Frankly, the trade does not expect much from the June 30 release Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha (interestingly, the eighth film title spawned by the songs of the 1980 Karz!), but we can always hope for that surprise element.
After all, no one expected the music of the film, composed by ‘90s veteran Nadeem to be liked in today’s times, but the downloads look decent, and, secondly, the April to June quarter has anyway been beset with surprises of both the pleasant and unpleasant kind!
There has been one blockbuster—a dubbed film, and one medium hit (Hindi Medium)—and that’s it!
In a reversal from most years when the first true-blue hit / big hit comes in the second quarter, there has been almost nothing from “Bollywood”.
And this is simply because wily but creatively-impoverished filmmakers are content filling their coffers while their distributors weep—in many cases, the same corporates that misguidedly finance such duds whose shortfalls are obvious at concept level itself!
Now for the biggest surprise that came actually from the South—Bahubali 2—The Conclusion. The film, released on April 28 as a tri-lingual, actually surpassed the lifetime business of Dangal, till now the highest-grossing Hindi film, by more than Rs. 123 crore, touching an incredible Rs. 510 crore-plus lifetime in Hindi alone!
Nothing explains it’s astounding and record-smashing success than organic audience gratification. Yes, Bahubali—The Beginning (2015) was Hindi cinema’s first dubbed movie to cross 100 crore. And yes, The Beginning ‘concluded’ (!) with the very significant question that become like national buzz—why did Katappa, the loyal servant, kill Bahubali? But all that simply could not explain the sheer power of the film. Not even the fact that the films that came after it were weak non-starters could really account for its typhoon-like blitzkrieg.
Baahubali 2 smashed all conventional laws—the sequel was actually a prequel for most of its length, it had no chartbuster, there was zilch marketing (at least outside its home zone) and there were no Khans or superstars. By default, it showed that when high expectations were met with solidly gratifying content —including the answer to the two-year conundrum—and not just technological gimmickry, the sky was the business limit!
And so we come to the biggest shock we got from this quarter—from a misconnected Tubelight! This was the film that broke the rules of successful cinema—it had a terrible script, the emotions were plastic, the music was tepid rather than strong (like the classic Pritam score in a big film), the ensemble cast was not at all attractive, Om Puri’s character spewed fake, politically skewed and outdated values, and the crucial second half was painfully stretched and boring. This last was the actually fatal offence for the audience, and the director compounded it with another strict no-no: he broke the axiom that Salman Khan could never be shown as a loser!
The expectations after Bajrangi Bhaijaan were clear: in that Kabir Khan film, Salman confronted hell in taking a Pakistani kid back to her home. By logical inference, the expectation here was that he would enter Chinese territory to bring back his soldier sibling without any bloodshed. Had he done that, especially because Salman was shown a shade mentally backward, the film could have been a whopper.
Instead, he was held back by a Gandhian platitude-spewing old man, some gobbledygook about yakeen (belief in self) and the weakest link in the script—a magician (Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo) who gives him completely the wrong kind of confidence! In the climax, the soldier is saved and brought back by his colleagues. So what did Salman Khan actually do??
The only Hindi film that became a sleeper success was T-Series’ collaboration with Dinesh Vijan—Hindi Medium. It was payback time when the masses (and even some of the classes) decided to watch this slice-of-life-meets-idealistic-fantasy story highlighting the ills of education: exorbitant schools, painful admission procedures and discrimination between economic classes, also throwing some light on the plight of government schools.
Director Saket Choudhary packaged the film with loads of humor and satire, giving the film almost a fairytale look. The gamble paid off as the people identified with everything the film was trying to say.
But while Hindi Medium did good business, the biggie from T-Series and Dinesh Vijan—Raabta—came a heavy cropper, proving that content, and not size, matters. This was a replay of what veteran Yash Chopra experienced way back in 1979 when his Noorie became a Golden Jubilee hit, while the star-studded and atmospheric Kaala Patthar proved a dud!
Speaking of the late Yash Chopra, his banner came up with two consecutive box-office duds—Meri Pyaari Bindu and Bank Chor. We wonder why Aditya Chopra, now the flag-bearer of his dad’s premium banner, decided to support these highly defective-at-concept disasters back-to-back. Both films were officially produced under the YRF banner by Maneesh Sharma and Ashish Patil. But their only achievement was that they stymied the progress of Parineeti Chopra (making a comeback and a debut as singer) and Riteish Deshmukh, both of whom respectively went far beyond the retarded scripts.
Confused lovers who do not know what they want in life have always been a no-no in Hindi cinema (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Tamasha, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dear Zindagi and more) and …Bindu could hardly expected to be an exception. As for Bank Chor, the poor film could not make up its mind about its own genre!
Another story of confused lovers was the cretinous Half Girlfriend that was rejected outright. That brands by themselves (Mohit Suri, Chetan Bhagat) and bad music will no more bring in the bacon was something that the audiences forcefully shared with the film’s makers!
A behemoth that should not have been made at all, Sarkar 3 (after Sarkar Raj that was Part 2 bombed nine years ago) was also laughed away by the audience. Ram Gopal Varma, having experimented with dud sequels of his hits (Bhoot, Phoonk) and crushed with consecutive failures, attempted to bring back the last of his franchises. The crash was imminent, but the ominous silence of utter rejection became deadlier as the film came just a week after Baahubali 2!
The critics’ darlings kept on their usual track of poor releases, terrible openings and complete oblivion, like Mukti Bhawan, Death In The Gunj and Dear Maya. Facing anonymity were also endless films that simply did not make the grade regardless of genre or sensibilities: Maatr, Dobaara: See Your Evil, Laali Ki Shaadi Mein Laddoo Deewana and Behen Hogi Teri. There was no marketing of significance, but strong marketing would have only intensified the quantum of loss!
We conclude with just one note: every year, from global to national to regional levels, we have seminars and conferences on cinema and trade. Why not have start six-monthly meetings where the hits and flops of the season are assessed and dissected and due lessons learnt so that such calamitous movies and the consequent losses are nipped in the bud?
If Baahubali 2 has taught us anything, it is that great cinema has no language barriers! And in the pure and good sense, especially when films made for theatres are no more the only means of storytelling and entertainment isn’t money important to survive?