How Do New Bollywood Heroes Fare in the US?

The upcoming release of Tiger Shroff’s A Flying Jatt got me thinking about just how hard it is to launch a career as a Bollywood hero abroad. It’s difficult enough to succeed in India, but even more so overseas, where fans aren’t bombarded with the same kind of media saturation. That’s assuming that a distributor is even willing to put your film in theaters. Although Arjun Kapoor is a star now, his first picture — Ishaqzaade — didn’t release in the United States.

A Flying Jatt is Shroff’s third release since his 2014 debut, a promising sign for his Bollywood career prospects (at least for a while). I looked at some of his contemporaries from 2010 on to see how they’ve fared since their debuts. I only considered actors who launched under similar circumstances to Shroff: first-time actors without previously established entertainment careers (regional films, singing, TV, etc.) who were the sole male lead in their film, as opposed to, say, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra who launched together in Student of the Year. Also, the hopeful hero’s film needed to be released in the United States (which excludes Kapoor and Saqib Saleem).

That leaves us with six contenders, including Shroff. Here they are, in order of their debuts:

Ranveer SinghBand_Baaja_Baaraat_poster
Debut film: Band Baaja Baaraat
Release date: December 10, 2010
US box office: $71,374
Of the 32 films that released in US theaters in 2010 for which I have data, Band Baaja Baaraat ranked 30th in total gross. That early hiccup didn’t hinder Singh’s rise to stardom. His most recent film — Bajirao Mastani — earned $6,653,317 last year.

Girish KumarRamaiyaVastavaiya
Debut: Ramaiya Vastavaiya
Release date: July 19, 2013
U.S. box office: $52,200
While $52,000 is nothing to crow about, Kumar’s followup film — Loveshhuda — made just $1,787 in the US earlier this year. Might be time to accept that this dog won’t hunt.

Shiv DarshanKarle_Pyaar_Karle_Movie_Poster
Debut: Karle Pyaar Karle
Release date: January 17, 2014
US box office: $3,110
I have an inexplicable fondness for Karle Pyaar Karle because of how hilariously horrible it is, and Shiv Darshan is especially awful in it. The only reason I don’t recommend the movie is because it’s racist near the end (also, I have no idea where to find it). You may not have a future as an actor, Shiv, but I’ll always remember you.

Tiger ShroffHeropanti_Poster
Debut: Heropanti
Release date: May 23, 2014
US box office: $63,172
While Heropanti wasn’t a hit here, Shroff’s followup — Baaghi — made $437,243 earlier this year. If A Flying Jatt can come close to that, it bodes well for Shroff’s longevity.

Armaan JainLekar_Hum_Deewana_Dil_poster
Debut: Lekar Hum Deewana Dil
Release date: July 4, 2014
US box office: $10,529
Even after rereading my review of Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, I still have no recollection of having seen it. That’s the kind of impression Armaan Jain made on me: none at all.

Sooraj PancholiHero
Debut: Hero
Release date: September 11, 2015
US box office: $83,973
Hero did comparatively well for a debut film, but Pancholi’s personal/legal problems could make studios consider him a liability, especially if he’s ever convicted of a crime related to Jiah Khan’s suicide. The jury’s still out on Pancholi, in more ways than one.

Box Office Sources: Box Office Mojo and Bollywood Hungama

6 thoughts on “How Do New Bollywood Heroes Fare in the US?

  1. moviemavengal

    Super interesting! Actresses get the benefit of launching possibly with a Khan, but the guys don’t have that luxury.

    Even having Karan launch you doesn’t necessarily help you with name recognition in the States. I went to the Dream Team concert with my Indian neighbor and she doesn’t really know who Varun is. She did see Badlapur but that’s his anomaly and she’s never seen Humpty Sharma, SOTY or his lighter fare like ABCD2 and Main Tera Hero. Sid she only knows from Kapoor and Sons and Aditya not at all. She did not see Dilwale but it shows why Varun would do that movie with SRK – to introduce himself also to the diaspora audience who will go to an SRK movie but wouldn’t know him from Adam.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks, Mel! Writing this reminded me of the fact that Band Baaja Baaraat wasn’t also Anushka Sharma’s debut. I’d forgotten about Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with SRK! That’s another interesting idea for a post: which of the Khans is the best for actresses to debut opposite? Anushka and Deepika sure got a good start with SRK.

      Debuting as the sole male lead is so risky. One of the things that stands out from these movies above is that BBB is the only one that isn’t a typical “hero saves the girl from bad guys” story. Yash Raj Films had real ambitions for Ranveer and Arjun that didn’t include them slotting into typical hero roles. There’s a limited audience for that kind of film. That’s why Sidharth’s and Varun’s choices post SOTY have been so interesting, too. They’ve also avoided that trap. I’m not sure that Tiger has any ambition beyond being the typical hero type who won’t work with another male lead or play second fiddle to an actress. Inflexibility and ego could doom his long-term career prospects.

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    1. Kathy

      The ego element relates to his choice of roles, more than anything. Unlike his earlier two films, Tiger showed in A Flying Jatt a willingness to play a character who was vulnerable and imperfect.


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