The pandemic impacted Bollywood’s big names, while OTT stars gained. A majority want censorship for OTT platforms
Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan; Photo by Bandeep Singh
Film stars aren’t as luminous as they once were. With theatres largely shut due to the pandemic or otherwise running at 50 per cent occupancy in the first half of 2021, and big-ticket releases largely on hold, film actors had little opportunity to be seen, let alone make an impact. This year, both Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar held on to their respective top two spots, but their popularity saw a dip of five and six per cent, respectively. The Bachchan-starrers Chehre and Jhund are still awaiting a release, as are the Akshay Kumar-led Sooryavanshi and Prithviraj. Those who did manage to have a film out—like former Mood of the Nation (MOTN) poll hero No. 1 Salman Khan, whose ZEE 5 release Radhe was more a source of unwarranted amusement than entertainment—saw their fan base dwindle. Rajinikanth was a new addition to the list with his exit from politics (due to health reasons) making more headlines than his films.
While most Bollywood actors saw their stardom shrink, the No. 1 heroine Deepika Padukone remained on top. The 35-year-old actress had no releases and even took a sabbatical from social media while battling Covid, but it didn’t alter her standing. As one of the highest-paid actresses with a host of upcoming theatrical projects, which will see her featured alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Prabhas and Hrithik Roshan, Padukone has kept herself in the reckoning. The same cannot be said for Kangana Ranaut who bagged the No. 4 spot alongside Priyanka Chopra-Jonas. The latter’s decline can be attributed to her focus on international projects.
Gradually eating into the audience of box office stars are actors who believe in the growing power and influence of OTT. If Big B topped the film hero charts, Abhishek Bachchan was No. 1 in the streaming category with season two of Amazon Prime show Breathe and Disney+ Hotstar film The Big Bull factoring in the respondents’ choices. Next in line was Manoj Bajpayee who has been celebrated for his role in the Amazon Prime hit show The Family Man. There’s a Khan in the mix in streaming, too, with the Saif Ali Khan fresh off the controversy-marred political drama Tandav ranking third.
Among the actresses in the OTT category, Sushmita Sen (Aarya), Janhvi Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, Radhika Apte (OK Computer) and Shefali Shah (Delhi Crime) round off the top five.
Even as audiences have increasingly turned to web series and features on digital platforms for their fix of entertainment, there is continued wariness towards the programming that the streaming sector makes available speedily, often at nominal rates. There was a marginal increase in the view that the sector needs censorship, as well as in the faction that didn’t want anyone meddling with content. But with government-mandated guidelines on OTT programming already in effect, the viewers can judge for themselves.
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