Give us entertainment—in addition you can make us think, inspire us, teach us, move us deeply and make us take back large chunks of the movie. Or just ensure we have a blast while we watch a film!
That’s all we want, but without any compromise! We do not care about the genre—we will come and watch any good film. We do not necessarily want big stars—they are just add-on attractions for us. We will love young, new blood—if they respect our collective likes and dislikes and excel at what they are offering us. We will not crib about anything as long as the story carries us along in its flow after we have shelled out our hard-earned money.
In short, tell us any good story, but tell it well.
And that is the message sent yet again by the audiences to the film industry, with clear ‘Do’s and even clearer ‘Don’ts’.
The six main hits and successes of 2018’s Q1 (the first three months for the uninitiated) prove this with renewed emphasis—Padmaavat, Pad Man, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid, Hichki and Baaghi 2. The average here, though Padmaavat released in late January, works out to one hit or big success every two weeks, and that is truly an awesome score for an industry that has fared so poorly for years now, despite all those rare blockbusters and some surprises. Things do seem to be looking up, but the tempo will need to be maintained.
Before we discuss the magic that happened, an analysis of what the audience rejected: 1921 and Hate Story IV, two films from a franchise, scored decent footfalls for their genre but could not muster the needed minimum moneys to break even.
High on intellect and low on audience connect, Kaalakandi (a dark ‘comedy’) and Mukkabaaz (its director’s name ensured ivory-tower acclaim) capsized instantly. Moronic fares like Welcome To New York and Dil Juunglee (by leaps the worst film of this phase) were also junked ruthlessly despite the cast.
A major calamity was Aiyaary, which was a Neeraj Pandey experiment that went wrong, just like Jagga Jasoos last year. Its lifetime collection, for a big movie, was a shockingly abysmal Rs. 18.22 crore. And what were the main reasons for this? First, too long a length, and foremost, a complex narration of a (good) story that most did not understand!
So, once again, the audience’s demand was loud and clear: “Don’t you con us!” Why should they thus be told to expect a “different”-from-the-rut horror drama (as claimed) in Pari and then find an absurd and badly-told story? Why, also, would they want to see a too heterogeneous compilation of three stories in 3 Storeys and then have a silly climax that nixed any impact they might have made?
It is also clear that good movies shine even more when their releases are—strategically or by default—timed well. That, clearly, was the case with Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, a unique bromance with loads of masala and hit songs. The film came when the audience was in a vacuum, thirsting for that breezy entertainer where they could just have a ball without exercising their brains or disturbing their emotional cores.
The viewers had just had their fill of the intense spectacle Padmaavat and the message-oriented social Pad Man and wanted a celluloid picnic. The youthful effervescence of Kartik Aaryan, Nushrat Bharucha, Sunny Singh and Ishita Raj Sharma, along with a seasoned supporting cast, sent this Luv Ranjan written-and-directed comedy well beyond the Rs. 100 crore mark.
And there was no way they were going to neglect Padmaavat or Pad Man either. One talked of values versus evil, while the other had a timely and vital message for a country like ours. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and R. Balki, two of our foremost directors, brought in everything they stood for—spectacle and intensity, and novelty and finesse respectively—in these star-studded stories.
Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone and Akshay Kumar and even Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor clearly demonstrated how they enhanced their movies. Few heroes generated the sheer mix of disgust for the character and admiration for the actor that Ranveer’s Khilji did in Hindi cinema’s history of anti-heroes. And Deepika, Akshay, Radhika and even Sonam were first-rate.
Raid, an intense mix of three real stories of “heroes who were not in uniform” (read dedicated Income-Tax officers) was even more successful than Pad Man thanks to the superb dialogues and gritty realism. Saurabh Shukla was like a master class in acting in his villainous role, while Ajay Devgn was perfect foil.
In such an environment, and just a week later on March 23, no one expected Hichki, a small film with a ‘90s heroine in Rani Mukerji, to make a mark, especially after the predictable trailer showing it to be one of many “underdog” movies.
But what Hichki did was startling. Proving an exemplary film with everything correct—a taut script, so many messages minus preaching, a crisp 1.58 hours length, an obsessive brightness and positivity and a chain of fabulous performances led by Rani Mukerji’s superbly executed Naina Mathur. No wonder this small wonder struck gold at the b-o.! Even more importantly, it made a place so deep in people’s hearts that the box-office collections on day 5 and day 6 eclipsed the daily inflows of the first four days!
Completing the hat-trick of great Fridays (March 16, 23 and 30) came the film that no one expected remotely to achieve anything like what it has—Baaghi 2. Producer Sajid Nadiadwala had already set a precedent by announcing Baaghi 3 weeks before the release of this film due to his confidence in it. And his confidence paid off big-time!
Proving that action alone as a magnet could negate even a threadbare storyline, the film took a whopper Rs. 25 crore-plus start based on the buzz and promos—something an Akshay Kumar film has still to achieve! Tiger Shroff’s action marathon placed him into the century (Rs. 100 crore) club within five days and the film shows no signs of slowing down fast, since the audience is getting its worth for every paisa invested.
Honesty in entertainment, therefore, is the bottom-line for films today. Give the audiences that, and you can laugh all the way to the bank. And leave the conning to the con-men, though we know there are a few such shams existing even within the industry!