“This Independence Day, the winner will be the audience!” declared John Abraham about the impending “clash” between his Batla House and dear friend Akshay Kumar’s Mission Mangal. Two content-heavy entertainers, with all the mega-voltage thrust of powerful storylines and star-power, are definitely in store for viewers. It is rarely that there are two releases whose trailers as well as vibe promise so much of substance and fuel the desire to watch “ASAP”!
In that sense, the Mission Mangal – Batla House clash is truly one of the rare real clashes in Hindi cinema.
So what do we mean by a real clash? Quite simply, it means a scenario (pun intended) when one film gives a very, very tough fight to the co-release, ending in either a win-win situation or one movie’s remarkable victory in an unequal battle.
Here, then, are the five true-blue clashes in contemporary times:
1. Dil & Ghayal (1990): Both were non-festival releases. The former romantic melodrama had the edge because of various reasons: the upwardly-mobile Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit, a hit music score and it was a trendy romance when action as a genre was in second place to love stories. The actioner Ghayal, however, made up with its intensity, its real (they called it “topical” then!) touch, Sunny Deol’s angst-packed action and an on-screen conflict with Amrish Puri. Both films enjoyed a Golden Jubilee run.
2. Phool Aur Kaante & Lamhe (1991): Post-Diwali, these two films clashed, interestingly, with Lamhe releasing a day earlier. This was a Yash Chopra biggie, released just after his blockbuster Chandni was fresh in everyone’s memory. This time, Chandni Sridevi had a dual role, the story was novel, the film was shot abroad, and the music a hit.
By contrast, Phool Aur Kaante marked the directorial debut of Kuku Kohli, and was an action-packed love story with a new (and not very conventional-looking) hero in Ajay Devgn and another fresh face—Madhoo. All it had to score were Nadeem-Shravan’s hit songs and a rare intensity in its script and the action (coordinated by the hero’s father Veeru Devgan). The mass-appeal of the film took on the classy drama and knocked it out of the race, as Lamhe had to make do with critical acclaim and a promise of longevity.
3. Lagaan & Gadar—Ek Prem Katha (2001): Again the release was on a non-festival date, with the monsoon fury lashing Mumbai, and again Aamir Khan and Sunny Deol came in. This was probably the first time that two patriotic films clashed. To be fair, Lagaan did well only in Mumbai and overseas (the perception then was that a film that was a hit in Mumbai was a hit!) while Gadar led the entire decade in theatrical footfalls and revenues, and inflation-adjusted, even towered above 3 Idiots released in 2009.
However, Lagaan remains high in status, and we do not mean the Oscar short-listing alone. It occupies pride of place among the epic dramas of the times for its superb atmosphere and performances, and has emerged as a cult film. On a far more massy scale, Gadar remains a cult and historic milestone in Hindi cinema too. As director Anil Sharma put it a decade later, “The interval point of Gadar came at almost 1.45 hours, when most movies now end. But the audience did not move out as they did not want to miss even a minute when the film started again.”
So this really was a clash of the “giants”, as both films were three hours plus!
4. Tum Bin & Aks (2001): It was almost dismissed as a joke—a T-Series small film, Tum Bin, pitted against a big Amitabh Bachchan thriller in Aks. Tum Bin introduced director Anubhav Sinha, now known for substantial cinema like Mulk and Article 15. This homespun drama of three men in a girl’s life (the cast was all new) was accepted in the face of the surreal and highly offbeat Amitabh Bachchan-Raveena Tandon–Manoj Bajpayee-heavy film. Within days, it was Aks that became the joke—an unwieldy Goliath felled by a focused David.
5. Welcome & Taare Zameen Par (2007): This was how a classic clash should be for the audience—both films belonged to diverse genres, that too almost diametrically opposite! The former Anees Bazmee confection was a hilarious crime caper, while the latter film, featuring (once again) and produced and directed by Aamir Khan was dead serious, a film with a mission. The release season (Christmas) was bountiful, and both emerged super-hits as per their respective budgets.
Today, both films are cherished and revisited with affection, one as a timeless and superbly-relaxing comedy, and the other as a cult motion picture that has changed society in many ways.
Debunking the ‘Clash’ myth
In that sense, most of the other ‘hyped’ clashes were not tussles at all. Action Replayy was a dud in front of Golmaal 3, so was Mohenjo-Daro opposite Rustom. Saawariya and Jaan-E-Mann respectively were decimated by Om Shanti Om and Don, though the latter was no super-hit. Mission Kashmir came a poorer second to the less-poor Mohabbatein, which is also what happened between Kaabil and Raees.
On the other hand, both Jab Tak Hain Jaan and Son Of Sardaar were both tepid successes. There were a few triangular clashes as well, but none really made the high-impact grade.
As we have seen, there have been very few true-blue clashes in the real sense! And, hopefully, Mission Mangal and Batla House will battle each other to a great climax where the audience resoundingly wins.