Post the release of Himmatwala, a film which I voraciously wrote about here, a welcome speculation has been born. On the Wednesday of its first week, many cinephiles shared a picture of the largely famous Chandan Cinema in Juhu, Mumbai where it showed that the theater was running 3 shows of Aatma and 2 shows of Rangrezz, both released a week earlier to Himmatwala. For anyone who has seen Sajid Khan talk in any interview, such as the one here, will be doggedly led to believe atleast two things. One, that the guy definitely has the knowledge to make good cinema but appallingly chooses not to, and two, his love for the single screens across the country, specially gathering the reactions of his audience from the aforesaid Chandan cinema. Khan claims to have a defiant understanding of this section of the audience, a section which is also the majority. What then could be the bitter reason for Chandan to pull down his latest release with much alacrity?
"I am a safe filmmaker. When I write a story, I feel that there are some points which bring in nostalgia. I don't want to experiment. I am making films for the audience. My films have been super hits and I always knew that I will make a super hit film. I don't think it is overconfidence," this is what Sajid Khan said in a recent interview. Himmatwala teetered to a domestic net figure of approximately Rs 45 Crores in its first week, a number well below its bloated projections. Can Khan's claims of providing every actor his biggest hit to date still hold, considering Devgn has Son of Sardaar, Bol Bachchan and Singham up his sleeve? Can his hackneyed confidence still justify this performance from his challenges? Well, we can leave the guy alone to re-evaluate his films and come back stronger. But the Box Office today is hinting on something that is well beyond the agreeable commercial under-performance of Himmatwala.
Much of our industry still equates good box office to good audience likability. In 2012, films like Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, Oh My God and Vicky Donor did the kind of business that a lot of star vehicles would have hoped for. Despite most of these films opening bitterly low, the word of mouth drove them endured them through weeks to posit them as formidable successes at the Box Office. In 2013, we have been stormed by a string of such successes already, led by Special 26 and Kai Po Che amongst others. None of these can boast of a grandstanding star value, belonging to a common mainstream genre or having a rage of a music album. Vidya Balan and Akshay Kumar may be stars but their films above were not driven on their outreach. As for Vicky Donor, even Pani Da Rang became so widely accepted post its release. Much to the aphrodisiacal pleasure of the minority audience, there seems to be a burgeoning ray of acceptance for the change of our content paradigm. More good films are emerging from brutal burdens of the mainstream to discover audience likability, earn some bucks and please the critics too.
But that was not enough. More significantly, we are seeing a broader fatigue on the other end of this spectrum. The mainstream star cash-cows are not as successful as they were for the first half of 2012, at least. Rowdy Rathore, released in June 2012, grossed approximately Rs.133Cr to become the third highest grosser of the year. But later that year, Son of Sardaar dipped to being the tenth highest grosser and Khiladi 786 did not even feature in the top 10. This year, Himmatwala should be out of the top grossers most positively. While Dabangg 2, released in December 2012, was the second highest grosser of the year, it still barely managed to top the success of its prequel, a mark it should have left far behind. But with growing business, if these films merely hit the ceilings set by the ones in their genre against the content-based films, we are surely about to witness a magnified form of this fatigue.
We, as an audience, have brought about this miniscule change and should continue to do so. Just off the top of my head, mainstream Hollywood has not doled out one single delectable affair since January and we already have a few to count. The year is wide open and we have a number of releases lined up, but the Box Office looks brim with content based propositions. 2013 will be the testing year for the flag-bearers of the 100Cr club and I wonder who will be the filmmakers standing on the stage at the end of the year waiting to be honored to have crossed this farce of a benchmark. Sigh!
Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here