Fodder for all palates

Fodder for all palates

Fodder for all palates

Cinema 2013 was what movies should ideally be: a buffet spread from which everyone — from the undemanding to the very fastidious — could choose the fare of their liking.

In the sharp polarisations we see of late between single-screen and multiplex audiences, or NRIs versus grassroot audiences, and both the real and pseudo-intellectuals, we found something for everybody, from a Shahid to a Chennai Express, with everything in-between from the risqué Grand Masti to the poetic Goliyon Ki Rasleela — Ram-Leela.
Quite obviously, multiple genres too abounded in these hits, misses and average fares; some films collapsing only because their budgets were too high; others making profits solely because they were made with shoestring economics; the star-driven extravaganzas and those with lesser or new faces; the experimental and the oh-so-conventional; the game-changers and trend followers, and finally those that had the audiences hooked to their music that helped packed the crowds in during the initial weekends.

And now the year has ended with that mega-entertainer blockbuster Dhoom 3, the only series in Hindi cinema where both earlier instalments had topped their respective years in business — 2004 and 2006. With Aamir Khan as the antagonist this time, an IMAX release globally, and a powerhouse banner like Yash Raj Films, the franchise has already done a hat-trick by outclassing all hits this year, with the box-office on fire well past the opening weekend!

Critics’ darlings, & nightmares!

The year was rich with the critics’ darlings, like Ship of Theseus, The Lunchbox, Shahid, Kai Po Che! and Madras Café, but only one really made a wide impact — Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, which romped into the ‘elite’ 100 crore club. Of the rest, only Kai Po Che! recovered its investment. Declares N P Yadav, editor, Entertainment Trade: “Madras Café was my favourite film this year, but it lost money.”

But just as everyone was crowing about a “change in audience tastes” with Bhaag…, the public perversely took the crass Grand Masti to the same benchmark, and that too with ample multiplex (the supposedly discerning audience) support. So, even today, the writing on the wall is seen, yet not understood: that only those movies that deliver what they promise do well. For, the theatres showing the latter film were as packed with old couples and ladies’ clubs as they were of (presumably sex-starved) youngsters.

In fact, the 100-crore club managed only six members this time (vis-à-vis nine last year) — the other four being Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Krrish 3 and Goliyon Ki Rasleela — Ram-Leela. Of these, Yeh Jawaani… crossed the 180 crore mark, and Chennai Express and Krrish 3 shot upwards of 200 crore.

A related trend was of releasing these blockbusters simultaneously in Tamil and Telugu, with a record number of prints overall to capitalise on the hype and collect the moolah across all three versions within the crucial first three days. It is here that Race 2 fell a wee bit short of the benchmark, ending its Indian theatrical run at Rs 97 crore.

While these blockbusters got diverse levels of drubbing from the ivory towers, there was so much variety otherwise. Special 26 was loved by both the discerning audiences and the masses as a delightfully amoral heist drama and was a hit. Prabhudheva’s twin doses of unabashed mass-appeal, Ramaiya Vastavaiya and R…Rajkumar (with which Shahid Kapoor’s career has taken an about-turn), David Dhawan’s delightful modern take on an ‘80s cult film Chashme Baddoor and Remo D’Souza’s straight from the heart ABCD — Anybody Can Dance made the plus grade.

Yash Raj Films’s low-budget and thus break-even rom-coms Mere Dad Ki Maruti and Shuddh Desi Romance, the mini-Munna Bhai-like Jolly LLB (that earned its director Subhash Kapoor the third Munna Bhai film till it was shelved because of Sanjay Dutt’s incarceration), the coming-of-age Fukrey and the well-conceived thriller Table No. 21, with which the year began, worked to different extents. The charming Saif Ali Khan zombie comedy Go Goa Gone made some mark in urban centres and with home viewers as one of the most riveting films of the year.

Loser heroes win the BO

Two films in which the heroes were complete losers and thus turned the definition of that word on its head triumphed at the box-office too: Raanjhanaa with Rajnikanth’s son-in-law Dhanush and Aashiqui 2. It was the latter film that was remarkable and trendsetting in many aspects: it showed that a combination of great music, a passionate director (Mohit Suri) and good performances (Shraddha Kapoor and also Aditya Roy Kapur) could save a weak script. It upgraded the tastes of GenY from meaningless noise and hooks masquerading as songs to good melodies with heartfelt lyrics, reasserting the power of music as a hit-maker even for a modest film. And in terms of cost-to-collection ratio, it led 2013.

Disaster zone

But as with every year, disasters happened too. The biggest of these was easily the remake of Himmatwala, before the release of which Sajid Khan crowed that it would cross 150 crore — he sportingly apologised for his big talks later. Another remake — the misconceived Zanjeer — never even took off. Similarly, bad sequels seemed doomed with Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara! and Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 being summarily rejected by the same audiences that had loved the originals.

Boss, Bullett Raja, Besharam, Satyagraha and Phata Poster Nikhla Hero were all flops, the first primarily because of the price. Ekta Kapoor became a kind of flop queen with four losers: Lootera, Ek Thi Daayan, Shootout At Wadala and Once Upon..., while antique films like Love In Bombay (completed in 1973!!) and Zilla Ghaziabad were non-starters as well.

The new hero

Aamir Khan was Numero Uno, while Salman Khan remained away as a hero completely (only the promo of the January 2014 Jai Ho! was released) except in cameos in Phata Poster… and Ishqk In Paris. Shah Rukh Khan recovered huge lost ground with Chennai Express while the father-son Rakesh Roshan-Hrithik Roshan combo scored with India’s first creature film, Krrish 3, also a superhero film.

Ajay Devgn (Himmatwala, Satyagraha) had a bad year, though Akshay Kumar redeemed himself early with Special 26. Ranbir Kapoor survived Besharam, thanks to Yeh Jawaani…, ditto Ranveer who had the flop Lootera and the hit …Ram-Leela, but both Emraan Hashmi and Imran Khan had no such luck.

However, among the heroines there was the birth of a new hero — Deepika Padukone! Every successive film of hers — Race 2, Yeh Jawaani…, Chennai Express and …Ram-Leela not only saw success, but also huge strides taken by her as an actor in four completely different and substantial roles. While it is clear that she has no competition today as the first complete super-star package since Madhuri Dixit, the trade also declares that she commands her own audience base today and a terrific price.

Standout performers

Besides Deepika, the others who hit the headlines deservingly for excellence were Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3, Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, old warhorse Rishi Kapoor in Chashme Baddoor as well as the flops Aurangzeb and D-Day, Nawazuddin Siddiqui in The Lunchbox, composer Pritam for Yeh Jawaani…, Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the music, script and direction of …Ram-Leela, and Arijit Singh for his songs in Yeh Jawaani… and Aashiqui 2. Jeet Gangulli scored the brilliant music of Aashiqui 2, but the two songs that became anthems – “Tum hi ho” and “Sun rahaa hai na tu” were composed by Mithoon and Ankit Tewari respectively.