Hindi Films in Q1 2023: Room for improvement

John Abraham and Shah Rukh Khan in Pathaan. Photo: YRF 

When we look at the Hindi movies released in the first quarter of 2023, there is a lot to ponder on, as the movie scene has continually taught us lessons over the decades and even more so, now, after the pandemic and the almost simultaneous upswing of OTT, where both new series and films releases are available for, so to speak, economical viewing.

Here is the net (pun intended) result of the January to March 2023 phase.

The positives:

Pathaan—The sole mega-hit

As savior after multiple flops for both Shah Rukh Khan and Yash Raj Films, Pathaan, at the box-office, was something else. Never mind the inflated rates, which have been a phenomenon now for long, and the fact that there were shows initially right from morning to late night, but Pathaan was a certified commercial comeback for both entities.

In terms of India net collections, it opened at a record high of Rs. 57 crore and finally overtook Dangal, KGF 2 and finally Bahubali 2—The Conclusion in collections, crossing Rs. 543 crore. Never mind if the footfalls lagged behind Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Bahubali 2… at least in India. 

Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

And while February was a lost cause, the early March Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar did well, especially in urban centers. It was 2023’s second 100-crore grosser and the second consecutive hit for Ranbir Kapoor after Brahmastra: Part One—Shiva last year. Shraddha Kapoor appeared in the lead after a gap of three years, and her last film, Baaghi 3, had also been a success.

It was also the third hit in a row for director Luv Ranjan after Pyaar Ka Punch-Nama 2 and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, the latter being a 100-crore grosser too. In between, Luv had also written and produced 2019’s 100-crore grosser, De De Pyaar De.

However, Tu Jhoothi… was expected to do far better in the mass belts, but, as per Taran Adarsh, trade analyst, something truly ‘massy’ was missing here, that explained the shortcoming.

Rani Mukerji in Mrs. Chatterjee Vs. Norway. Photo: Hype PR

Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway

This ‘smallie’, starring Rani Mukerji in a ‘big’ role, was appreciated, especially abroad and in the country that was shown in a negative light—Norway! The India collections until now have crossed Rs. 21 crore, but thanks to the tight budget on which the film was made, it is definitely a ‘plus’ film, if not a hit.

Mission Majnu, featuring Sidharth Malhoitra and Rashmika Mandanna, was a film that deserved a big-screen release. Photo: Netflix


The only saving-grace here was Mission Majnu on Netflix (which enjoyed an average rating of 4.5/ 5 by more than 40,000 voters on imdb!). This one craved for a big-screen release, but the not-so-confident producers felt that OTT, with its minimum returns guarantee, was the best, if not ambitious, bet. The other film that was worth a watch was Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga, an unusual three-dimensional tale of hate, heist and hijack.



On the penultimate day of March came Ajay Devgn’s Bholaa, directed and produced also by him, and a remake of the Tamil hit, Kaithi. The 3D (which was neither necessary nor excellently done) film featured Tabu and Amala Paul in a cameo. As per trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the film was expected to do better in the mass belts and not-so-well in metros, but in reality, the reverse happened, and this affected the overall picture. Some more emotions, feels Adarsh, would have helped the movie. Sadly, with a production budget of a reported Rs. 100 crore and a worldwide gross at present of Rs. 99 crore, the film has failed to recover its investment in the theatres, though the extra-theatricals may have taken care of that.

The Negatives:

Akshay Kumar and Emraan Hashmi in Selfiee. Photo: Hype PR


The top disaster of the year remains Selfiee. A bad film that deservingly nosedived, what shocked everyone was its disastrous Indian opening of a little above Rs. 2 crore, which was something achieved by non-star films! What shocked me, personally, was how some good aspects of the original film in Malayalam, Driving License, were needlessly changed or modified. Emraan Hashmi was good, but for superstar Akshay Kumar, this was his greatest disaster in a chain of flops from 2022. 


Another South remake, this time of the Telugu blockbuster, Ala Vaikunthapuramuloo, this film had a solid performance from Kartik Aaryan—and virtually nothing else! The music was average or less, the script and direction weak and the result at the box-office, with most audiences having watched the superb original on streaming platform, was abysmal.

