Stars turn investment savvy

No more living for the present. A bungalow in Bandra and Juhu in Mumbai, a horde of friends every evening to enjoy the flow of free Scotch and to think that this is the way life is going to span out is pass. This is how a lot of stars lived over the years.

It was said that the popularity of a star was measured by the amount of footwear outside his Darbar (sitting room) and further confirmed by the number of bouquets he/she received on a birthday or when the star’s film was released. The result was that a lot of these old time artistes rose to the highest pedestals of stardom, had the best of everything for a while but died in penury! The footwear/footfalls at the Darbar in the heydays were missing at the star’s funeral procession. Shatrughan Sinha, who was the lone known star to attend the funeral of the once Golden Jubilee star, Bharat Bhushan, observed that no one except him from the film industry attended the funeral.

It seems, the bouquets and footwear were temporary indicators of popularity.

Stardom is just a phase in an actor’s life; does not last forever. A few make the transition from stardom to character roles and manage to sustain, though not as gloriously. Well, the stars in those days were not quite prepared for the days ahead, the what-if days. These stars, probably, never thought of investing for a lifetime of returns.

The usual practice to survive when the bad days caught up was to sell the bungalow, move to a luxurious flat and, later, sell this flat and go middleclass. This happened with Bharat Bhushan who had given some of the biggest hits of his time in Baiju Bawra, Barsaat Ki Raat and Basant Bahar. Meena Kumari, for instance, also had to move from a bungalow to an apartment and, even that was sold for a pittance to recover her income tax dues. Raj Kapoor faced setbacks with a couple of films he produced. And, finally, for Bobby, which launched Rishi Kapoor, he had to stake his life’s earning, RK Studio, because even his regular distributors had deserted him. Fortunately, for all concerned, the film clicked.

Not so long ago, Amitabh Bachchan faced a problem going on the verge of bankruptcy as he formed a company to indulge in film production and related business. Luckily for him, he survived that and a new glorious chapter started in his life.

There were many such instances with lead stars as well as with the second rung actors. But, there were a few others who were wise with their money. Ashok Kumar was known to invest wisely and so was Rajendra Kumar. The stock market meant a long-term investment in those days; more about regular dividends and less about trading. Also, the knowledge of the market was limited. Real estate was the thing. Rajendra Kumar built a preview theatre and a couple of other facilities and so did Sunil Dutt within their premises.

Rajesh Khanna invested in real estate and a hotel in the South. Sadly for him, he was not very aware of where his money was invested. Even those, who formed partnerships with him in film production or distribution were not always honest.

Wiser sense prevailed with the stars who followed. The smartest during the time was Jeetendra. He, probably, never liked to keep his money idle. He even loved to discuss it and was not above asking a journalist earning a thousand or two what he thought of certain shares like Orkay since he had a few crores to invest! He also invested in the distribution of films along with his brother-in-law, Ramesh Sippy. Jeetendra decided to invest in a posh bungalow in Hyderabad since most of the time his films were remakes of Telugu films and he had to stay there in hotel rooms for long times.

But, for one thing, Jeetendra was not greedy and was practical. After a few hits of his South remakes in Hindi, he was offered a raise in his remuneration by his producers. To their chagrin, Jeetendra refused saying, “A couple of hits and you want to pay me more. But, if I deliver a flop or two, things will be different as the producers won’t find my price viable.” But, he did not pass up the opportunity totally. He suggested that they may pass on that benefit to his distribution firm which bought the rights of all his films.

Dharmendra had set up a state-of-the-art recording studio along with a preview theatre at a prime Juhu location. The Khan Brothers, Feroz and Sanjay, were more into owning race horses. Most of the actors may be investing here and there but their main attraction was always related to films.

Vinod Khanna too decided to open his own distribution office, later venturing into film production. Mithun Chakraborty had built a couple of five star hotels in Ooty and also shifted his base to Ooty. Jackie Shroff was a stakeholder in Sony Entertainment Television when the company made its entry into India.

Coming to the new generation of actors, they know their priorities. Most of them are very well educated — male and female both. Of course, since many or most of them come from outside Mumbai, their first priority is to buy a house. But, as they start earning enough money to feel secure, they venture out to invest whatever surplus they hold. The actors today know that a place in the sun has its expiry date and they always have a Plan B ready. But, the problem with this generation is, they follow the trend. They go with whatever is hot and in news. For instance, many actors ran to Gujarat holding meetings with the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and eventually investing in Wind Power or some such project. Then, the attention shifted to start-pps — the reigning watchword in the market. And, that is where a lot of money is going.

While almost all actors, male as well as female, have film production houses usually making films in joint ventures, the other preferred business seems to be restaurants. Dino Morea was one of the firsts to start a restaurant while also being associated with fitness activities for the public. Sonu Sood has set up a chain of restaurants while Arjun Rampal is into owning pubs. Shah Rukh Khan has a top rated VFX set up besides owning an IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders, along with Juhi Chawla. Preity Zinta also owns a stake in the IPL team Kings XI Punjab. Ajay Devgn has invested in a VFX unit as well as a cinema chain, NY Cinemas, which already has nine cinemas in operation with another dozen in the offing as per the company’s website. Hrithik Roshan has set up his own fashion label, HRX, besides investing into real estate. Similarly, Akshay Kumar is also reported to be more inclined towards real estate. John Abraham has some stake in the construction business. Aamir Khan is involved with the furniture brand, Furlenco. Suniel Shetty is heavily into digital domain and also owns a talent management company.

Priyanka Chopra has opted for a social media platform, Bumble, for investment and also takes seat on the company’s board. Films production has also been one of her enterprises. Aishwarya Rai, having invested in wind power as well as Ambee, the environment start-up, was in news recently for seeking her outstanding dues from the power company in Maharashtra. Anushka Sharma has ventured into fashion with her own label, Nush. Deepika Padukone is also an active investor betting on multiple enterprises. She co-owns a fashion label, All About You, with Myntra. Her other investments are Furlenco, a furniture company, and a beauty products label, Purplle and the latest being yogurt brand, Epigamia.

@The Box Office

The Independence Day weekend releases, Mission Mangal and Batla House both enjoyed an unopposed second week in the absence of any new release. This week’s new release, Saaho, is a much-hyped film. Made at a budget of a whopping Rs 350 crore and shot simultaneously in three languages, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. It was expected to arouse much anticipation as it stars Bahubali fame, Prabhas, and as a result of which the Hindi version has been released at about 4,000 screens. From the initial reports, the expectations seem to have been belied as the film is said to be all style and no substance.

*Mission Mangal added Rs 47.5 crore in its second week taking its two week (15 day) total to Rs 173.5 crore.
*Batla House held up very well as the film collected Rs 23 crore taking its two week (15 day) total to Rs 83 crore.

(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal)

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