Along with Eid, Christmas and now Republic Day, Diwali is said to be the prime season for prestigious Hindi films to have a release. But do these dates come with an in-built insurance of success? We think not. Otherwise, this Diwali’s Thugs Of Hindostan would not have bitten the dust by opening at Rs. 52 crore in India on day 1 and sliding to Rs. 6 crore (!!!) on day 5.
Happily, the successes and the good films vastly outnumber them. A careful study will show that the Diwali “Me-Too” (!!!) release mania really took off in 2005 in a big way, because from that time, the smaller releases never dared to come in the festive season and the festival remained a battleground for A-list stars and top-rung filmmakers and therefore often an ego tussle.
And it is in that very year that we had the first two calamities among three releases: Garam Masala, Kyon Ki… and Shaadi No. 1. Mind you, we are not talking about mere flops here, but of total cinematic shipwrecks.
Kyon Ki… (2005): This was a sorry rip-off of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—a dark and gloomy subject that was no film for people wanting to chill and enjoy their festival. Director Priyadarshan probably thought that since he had a trademark comedy in Garam Masala (also “inspired” by a Hollywood comedy) also releasing that week, he could go the whole serious hog, that too with Salman Khan! Himesh Reshammiya could not repeat the magic of his earlier hit scores for Salman and that was probably the last straw that broke the already compromised camel’s back.
Shaadi No. 1 (2005): This was the final requiem for Vashu Bhagnani-David Dhawan’s No. 1 series of comedies. It also proved that while the audience wanted to laugh and relax during the festive season, cheap and crass humour padding up a mundane plot was not their kind of garam masala, even if the story had succeeded in its original Kannada version. An ensemble cast of ten leads was led by Sanjay Dutt and, in days when it mattered a lot, Anu Malik’s poor music also contributed to the disaster trek.
Jaan-E-Mann: Salman Khan had a long way then to go until he got a hit in Diwali; though this time he had his Mujhse Shaadi Karogi companions Akshay Kumar and producer Sajid Nadiadwala with him. But the experimental treatment by debut-making director Shirish Kunder failed to strike a chord in this morose love triangle. The release of Don opposite this film no doubt contributed, but the disaster that the film became was thanks to its own demerits, starting with the subject. After all, who wanted the rollicking MSK team to come up with a tear-fest? In the process, this time, Anu Malik’s good music suffered.
Saawariya (2007): Again a wrong subject for Diwali, again a film that was all pathos and no soul—this film never had any redemption even in the end. For the first time, a Bhansali film had below-par music, which was a mammoth expectation for film buffs; given that it was an SLB movie, and also the launch of the musical Rishi Kapoor’s son Ranbir Kapoor. Pitted against the super entertaining and packed with hit music Om Shanti Om, there was no way this film could have survived, even if it had been a well-made romantic melodrama. And it was not.
Blue (2009): What a setup on paper—the tried and tested Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif combination, A.R. Rahman’s music, Sanjay Dutt as a bonus, exotic locations and high seas adventure. So what all was missing in this sorry dud? Here was a film in which all the three vital elements of cinema were in severe short supply—Entertainment, Emotional and Intelligence Quotients. Interestingly, we see an echo of almost all these factors in Thugs Of Hindostan!
Main Aur Mrs Khanna (2009): Careful scrutiny will show that most of the Diwali wet firecrackers— coincidentally or otherwise—were either remakes or part-inspired from other Indian or foreign sources that these filmmakers should not have even touched. With Rohit Shetty’s super-hilarious All The Best (though mysteriously not a big hit) releasing alongside, like Blue, this film had no chance as a Diwali option. Worse, it did not even take an opening, and its nett business in India remains less than a quarter of its cost. It was a massive disaster again for the Salman Khan-Kareena Kapoor Khan combo after Kyon Ki…, and thankfully today, Bodyguard and Bajrangi Bhaijaan have reversed their fortunes as a team.
Action Replayy (2010): The film yet again proved the kink that audiences have about their favourite superstars: if they are good looking, filmmakers should dare not tamper with their looks on screen! A weird-looking Akshay Kumar was not the audience’s cup of tea here, and Golmaal 3 thus ended up as the first and actually the only festival viewer’s choice. A decent script and some fabulous music by Pritam were also overruled by the fact that it was Aditya Roy Kapur who seemed to be the main hero of an Akshay Kumar-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan film!