The rest

The remaining fare was not even actually worthy of mention, besides suffering also from lack of face-value (for an initial opening), poor or wrong promotion, and like every film today, the lack of good music or even a single chartbuster!

The biased Bheed, made in black-and-white as a ‘metaphor’, saw no bheed (crowds) at all in the movie halls, and neither did the weird Faraaz, that spoke of terrorism in Bangladesh. Both were made by deviant filmmakers like Anubhav Sinha and Hansal Mehta. The arty Nandita Das scored one more disaster in Zwigato. This was a film I was planning to watch late (having no pre-awareness of it again!) because humorist Kapil Sharma was in a serious role, until I found that there were no suitable shows and screens! And that is when I was told by a reliable source that I did not miss anything. The fourth deviant was the year’s first release, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kuttey, a noir-inspired festival of expletives and violence.

And Gandhi Godse—Ek Yudh was a calamity, even considering the worst earlier films of Rajkumar Santoshi. To see this apology for a fantasized historical saga from a director who has made The Legend of Bhagat Singh was a very unpleasant jolt. 

…And on OTTThe OTT releases were mostly no better in terms of their content. What could be said about movies as misconstrued and terribly executed as Gaslight (all gas!), Lost (lost in translation!), Gulmohar (wannabe appeal to elite!), Chhatriwali (this needed an umbrella or chhatri to prevent the shower of careless writing!) and Kanjood Makkhichoos (which I avoided watching after sampling the trailer’s pedestrian comedy)?

Need of the hour:

The increasingly popular dictum shared by industry watchers and insiders is that today, with money becoming precious for all, a big-screen venture must be cinema that is a celebration, a la the best of the 1960s to 1980s. There should be something for everyone, which means the old-fashioned thali, or a buffet meal, that includes every kind of ingredient.

Nothing less will take the audience into theatres when tickets cost Rs. 250 or more, the food and beverage can put you back by Rs. 1000 per family, to which one can add the parking and travel and of course the usually ubiquitous shopping malls in which most multiplexes are placed!

As for entertainment, logic is the last necessity. Emotions, supported by action when needed, positive human, family and patriotic values and great packaging to scale up the value-for-money quotient is the key, while big stars as the icing on this cake.

Today, our USP of good music is being all but forgotten, sadly, and our stars and filmmakers are even resorting to South Indian composers, though sadly, very few can match up to the universal appeal of names like M.M. Kreem (RRR) or Devi Sri Prasad (Pushpa—The Rise: Part 1, Drishyam 2), who, in turn, are too busy to focus in Mumbai.

Sadly, versatile composers of substance in Hindi cinema, like Rajesh Roshan, Anu Malik and Himesh Reshammiya, with a proven track-record, are ignored. Most composers wryly state that they are called to compose a single track that is “perceived” as their style.

Also, an actor of the stature of Salman Khan decries the lack of two-hero and three-hero films today. After all, he says, it increases the value-for-money quotient of a film in the theatres. Albeit in cameos, the presence of Salman himself in Pathaan, or of Ajay Devgn with Ram Charan and NTR Jr. in last year’s RRR, Ajay and Ranveer Singh in the climax of Sooryavanshi (2021) and of Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in Brahmastra—Part One: Shiva is proof, if needed, of this.

Finally, with the patriarchal society still prevailing in North and some other parts of India, cinema has to be family-oriented, and perceived “global” values like homosexuality, explicit sex-scenes and abuses are a strict no-no. As a star-son stated recently, “We should observe why South Indian films are working so well, as they are rooted in Indian culture and music.”

And while the second quarter of the year does have some promises (Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan releases this week, with Jawan, Adipurush, Maidaan and  Satyaprem Ki Katha to follow) and there might be a couple of dark horses, we only hope that six months and more down the line, we see a healthier industry and profits.

And we usher in a more musical and wholesome era of mainstream cinema that has been missing as well as underestimated.




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