One thing that should have been constant about Hindi cinema is the urge to experiment on screen. But more often than not, this exploring game fell flat whenever makers tried to experiment with the content in films. Whether it’s about discovering more into human relationships or curating content which mirrors society, Hindi films have been struggling to give a picture which is blatantly true to its essence. Hits and flops at the Box Office always remained like strong levels to judge a film’s content potential. And now, when the filmmakers have indulged into the periphery of global cinema, the times seem to be changing. Hindi cinema appears to have been in its best phase, currently; more, because both the makers and the audience have started accepting experiments on screen. Maybe that’s the reason when a quintessential Bollywood hero cries on screen—which is unconventional considering most Hindi film heroes are the flag bearers of ‘macho-ism’—audience relate to his emotions, making Ae Dil Hai Mushkil a hit.
But, not all the times have we seen such a widespread acceptance of content which is out of the league. Especially then, when it is presented in a slight non-Bollywood jazz. Here is the list of seven such nicely packaged films, which could not do well at the Box Office at the time of their release but no one can deny the rich, ahead of time content which was offered to the audience.
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Actor and director Raj Kapoor was so sure about the content of Mera Naam Joker that he had invested all his earned money into the project. However, it was not received well by the audience at the Box Office. The film has a complex storyline which went through the journey of a man and his phases of falling in love. Mera Naam Joker, remains as one cult 70s film, it is also one of the pivotal films that established Raj Kapoor in the memories of movie-goers for lifetime. The story talked about many things from a joker’s life, class difference in society and constantly changing human expectations from relationships.
The film featured Anil Kapoor and Sridevi in the lead and was directed by Yash Chopra. A commercial failure, it is still considered as the finest work of the director so far. Lamhe had tried to highlight two unconventional things that were not easy to spot in Hindi cinema then. First, it talked about a relationship of a man with a woman who was older than him. Second, it showed how the ‘hero’ did not fight to get his love—instead, he got her married to the man she loved.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
A cult buddy-film, Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai was a hit in Mumbai and in a few South Indian sectors but was deemed as a flop in the rest of the country. The film talked about friendship, commitment issues and ‘ageless’ romance. Its Box Office failure doesn’t mean a lot since the status it has achieved now is unmatched.
Phir Milenge (2004)
A story of a successful woman’s fight against the law of the country. Shilpa Shetty aka Tamanna has AIDS and she is thrown out of her job due to this reason. She decides to get justice and takes the matter to the High Court after a lot of struggle, including that of not getting a lawyer. There are not many films which talk about this ailment and the struggle that the patients go through to even lead a life like normal human beings. Phir Milenge tried to show exactly that. But, the audience could not get the essence. By the way, this song from the film is just amazing:
The film had Shah Rukh Khan envisaging a role that he was not famous for. He was not shown spreading his arms, dancing insanely, doing meaningless action or uttering heavy romantic dialogues. Swades was a simple film which talked about the real conditions of Indian villages, the struggle of educated Indians living abroad and hollow caste-system and religious beliefs.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)
The film is still one of the most successful films abroad. Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna talked about acceptance of infidelity in society. And by the filmmaker’s own admission, even the cast of the film didn’t approve of the film’s content. The film could not do well in India, simply because it was difficult for ‘morally-rich’ Indian audience to accept a married man hooking up with someone else’s wife and that too, in a big budget Dharma Production film.
A Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Guzaarish had Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan in the lead. The film was based on the life of a quadriplegic man who petitions the court for euthanasia. The subject that this film brought into the limelight was quite sensitive and debatable. It directly questioned one’s right to live and die whenever one wants. Despite receiving critical acclaim and praises for its setting and music, Guzaarish could not win audience’s hearts and emerged as a Box Office failure.