The curious thing about Bollywood is that glitz and glam wins over substance most of the times. But things have been changing slowly over the last few years. Especially, in the past couple of years, smaller films with good scripts have made it big at the box office to everyone’s surprise.
While Andhadhun has crossed Rs 400 crores worldwide, “smaller” films like Badhai Ho and Stree were the biggest winners of 2018. They not only earned more than Rs 100 crores at the box office, and with relative ease for films which didn’t have big stars headlining the cast, but were critically lauded too.
The success of this brand of cinema does not mean Race 3 (last year) and Total Dhamaal (this year) aren’t being watched, but they have definitely been able to bridge a certain kind of gap between author-backed, well-made films and anything-goes masala films.
One can even argue that if anything, this recent trend shows that films that are authentic to themselves have a better chance of appealing to the audience – be it form a tier one, two or three city. When a film like Total Dhamaal gets made, the filmmakers have a clear idea about who they are catering to. Same goes for big budget films like Padmaavat and smaller films like Badhai Ho. Even a Baaghi 2 is more honest to its audience than Kalank.
A film like Kalank seems like a shabbier cousin of all of Bhansali films combined. A film like Thugs of Hindostan was a shoddier copy of the successful Pirates Of The Carribbean franchise. Ironically enough, the makers of both these films wanted to target the exiting fanbases for the OG films, which is absurd.
It’s like offering synthetic meat that tastes just like the real thing to someone who is already a self-professed bacon aficionado hoping to turn them vegan.
While films like Raazi or Gully Boy can draw in an audience that cares about content as well as big stars, films like Stree and Andhadhun have bode well for films that do not believe in sacrificing quality for the sake of entertainment. These films have also proven that the presence of star kids do not automatically ensure big box office returns. If that were true then films like Dhadak and Sui Dhaaga wouldn’t have struggled to make even at the box office.
According to some sources Karan Johar went all out and spent Rs 250 crores on Kalank, even though official statements have given a more (relatively) modest number at Rs 80 crore. Going by the latter amount, the film may have already recovered its budget, but it has been panned by critics as well as audiences.
Another big budget film starring Aamir Khan, Thugs of Hindostan was so bad that Khan went on record to apologise for the debacle that it was. Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero couldn’t even break even at the box office and now SRK is ‘taking a break’ from films for a while, hopefully to re-evaluate how to salvage his career and grow with an evolving audience.
That’s what the failure of big budget films like Kalank, Thugs of Hindostan, and Zero should teach Bollywood as well: adapt, evolve, get inspired but don’t be a copycat.