Bouquet of surprises

Awards, triumphs, successful experiments, and outstanding creativity. Also, loss and sadness as great artistes left us. Some banality. Needless controversy. The Bollywood scene had them all in 2012, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Year-end surveys always leave out the Christmas week, considered a bountiful one for a big film, right from Maine Pyar Kiya in 1989 to Don2 last year. So, we will just begin with a prayer that Dabangg 2 (releasing on December 21) does not belie either commercial or cinematic expectations, what with Arbaaz Khan touted as the whizkid debut director of the year alongside Gauri Shinde (English Vinglish) and Umesh Shukla (OMG — Oh My God!). The trade expects an opening weekend of not less than 50-60 crore nett business (theatre collections after removing entertainment tax). Such a climax would be a fitting finale to a year bountiful, both in the economic and qualitative senses.

The creamy layer

As things stand now, the first-ever Salman Khan-Yash Raj combination, Ek Tha Tiger, remains the biggest blockbuster of the year, opening August 15 with a historic and unprecedented Rs 32 crore all-India collection on day 1. While trade sources peg the lifetime figure of Rs 199.5 crore as collection, trade analyst Vinod Mirani says that the film must have crossed the 200 crore benchmark achieved hitherto only by 3 Idiots (Rs 202 crore plus) to date and that ‘certain relationships’ (read Shah Rukh Khan) must have come in the way of the Yash Raj films banner not admitting this.

Very piquantly then, the YRF film Jab Tak Hai Jaan emerges unwittingly as the most controversial film of the year. Apart from fuelling the Son of Sardaar controversy, its business of about Rs 122 crore in the domestic market means, says Mirani, that the producers will take home around Rs 60 crore, which is less than what is expected of a SRK-Yash Chopra combination. He says, “However, with the other revenues and rights, it will be a profitable venture.” The overseas business of this film, adds trade veteran Amod Mehra, is on par with My Name is Khan, and thus the film is easily the biggest hit of 2012 abroad, with Ek Tha Tiger doing exceptional business only in the Gulf, while Jab Tak… scored everywhere. “Shah Rukh is the king overseas,” explains Mehra. “Market abroad is so completely star-driven that Vicky Donor does not even get a theatrical release there.”
It is interesting to know therefore that the Yash Raj banner, in the year when Yash Chopra passed away, achieved the biggest money-spinners in both domestic and international markets.

However, in terms of return of investment (business done versus selling price of the film), the year’s biggest hit remains OMG — Oh My God, a film that netted Rs 80 crore on an investment of Rs 21 crore. OMG — Oh My God! remains also that rare super-hit that has been critically appreciated, and in that sense, is a first for Akshay Kumar.

Winners

Much has been talked about the ‘100 crore club’ since films started amassing that kind of money from the last four years. As Ajay Devgn put it, “Many of the 100 crore films make very little profit. But the point remains that such money is actually being collected.” Agrees Mehra, “A big film’s screens are growing — Ek Tha Tiger was released in over 3,000 theatres — and we are moving the Hollywood way. People are choosing again to go to movie halls rather than watching pirated prints at home.”

Agneepath, Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore, Bol Bachchan, Barfi! and Son of Sardaar are the other members of this club today. While the other 100 crore films have been superstar-driven mass entertainers, what explains the inclusion of the violence-heavy Agneepath and the tragic and even offbeat Barfi! in this list? Says Mehra, “Agneepath was released on Republic Day, which was a Thursday, getting a clear four-day weekend. The film chalked up 22 crore on opening day alone and reached the 100 crore figure within the first six days. The hyped comparison to Amitabh Bachchan’s original film, Hrithik Roshan doing action after a long time, and the song Chikni Chameli, did the rest. Besides, Hrithik has a level head on his shoulders and still charges reasonable fees, which made Agneepath get a bigger profit.”

Mehra and Mirani, however, differ on the explanation for Barfi!’s business. While the former feels that people wanted a change from the masala movies and this Hrishikesh Mukherjee-like film was just what the doctor ordered then, Mirani opines that Ranbir Kapoor’s following did the trick.

And this is the reason why high-concept films like Kahaani, Vicky Donor and English Vinglish also worked big time. In fact, these three films, alongside OMG – Oh My God! and to a lesser extent, Paan Singh Tomar, showed that the audience was ever-sagacious in their choices. They needed variety and they wanted to ensure that the films watched were worth their ticket money and time, even if they exhibited occasional kinks, like Mehra’s analysis, “Khiladi 786 had a disappointing opening, because the songs sung by Himesh Reshammiya and his presence in the film gave the impression that Akshay would only be a guest artiste. And this was not a high-concept film like OMG – Oh My God!, in which Akshay actually had a guest appearance.”

Other break-even or profitable films included Talaash, Student of the Year, Raaz 3, Cocktail, Kyaa Superkool Hain Hum, 1920 – the evil returns, Paan Singh Tomar, Ishaqzaade and Jannat 2. Films whose success is qualified with a ‘conditions apply’ tag include Ferrari Ki Sawaari (high pricing proved its undoing), Jism 2 (profit only for the producer) and Gangs of Waaseypur (only part I did well in a few centres). Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya are films on whose performance the two analysts differ.

Losers

Another reason why the year was good was that only four films were disasters (movies losing most of the investment) – Joker, Tezz, Players and Teri Meri Kahaani. Four more big films also flopped – Agent Vinod, Dangerous Ishhq, Heroine and Department.

Of the heroines making a comeback, Manisha Koirala (Bhoot 3D), Karisma Kapur (Dangerous…) and Sridevi (English Vinglish), only the latter proved successful, proving the axiom that scripts make films and films make actors.

The same was true of sequels — the scripts made all the difference. So, though the budgets helped in salvaging Jannat 2, Jism 2, 1920-the evil returns and Kyaa Superkool Hain Hum from the ‘flop’ tag, nothing could save Bhoot Returns and Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal, though Housefull 2 was the first family blockbuster of the year. Remakes and re-creations also worked purely on merit rather than branding. Virtually no deserving film got a cold shoulder.

Trends and losses

While there have been no changes in trends or star ratings (Kareena Kapoor continues to be top gun despite three flops) and sequels and remakes continue to loom large, the non-mainstream filmmakers have begun to realise that the two EQs — entertainment and emotional quotients — are a must to connect. Tripe will not be tolerated, whether from Anurag Kashyap (Aiyya!) or Vikram Bhatt (Dangerous Ishhq), nor will boring cinema even with good stories (Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, Delhi Safari).

2012 also saw the exits of icons Dara Singh, Rajesh Khanna and Yash Chopra, besides Jaspal Bhatti, ‘60s heartthrob Joy Mukerji, character artistes A K Hangal and Achala Sachdev, and cinematographer Ashok Mehta. Music also lost a champion of melody — composer Ravi.

Melody returns

Harmony returned to music directors’ and lyricists’ lives with the passing of the landmark copyright amendment law on June 7. And melody too made a decisive comeback with Himesh Reshammiya (Dangerous Ishhq, Bol Bachchan, OMG — Oh My God!, Son of Sardaar, Khiladi 786) and Sajid-Wajid (Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore, Teri Meri Kahaani, Ajab Gazabb Love, Dabangg 2) as its prime soldiers. Says Mehra, “I find even Pritam’s work in Barfi!, Jannat 2, Agent Vinod, Cocktail and Ferrari Ki Sawaari extraordinary. Vishal-Shekhar did fairly decent work. But Jab Tak Hai Jaan would have made at least Rs 20-25 crore more if A R Rahman’s music had been decent.” Even in music, 2012 was a year of more bounties than any other in the recent past.

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