Year so far: dismal (IANS column: B-Town)
It is customary to take stock of the state of the entertainment industry twice a year, at the end of June and later at the end of the year. So how has 2022 been for the industry so far?
If we were only talking about the film industry, nothing extraordinary for this period. The first six months turned out to be dismal as all the movies with big stars and big budgets failed.
With the threat of Covid-19 still looming and cinemas mandated to close and open or work under harsh conditions, moviegoers should be wary of going to the cinema. But that was just a consolation that filmmakers and theater owners alike liked to believe.
That wasn’t the reason and it turned out pretty early on when big movies weren’t attracting audiences, but eventually when people flocked to cinemas it was because of a small-batch docudrama budget, “The Kashmir Files”.
Released on just 500 screens and collecting Rs 3.5 crore, the film continued to add more screens with every show, every day, and ended its run with Rs 253 crore.
Akshay Kumar makes the most films every year and has also delivered flops in that proportion, two to be precise. Director Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who had nurtured his dream script ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ for years, found the right backer Yash Raj Films for his ambitious project but landed at the wrong acting address for play the main role.
Akshay Kumar just didn’t have the personality, or the looks, to play a character the masses knew little about, even though he was gigantic in his creator’s mind.
The warrior king, Prithviraj, deserved at most a few pages in our school history textbooks. To add to that, the same history books end his two-page story showing him as a loser. It was not a movie to be made and not with Akshay if you wanted to build a new image of Prithviraj.
Akshay Kumar also delivered another miss in those six months. The film was “Bachchhan Paandey”, which had its antecedents in the Tamil film Jigarthanda (2014), which, in turn, was a version of the South Korean film “The Dirty Carnival”.
From what I’ve seen of two recent remakes in South Korea, “Bachchan Pandey” has no emotion, no cause, or anything else to appeal to our audience. Violence alone does not help to complete a film. Salman Khan’s ‘Radhe’ being the other example. Considering the number of films that Akshay Kumar makes every year, he can still achieve success, which will contribute to the continuation of his film career.
And then there is “Runway 34” by Ajay Devgn. What audience was this film aimed at? The Hindi audience did not touch on the subject. If you think you can improve Hollywood with its own themes, remember you’re not making a movie to prove a point. How many Indians are familiar with air travel, let alone a struggling airliner? Was a big disaster. And for urban movie buffs familiar with the theme, there are plenty of plane crash investigation episodes on TV.
So the stars are gradually falling out of favor. They seem to have lost touch with the masses as well as the trends. Every once in a while, people either want something like “The Kashmir Files,” a soul-stirring reveal, or they want something that would draw them into theaters and be worth it.
They are looking for entertainment and, unfortunately, this kind is rare. And actors like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and others don’t realize that their main audience is the youth. So if you want to be the main man, make sure your movie is aimed at young people.
So far, two films aimed at young people have been “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” and “Jug Jugg Jiyo”. Considering its budget, “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” can be called the only major commercial success this year so far. ‘Jug Jugg Jiyo’ had a decent opening weekend, but couldn’t hold up after that. The highly publicized “Gangubai Kathiyawadi” turned out good mainly for Alia Bhatt, whose performance was acclaimed.
The biggest hit of the year was a movie that gelled with everything, namely “The Kashmir Files.” So if you want to do something out of the routine, don’t do ‘Runway 34’ or ‘Bachchhan Paandey’. The other dud was action star Tiger Shroff’s “Heropanti 2.”
So why have Hindi movie stars lost the goodwill of the masses, especially moviegoers? One of the reasons is the indifference of stars when people expect them to stand up and speak their mind in the media, including social media. The stars don’t commit to anything, even on national issues.
And the few people who voice their opinions don’t matter to the people who want their idols to open up. The stars also don’t take a stand when one of their own, like Kangana Ranaut or Sushant Singh Rajput, is wronged.
Also, stars seem to make more money from endorsing brands than from acting in movies (although they know that brand endorsements come to them because of their movie careers) and they also seem insensitive to endorsements. trade missions than taking movies.
Salman Khan sells cooking oil and sewage pipes. Akshay Kumar sells everything from pan masala to toilet cleaners to colas. Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh sell just about everything under the sun, whether it matches their image or not.
Bachchan sells laundry detergent? It’s hard to imagine him doing the laundry! And every star is trying to sell a brand of underwear. They may get crores for the job but ended up making the indoor wear costlier for the user. In the good old days, it was the seller who offered a better brand and we didn’t have to believe the word of a star, who herself might be using branded imported products!
I had mentioned this anomaly the first time when Abhishek Bachchan was endorsing the Idea mobile network. I wondered how an actor whose films do not sell tickets at Rs 100, can sell something else?
This greed for money, wherever it comes from, has overexposed the actors, hurting their careers. Commercials are so pathetic in concept and content that no star can help sell the product. What happens in the market is that he loses his credibility and that reflects on his career.
And, after all that, guess who is the most sought-after actor-model that brands and prospects adore? A simple artist character, Pankaj Tripathi! He gets the message across convincingly.
It’s not like people don’t want to watch movies. How did ‘The Kashmir Files’ and ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ become hits, or why did Southern dubbed films attract crowds and rake in millions of dollars in the Hindi market? It means you don’t make movies that people would be interested in.
And, finally, if you think OTT platforms are hurting your business, then those are part of the entertainment world too, and if people are opting into their content, it might be because they don’t. don’t get what they want at the movies.
Films and cinemas have survived the waves of television, video and digital; they will also learn to live with OTT.