, was her first hit. Kareena went for alternative cinema quite early — she worked in Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli, Mani Ratnam’s Yuva and Govind Nihalani’s Dev, early in her career. But her dominant image, for a long while, was of the character she played in the 2001 Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham — that of Poo. She sparkled in every role she played. Right from playing an alleged convict’s wife in Aitraaz to the femme fatale in Fida. They gave Kareena a versatile starry canvas.

Ironically, it was after a seven-year wait that this actor began her best professional phase, spinning out one super-hit a year amidst very few average or below-par films — Jab We Met (2007), Golmaal Returns (2008), 3 Idiots (2009) and Golmaal 3 (2010). At this point of time, Kapoor takes pride in proclaiming that she is working only with Khans — with Aamir in Reema Kagti’s thriller, Salman in Bodyguard, Shah Rukh in Ra.One, Saif Ali Khan in Agent Vinod and Imran Khan in Short-Term Shaadi.

Priyanka Chopra

As for Priyanka Chopra, she made her debut in the Tamil film Thamizhan, a major hit in 2002. In Hindi, her first film, a K C Bokadia project with Govinda, has yet to be made! After a parallel role in Anil Sharma’s The Hero (2003) to Preity Zinta opposite Sunny Deol, Priyanka was noticed by many in Suneel Darshan’s Andaaz in the same year, but her big break was Aitraaz (2004), where she essayed that unforgettable character of Mrs Sonia Roy and clinched all the awards for her performance in a negative role.

However, Chopra’s box-office and quality acumen was not really strong. After two more hits (Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Waqt) with Akshay Kumar, she starred in hits films like Krrish (her last major blockbuster, five years ago!), Don and Dostana and in major fiascoes like Aap Ki Khatir, Salaam-E-Ishq, Love Story 2050 and Drona.

Like with all such actors, Priyanka then began to look for more substantial roles, even if the movies were not really mainstream. Kaminey won her a lot of acclaim, ditto Fashion, which even got her the National award. What’s Your Raashee? saw her essay nine roles while 7 Khoon Maaf saw her bumping off multiple husbands as she aged on-screen from 18 to 65. But the box-office remained as unfriendly as ever, with only Fashion passing muster as a break-even film.

The four films together failed to exhibit the range she needed to cross the barrier to become a fitting successor to, say, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi or Madhuri Dixit. Relying on her beauty, likeable persona, warm nature and professionalism to survive such debacles, Priyanka is now doing the sequels of Don and Krrish as well as the remake of Agneepath and a Kunal Kohli film.

Katrina Kaif

Kartrina Kaif is also one of the most sought-after names in Bollywood. She began in 2003 with Kaizad Gustad’s atrocious Boom as one of Amitabh Bachchan’s three vixens. Despite her fragile beauty, Katrina had to wait for two long years before she bagged Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya and her brief role in Sarkar, which released within two consecutive weeks in 2005. With their success, Kaif’s stocks went higher, and her NRI accent and looks were cashed on in apt characterisations in Namastey London and later Yuvvraaj, Race and New York. She acted in a string of films with Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan.

Kaif gradually improved her accent and even began giving decent performances (Singh Is Kinng, Race, New York, Raajneeti – in which she essayed the role of an Indian lady-politician amidst multiple male protagonists). Even today, she is being considered for some Yash Raj projects (different rumours state her signing all their three films with the three top Khans!) besides doing their Mere Brother Ki Dulhan with Imran Khan and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with Hrithik Roshan.

Queen bee

If A-list filmmakers and co-stars are the yardstick for assessing careers, Kareena’s ahead with her track-record of all Khans (including beau Saif and Imran, a hero eight years her junior!), Akshay, Ajay, Hrithik and Shahid. Akshay, Salman and Hrithik are the only common A-list co-stars to all three, but there’s an interesting addition — Arjun Rampal — who has done We Are Family, Yakeen and Raajneeti with Kareena, Priyanka and Katrina respectively.

Subhash Ghai has worked with all three of them, though he has never directed Priyanka, while Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar, Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, apart from Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision and UTV Motion Pictures, have worked as producers with all of them. Abbas-Mustan emerge as the only directors to have worked with all the three actresses. As for the numbers, Katrina scores with a whopping 11 hits or successes out of 17 leads, which is almost double the (similar) success percentages of Kareena and Priyanka!

Says Ramesh Sippy of BRA Enterprises, a top-league distributor, “There is no question that Kareena holds the number one position. Between Katrina and Priyanka, things fluctuate after every release. Priyanka signs non-mainstream films but she should show versatility, which is keeping her away from the top position. Katrina’s huge success ratio is pure luck rather than acumen — it is the director who executes a film finally, and no one can be that good at assessing a film only by its script!” Agrees trade analyst Vinod Mirani, “Kareena’s career has a late pick-up, but she’s going strong.”

He even goes to the extent of stating that the other two are past their peaks. Says producer Ramesh Taurani, “Of the three, Kareena’s the best as an actor, though Katrina’s box-office record is amazing. The rest rank after both of them.”

Subhash Ghai bluntly states, “I am a filmmaker and I relate to them for their talent, not market-standing — they are all dear to me.” But what about the price-tags? “I cannot quote figures!” says Mirani. “Because they are never true — it’s all claims and counter-claims.” But the general belief is that Kareena steals a march even here.

And so, daredevil Priyanka and hardworking Katrina clearly seem to be playing second-fiddle to the charismatic Kareena. But isn’t charisma what stardom has always been about?

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