As Firangi's Release Nears, Can Kapil Sharma's Popularity Still Pull Him Through?
Firangi is Kapil Sharma’s second tryst with Bollywood as a lead actor. He tasted success with his previous outing Kis Kis Ko Pyaar Karoon, but it was two years ago. A lot has changed since then. Is his stardom still intact?
Kapil Sharma was on the top of his game during 2014-16. Whatever he touched turned into gold. In fact, during the financial year 2016-17, he was among the top 10 highest advance tax payers in Bollywood. With a tally of Rs 23.9 crore, he was in the league of celebrities like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt.
This was unthinkable for a small screen star a couple of years ago. After Shekhar Suman, he was the first TV host with such pan-India popularity, and in many ways he was far ahead of Suman.
His shows, Comedy Nights With Kapil and The Kapil Sharma Show were TRP-spinners, effortlessly staying on top of the charts week after week. There wasn’t any star in Bollywood who was prepared to say no to his show. He was the friend everyone needed, because you aren’t promoting it well if you’re not on Kapil’s show.
Channels had to agree to his terms. If one didn’t then others were waiting with open arms for the Punjab lad whose unique selling point was his ‘desi’ approach. His jokes made both rural and urban audiences laugh and people waited for him every weekend. He was their only solace after a hard day.
In September 2015, Kapil debuted in Bollywood with an Abbas-Mustan film titled Kis Kis Ko Pyaar Karoon. As expected, it opened big and collected more than Rs 32 crore within a week. It was reportedly made at a budget of Rs 8.5 crore.
However, earlier this year, it all started slipping away, thanks to the news of his mid-air fight with fellow comedian Sunil Grover. It was reported and confirmed by the sources to different media outlets that Kapil Sharma abused Sunil Grover and other members of his crew on a Sydney-Mumbai flight. Grover, whose acts had arguably become the star attraction of The Kapil Sharma Show by the time of his exit in April this year, refused to return after that.
This wasn’t the first time the two have separated. Sunil Grover had earlier launched his own chat show, Mad In India, in February, 2014. It didn’t work and Grover returned to Sharma as his second fiddle Dr Mashoor Gulati on Comedy Nights With Kapil and then The Kapil Sharma Show.
The only difference by the time Grover left Kapil’s show for the second time was his soaring popularity.
The show had to take a hit. First it went out of top 5 and then top 10 highest rated TV shows. On top of that, news of the show’s shoot being cancelled at the last minute as celeb guests kept waiting also started circulating. The damage seemed irreparable and eventually it was taken off-air. The news of Sharma being an alcoholic and in depression also started doing the rounds. All this presented a really bad picture of one of India’s most loved stand-up artistes.
Though the recorded clips of Kapil’s show kept airing on entertainment channels, he confined himself mostly to his work. Apart from the occasional news of his love story, the only other information from Kapil’s end was that he was shooting for a film called Firangi. And, now Firangi is ready to hit the theatres.
It is delayed by a week to cash in on the free weekend on December 1. Padmavati was supposed to be released on this Friday but was deferred in the face of protests. Kapil Sharma will be under tighter scrutiny this time. There was hype around him in 2015, but this time he will be judged on his acting abilities.
He is aware of the challenges and he talked about it at a press meet in Delhi. He said, “See, the fans might come on the opening day, but this all changes from the second day. The next set of people comes only after inquiring about the film. Why will I want somebody’s hard earned money spent on a bad film?”
He also revealed the budget of Firangi, but will it be easy to recover Rs 45 crore this time, especially under the shadow of all the controversy? He probably prepared for it because the answer came real fast. He said, “What kind of crime have I committed? Is there even one star who hasn’t been in a controversy? If you’re much loved then even the controversy will be bigger. People ask many actors before clicking a picture with them, but I feel proud that they just drag me and click a selfie. They think I am one of them.”
He didn’t stop just there and asked us a question in return. “Whenever I am asked this, I just ask one simple question, ‘Have you not fought with your friend ever?’ There isn’t much to talk about.”
He might be right, but we decided to run a Twitter poll to assess his answer. By Wednesday evening, out of 600 votes, 28% went in his favour and 72% in opposition.
We also tried a Google trend search with his name over a period of last six months.
These data show a different picture, but you can never write-off a person like Kapil Sharma whose rags to riches story inspires millions. Probably that’s why he sounded so emphatic during the press conference when he said, “I came to Meera Road in Mumbai with Rs 1200 in my pocket. If I have made a film with this much budget then it is by the God’s grace.”
Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha