2020: A year to remember and forget for Bollywood

2020: A year to remember and forget for Bollywood

Many films that might have bombed on the big screen found a safe haven on OTT

For viewers, all that matters is good entertainment — preferably with stars. But much goes behind the making of the movies we love. The producer arranges money, distributors and theatre-owners invest in big risks and the behind-the-scene heroes including the biggest technicians to spot boys all matter, and for them all, it is about livelihoods and families.

2020 will be remembered for the traumas it inflicted on all these members of the entertainment fraternity. The box-office was shaken like never before, theatres found it tough to survive. Even after being allowed to reopen, collections were measly single-digit figures. Web series kept the audience enthralled, with film stars (even before the pandemic) opting for great roles and scripts here more willingly.

Newbies caught the first time in the web this year include Abhishek Bachchan (Breathe 2), Sushmita Sen (Aarya), Bobby Deol (Aashram), Emraan Hashmi (Bard Of Blood) which Shah Rukh Khan produced, Lara Dutta (Hundred), Manoj Bajpayee (The Family Man), Tabu and Ishaan Khatter (A Suitable Boy) and Karisma Kapoor (Mentalhood).

With only one blockbuster this year, 'Tanhaji: The Unsung Hero', it became a controversy when many movies opted for an OTT release. A leading multiplex chain’s CEO openly tweeted and warned filmmakers to avoid OTT platforms. More ‘plexes protested (though the single-screen halls were worse-off).

Ironically, not accepting that nothing could be done about the absence of the audience, they became desperate about their own survival. 

They forgot that they were living off films, as the survival of the filmmakers themselves was under threat. As Varun Dhawan stated, he would have loved his 'Coolie No 1' to have a wide theatrical release, but he could not expect his producer to mortgage his house for it. 

Theatrical distributors could not buy films for almost nine months this year, which saved them from massive losses — a situation unimaginable now. As trade analyst Vinod Mirani reiterates, none of the films as yet released directly on OTT would have been a blockbuster.

Instead, this year would have seen big-budget flops to disasters, with 'Gulabo Sitabo', 'Dil Bechara', 'Torbaaz' and 'Sadak 2' leading. The only possible tepid successes in theatres might have been 'Gunjan Saxena', 'Ludo' and maybe (thanks to single-screens) the abominable 'Laxmii'.

It was a poor year even in movie halls with 'Baaghi 3' as the only other hit if its run had continued. Official disasters like 'Love Aaj Kal', 'Panga' and 'Street Dancer 3D' mingled with films that lost money if anyone understands biz math. 

Qualitatively, 'Tanhaji' apart, we would list 'Panga', 'Gunjan Saxena', 'Ludo', 'Thappad' and stretching a lenient point, even 'Shakuntala Devi' as pluses, besides offbeat fare like 'Raat Akeli Hai', 'Kadakh', 'Welcome Home' and 'Lootcase'. 

Stars too faced a terrible year. The death of Sushant Singh Rajput snowballed into an artificial controversy raging for months. The Narcotics Control Bureau also came in and many stars were arrested or interrogated.

Involved in these and other messes were names like Kangana Ranaut, and social media became nothing less than a mini-World War 3 over these exaggerated issues and non-issues.

The biggest losses were Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan, S P Balasubramaniam, composer Wajid and legends Jagdeep, Kum Kum, Basu Chatterjee and lyricist Yogesh.

And which were the brightest across web series? At the risk of inflaming fans, we would ignore the sex-violence-expletives orgy that was 'Mirzapur 2' and chose the 10 best as 'Scam 1992', 'Special Ops', 'Bandish Bandits', 'Panchayat', 'Four More Shots Please 2', 'Aashram', 'Bicchoo Ka Khel', 'Naxalbari', 'The Raikar Case' and 'Undekhi'. A couple of these were completed daringly during the pandemic. 

As R Balki, director of 'Cheeni Kum' and 'Paa', says, “There is some fantastic writing and content in web series. Whatever happens now, the audience view of cinema has thus been upgraded this year. Films will have to be better written, though the masala movie will never die. And web series will work only on content — sex, violence and expletives alone will not work, as 'Sacred Games 2' shows.”

Meanwhile, big-screen projects have been announced for 2021-2022, including 'Tiger 3', 'Pathan', 'MayDay', 'Ram Setu', 'Krrish 4', 'Cirkus' and 'Jug Jugg Jeeyo'. Entertainment will thrive as always in the years to come. Stars are welcome, but quality will be the deciding factor.