As the first half of 2017 came to an end it was clear that Bollywood did not really have great Box-Office collections to report. Except for the tsunami called Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, which swept away all the box-office records, held till date, none of the other films could rake in much ‘moolah’. Considering the fact that Baahubali 2 was not a Hindi film per se, still the dubbed Hindi version alone managed to fetch more than Rs 500 crores which is indeed a staggering figure! The success of the film certainly sent some strong messages to our industry in general and our so-called ‘superstars’ in particular, about what a strong story and script can do to a film. But here the concentration sadly still seems to be on reserving festival weekends and weird promotional gimmicks to lure the public into cinema halls just to get the coveted ‘record-breaking’ first-weekend collection!
THE MONEY SPINNERS
The modest-budget films which actually did well were the fun-filled rom-com Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya starring Alia and Varun, the ever-dependable Irrfan Khan’s take on the education system in India in the hilarious Hindi Medium, a docu-drama on Sachin Tendulkar’s life Sachin-A Billion Dreams and Taapsee Pannu’s Naam Shabana– a thrilling prequel to the 2015 film Baby. Though Jolly LLB 2, Raees and Kaabil did not boast of outstanding collections, they still managed to make a mark at the box-office.
The Ghazi Attack, again a Telugu film dubbed in Hindi and A Death in the Gunj an English film directed by Konkana Sen also did surprisingly well considering the niche target audience and the absence of any stars. Anarkali of Aarah which tells an unapologetic tale of an erotic dancer received rave reviews for Swara Bhaskar’s performance. Phillauri stood out for its unique storyline with Anushka Sharma playing a friendly ghost and narrates two parallel storylines with one in the present and one belonging to 1919. Her performance as well as those of her co-stars – Suraj Sharma and Diljit Dosanjh was appreciated.
The big stars faltered and flickered. Salman Khan’s Tubelight fetched some of the worst reviews and reactions from the critics and fans alike. When such films are rejected one should feel happy that the audience still expects some standard and will not accept any and every trash churned out. Two other stars – Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan who fought for the same release dates ensured that their films ate into each other’s collection. For all the fuming and fretting that Hrithik and his father did, Kaabil had a regressive story which showed a rape-victim committing suicide just so that Hrithik could go on a revenge spree. Really, should such films even be allowed to release? SRK attempted something new in Raees and did a good job but the choice of Mahira Khan as his heroine took away the enigma of his romantic image which affected the collections.
Akshay Kumar’s Jolly LLB 2 actually belonged to Saurabh Shukla. Not only was his character a brilliant one, his fantastic performance took the film to another level and he outclassed Akshay effortlessly. Though Akshay’s acting was very good, his character in the film was not a very honest one. In fact his irresponsible behaviour results in an innocent pregnant mother’s suicide and for a film dealing with legal system one wonders how he gets away scot-free without a case being registered against him!
Vidyut Jamwal’s Commando 2 also fell flat and so did Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor. Amitabh Bachchan’s top-class performance could not save Sarkar 3 which really had nothing new to offer. Likewise Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s class act could not do anything to Haraamkhor which boasted of a bold theme of a sexual relationship between a 14-year old girl student and her tuition teacher. The film ran into censor trouble and affected the collections. Our censor board surprisingly seems to have no problems against rape and suicide but bold themes certainly attract their ire!
Some love-stories expected to do well also crashed badly and deservedly as the magic of love was very much missing in them. OK Jaanu starring Aditya Roy Kapoor failed to excite the audience the way its Tamil original ‘O Kaadal Kanmani’ had done. While the Tamil version with its fresh take on a live-in relationship was a lovely film with the young stars bringing in an endearing liveliness to their romance, Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapoor could not convey the kind of chemistry needed to propel this kind of film. Half-Girlfriend, which was based on Chetan Bhagat’s dull book by the same name expectedly did not do well. Arjun Kapoor looked too huge and old to be playing a first year college student and the uninteresting script never really gave any scope for performance or romance to the lead pair. Raabta turned out to be a messed up and uninteresting reincarnation saga and never really blossomed into a heart-felt love-story.
One of the biggest debacles of the year was the much awaited love-triangle Rangoon which was completely rejected by the audience. It was sad because all three actors- Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan and Shahid Kapoor came up with excellent performances. Vidya Balan’s Begum Jaan was also a dismal film and could neither generate sympathy for the prostitutes nor evoke any kind of patriotic feeling. Manisha Koirala’s Dear Maya and Raveena Tandon’s Maatr died a quiet death without making any noise. Honestly such films have no takers in today’s scenario.
Two top-line producer-director fathers Suneil Darshan and Abbas-Mastaan gave break to their sons in Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha and Machine respectively but the films were so bad that they sank without a trace. Wonder what will happen to the career of their sons!
THE OTHER SIDE OF 100 CRORES
Every year while trade pundits are busy analyzing only the films that entered the ‘100 crore club’, there are countless flicks which are released to empty halls and go abegging for attention and audience. Such films have unattractive titles which further add to their woes. Neither is there any promotional activity preceding their release nor any buzz surrounding their star-cast. Examples of films released in this category include – Coffee with D, Hind Ka Napak Ko Jawab: MSG Lionheart 2, Wedding Anniversary, Mona Darling, Laali Ki Shaadi Mein Laddoo Deewana, Mirza Juliet, Ajab Singh Ki Gajab Kahani, Sweety weds NRI, Behen Hogi Teri, Love You Family, etc. Why and for whom are such films made is anybody’s guess.
Some films had good actors but hardly any interest was generated before their release. Irada had Naseeruddin Shah, Aa Gaya Hero had Govinda, Trapped had Rajkumar Rao and Runningshaadi.com had Amit Sadh and Taapdee Pannu. Poorna was the biographical adventure of the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest.
COMPETITION FROM HOLLYWOOD
The action adventures and animation films from Hollywood continue to enthrall the audience and some of them make good money as well. Pirates of The Caribbean 5-Dead Men Tell No Tales, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Kong: Skull Island, Beauty & the Beast, The Mummy, The Circle, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, Boss Baby, Baby Driver and Wonder Woman are some of the films which hit the bull’s eye and competed with our own films.
This year two of our top Bollywood heroines had the guts to leave everything here for a while to concentrate on their Hollywood debuts. Both of them acted in films which were big-budget releases with top stars. While Deepika Padukone acted alongside Vin Diesel in ‘XXX: The Return of Xander Cage’, Priyanka Chopra played the main vamp’s role opposite Dwayne Johnson in ‘Baywatch’. Though the films did not do well either here or abroad, our heroines did manage to get noticed especially Priyanka Chopra who is currently riding a wave of popularity in Hollywood. However the fact remains that the roles hardly got them much screen-space and definitely did not require them to showcase any perceptible talent. So was it really worth all the brouhaha they created?
Although the first half of the year did not come up with too many outstanding songs a few of them were certainly very good and went on to become chartbusters:
A soft number from Jolly LLB 2:
A fun-filled track from Hindi Medium:
A catchy romantic duet from Kaabil sung by the blind lovers:
The endearing chemistry of Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt in all the songs of Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya:
An electrifying dance number by Sunny Leone in Raees:
Though there was no lack of variety in the subjects, the treatment and narrative could not be up to the mark but all is not lost. A lot of interesting releases are lined up for the second half and many are expected to become blockbusters. Every Friday brings the excitement of a new release and new hope though which among them will actually succeed remains to be seen…