When we hear the term Superstar, we often start thinking about people like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and at times, Akshay Kumar, but seldom do we involve Sunny Deol in the discussion. Well, this in itself is the purpose of this article.
A few months back, while interacting with Bobby Deol during the promotions of Poster Boys, I asked him if he feels that his family has not got the due in the industry, given the fact that not many have witnessed the kind of hysteria that Sunny Deol and Dharmendra have witness for over 4 decades, to which he replied,
“We have never done my PR and in-fact we never had a PR. In today’s time, PR is very important as you need to keep selling yourself. We always thought, work should speak for you, but it’s not like that, especially in today’s time.”
Saying that Sunny Deol was a superstar in the 90’s would be an understatement. In a span of 8 years i.e. from 1994 to 2002, Sunny Deol had delivered 3 Blockbusters i.e. Darr, Border and Gadar, and was a part of 6 other successful films i.e. Jeet, Ghatak, Ziddi, Indian, Qahar, Arjun Pandit. Although Shah Rukh Khan went away with the audience sympathy in Darr, major credit for the Box-Office performance of the film would go to Sunny Deol as he was a way bigger star than Khan in the 90’s. Sunny Deol, who made a debut in Bollywood with Betaab in 1983, has been a part of approximately 20 Hit Films and the count of successful films i.e. average or above should easily be around 30, which is a great achievement.
Any article about Sunny Deol would be incomplete without highlighting the historic business done by Gadar. The Anil Sharma directorial became the highest grossing Hindi film of all time by surpassing the long-standing record of Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, despite the clash with Aamir Khan’s Lagaan. The movie till date is the most watched Hindi film of this century (2000 – 20018) as the footfalls of Gadar were around 5.05 crore i.e. 5.05 crore tickets of Gadar were sold. Baahubali 2 had more than 5.2 crores footfalls but that was a dubbed Hindi movie, so excluding the same.
Keeping the number game aside, another factor that distinguished Sunny Deol from the other stars from that era was the fact that the actor commanded a massive fan following among the masses. Sunny Deol in Bollywood was known for essaying raw and intense characters. Masses back then started believing that when Sunny Deol was there on screen, nothing could go wrong. The response that Sunny Deol’s dialogues used to get in the single screens had to be witnessed to be believed.
To put things to perspective, the mass hysteria for Sunny Deol films back then is somewhat similar to the Salman Khan films in today’s time. t Be it a good film, or a bad film, the masses often used to visit cinema halls in big numbers whenever they saw Sunny Deol holding a gun the film poster. Such was the kind of loyalty he commanded among the masses. Sunny Deol held his ground strong against contemporaries like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Ajay Devgn till 2003, however he lost his hold after the advent of multiplex era.
Even Sunny Deol’s unsuccessful films like Farz, Champion, Hero: Love Story of a Spy and Maa Tujhe Salaam had taken a very promising opening at the Box-Office, however the content didn’t support the stardom in long run. You would be shocked to read that the opening day collection of his unsuccessful film, Hero: Love Story of A Spy (2003) was better than the opening day collection of films like Kal Ho Na Ho and Devdas, which starred Shah Rukh Khan in lead, who was the top star back then. While Hero had taken a bumper opening of Rs 2.25 crore, the opening day of Kal Ho Na Ho was Rs 2.18 crore and Devdas was Rs 2.10 crore. Out of many other films which took a bumper opening at the Box-Office, another one was Maa Tujhe Salam (2002), which opened at Rs 1.75 crore. The opening of Maa Tujhe Salam was bigger than yet another successful Shah Rukh Khan film, Chalte Chalte, which had started at Rs 1.55 crore.
The reason to compare Sunny Deol with Shah Rukh Khan and not the other two Khan’s here is because Shah Rukh Khan was the top star in that era, and Sunny Deol films opening bigger than Shah Rukh Khan proves the kind of fan following that Deol commanded in the audience.
It is often said that masses are very loyal to their stars, and given the right film, Sunny Deol’s presence can still ensure a respectable opening for his films. A few years back, Ghayal Once Again took a good start at the Box-Office by raking in around Rs 7 crore on its opening day, and majority of the collections came from the mass centres. The opening day of Ghayal Once Again was marginally lower than the opening of many films starring Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Varun Dhawan, Ranveer Singh and other young stars of the industry in that year, which is a great feat for a 59 year old actor to achieve.
Here’s a look at hit films that starred Sunny Deol in lead:
· 1983: Betaab: Blockbuster
· 1985: Sohini Mahal: Hit
· 1985: Arjun: Super Hit
· 1988: Paap Ki Duniya: Hit
· 1989: Chaalbaaz: Hit
· 1989: Tridev: Super Hit
· 1990: Ghayal: Blockbuster
· 1991: Narsimha: Hit
· 1992: Vishwatma: Hit
· 1993: Damini: Hit
· 1993: Lootere: Hit
· 1993: Darr: Blockbuster
· 1996: Jeet: Super Hit
· 1996: Ghatak: Super Hit
· 1997: Border: Blockbuster
· 1997: Ziddi: Super Hit
· 1999: Arjun Pandit: Hit
· 2001: Gadar: Blockbuster
· 2001: Indian: Hit
· 2011: Yamla Pagla Deewana: Super Hit