Stars Still Shine Bright

Stars Still Shine Bright

This last month of the year in Bollywood saw a controversy related to the great and first Peshwa (prime minister) of Marathi Empire Bajirao ‘Bajirao Mastani’. The same day ‘Dilwale’ was too released, wherein Shah Rukh Khan is trying to revive his flagging career.

As the curtains close on 2015, one can’t resist recapping the reel world that was. The film industry had several surprising hits as well as a fair share of flops.

While some did not join the ‘100-Crore Club’, yet managed to bring back high returns, others had unusual storylines right from constipation to you-name-it. But the fact remains that only the popular stars attract the biggest audience!

This last month of the year in Bollywood saw a controversy related to the great and first Peshwa (prime minister) of Marathi Empire Bajirao ‘Bajirao Mastani’. The same day ‘Dilwale’ was too released, wherein Shah Rukh Khan is trying to revive his flagging career.

Still both films will earn 100 crore plus, because the audience is not bothered about historical truths or content. ‘Meaningful Cinema’ is always talked about but we rarely see such films. Once again it was proved that only ‘Powerful Stars’ still rule the box office and ‘content’ takes a backseat.

Descendents of Bajirao alleged that the film deals with only love story between him and Mastani but ignores his bravery. Bajirao is the only undefeated general in the world till date. There were protests in Pune and Mumbai against the release of the film. Perhaps it helped the film and went on to earn more than 12 crore on the opening day.

‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’, the latest offering from the famous production house ‘Rajshri’ was released in the midst of Diwali festival. Within three days, its box office collection touched Rs 100 crore, a coveted benchmark in the Indian Film industry. It has a flimsy storyline and below average acting, so critics have criticised it heavily. Then what is the main draw of this film? The answer is Salman Khan. He has delivered ‘Super Hits’ back to back and proved that he is one of the most bankable stars in Hindi films.

His home production ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’ is being hailed as an ‘all time blockbuster’, because it has earned more than Rs 300 crore. The film boasts of helping to boost India-Pakistan relations – at least on people-to-people level. Is it a serious subject handled in similar fashion? No. It is a plain entertainer, a film suitable to Salman Khan’s persona and filmgoers loved it. They even forgot that Salman was embroiled in the now famous ‘Hit and Run’ case.

Another ‘all time blockbuster’ is delivered by another Khan. Amir Khan’s ‘PK’ turned out to be hugely successful film. It had a ‘quirky’ theme which appealed to people but was not free from controversy. Some found its poster objectionable and others thought that religions was being mocked and defamed. All added to its attraction and the film too went on to earn more than Rs 300 crore. The film was praised by critics also. Amir Khan’s performance is a very strong point of the film.

But Saif Ali Khan was not so lucky. His ‘Phantom’ depicting a secret agent’s adventure in Pakistan, flopped and that too badly. It is a rehash of many Hollywood films such as Mission Impossible, or Bond films or films based on happenings in the Middle East. The subject, though looked sensitive, along with its presentation did not appeal to Indian audience. Presence of the very popular actress Katrina Kaif and Hollywood style stunts failed to salvage the film. This failure has put a question mark on Saif’s future.

Abhishek Bachchan who is known as Amitabh Bacchan’s son, failed yet again to revive his career. His latest vehicle ‘All is Well’ is supposed to be a story of family on the move –a ‘road’ film. Popular star-actor of yesteryears, Rishi Kapoor was part of the team. But perhaps Indian audience do not like stories about ‘dysfunctional’ families. The film also proved once again that Abhishek is not a crowd puller.

His wife Aishwarya met with the same result. Her much touted ‘comeback’ film ‘Jazbaa’ could not even recover its cost. The film has ‘roots’ in many Hollywood’ films such as ‘Flight Plan’ or ‘Taken’. She looks pretty even today but is not a great actress, rather never was. Hence, she cannot carry a complete film on her shoulders. Indian viewers did not accept her and the story; as a result film flopped.

On the other hand, Bachchan senior is doing quite fine. ‘Piku’ a film about an old man and his daughter did very well in urban areas and earned decent profit; so was declared a ‘hit’. Use of ‘Constipation’ as the theme was out of the box idea, which clicked. Strong performances by Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan supported by Irrfan Khan and a tight script, good characterisation helped the film. Deepika plays the title role so it was also termed as a Heroin oriented film and it established her as an actress. On the other hand, Amitabh starrer ‘Shamitabh’ flopped.

Anushka Sharma’s ‘NH-10’, who also was its producer, shocked the audience with raw violence. It has a setting of rural India. This film too has ‘shades’ of many Hollywood (particularly B grade, low budget, action-cum-horror) films. Here a girl is the main protagonist who avenges her tormenters. The camera work and handling of the story in general is new for Indian spectators. The violence in it also looked justified.

Both these films were aimed at urban, multiplex audience and succeeded. These didn’t earn 100 crores, but the amount invested or the production cost was limited; and thus ended up earning many times more. Film industry loves high returns so they are classified as ‘Hits’.

Revenge is a well-liked and oft used central idea in Hindi films. (Remember ‘Yadon Ki Barat’ and ‘Zanjeer’) ‘Badlapur’ is one such film. Again, this too is urban centric product which did well on the box office in limited circles. This too did not join the ‘100 Crore Club’ but gave high returns on investment. It helped Varun Dhawan get a strong foothold in the industry. All these films do not have regular dances and romantic scenes and make them ‘different’.

Last year’s surprise debacle was Ranbir Kapoor. His two films ‘Roy’ and ‘Bombay Velvet’ flopped miserably. ‘Roy’ was either too complex or plain confusing and so incomprehensible for general viewers. Bombay Velvet was publicised as a story set in the ’60s. But it has a look of an American gangster film of ’40s or early ’50s. Again, people couldn’t make out what Ranbir is doing and why. It was a disaster from the beginning.

‘Queen’ of the day of the Hindi film world Kangana Ranaut had a great run with ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ being declared as a Blockbuster. But public rejected her second film ‘Katti Batti’. A promising actor Nawzuddin Siddiqui earned praise for his performance in ‘Manjhi the Mountain Man’. The film revolved around a very poor man who takes on nature for the sake of his wife. It was after a long time that a film was made on a character belonging to very backward class in India. The film managed to earn nearly twice the amount spent on production.

‘Drishyam’ was a noteworthy thriller, where idea and script was given due importance than stars. Although action star Ajay Devgan was in the lead role, it was Tabu who excelled in the acting department, others supported satisfactorily. Visual quality and editing are strong points of the film, which fared well in limited urban market.

There were some surprise ‘hits’ like ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ a film about average middle class couple where the wife is actually fat. On the other hand, self-styled ‘realistic’ filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Calendar Girls’ failed miserably. Similarly Zoya Akhtar’s multi-starrer ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, which had a weak script, didn’t impress either viewers or critics and flopped.

This passing year again established that the trend is not conducive for serious, ‘meaningful’ films dealing with social problems. Some unusual storyline catches the imagination of the people but otherwise it is the only the popular stars who draw the crowds.

By:Nikhil Gajendragadkar

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