Musing on the elusive TQ (Theatrical Quotient) for Movies 2024!

Ranbir Kapoor in Animal, whose sequel will be Animal Park. Photo: Communique PR

Hindi cinema may have had a fruitful year in general, but the hits have been few and far-between. Apart from Pathaan, Gadar 2, Jawan, Animal and The Kerala Story, the few hits and successes included Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani and OMG 2, while average farers include Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, Tiger 3, Dunki, Salaar (in Hindi), Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Dreamgirl 2, Fukrey 3, Sam Bahadur and Mrs, Chatterjee Vs. Norway and the sleeper hit, 12th Fail.

Though total Indian cinema business crossed Rs. 12,000 crore (See earlier story, 2023 was best-ever year for Indian cinema) footfalls did not really come close to the 2017 high (with Bahubali 2—The Conclusion  and Tiger Zinda Hai leading) of Rs. 101 crore (all-India), and a significant cause was also the average ticket price, which stood at a hefty-for-the-common-man Rs. 196 for Hindi films.

Quite naturally, people began to hunt for a Theatrical Quotient (TQ) in the movies, apart from the standard Entertainment Quotient, Emotional Quotient (both compulsions) and the Intellectual Quotient (optional in India!!) that are said to be a key part of any movie worldwide.

And Theatrical Quotient means that there had to be something in the movie that justifies watching it in movie halls instead of when it is streamed, a mere eight weeks or less later, by paying Rs. 196 and above with a neat chunk more for food and beverages (F & B) apart from the transport!

With this in view, there is a lot of thinking (one hopes not misguided, which more than often has been the case) on the part of filmmakers. Here are some new aspects and latest developments.

Shah Rukh Khan will now have no release in 2024, as he has backed out of Sujoy Ghosh’s action film, reportedly titled King, co-starring his daughter Suhana Khan. This novel father-daughter experience will not happen now as the film is either shelved or postponed. This is said to be due to the aftermath of The Archies, a film that has been more panned than liked. SRK now wants Suhana to do a film without him to make her own mark.

Akshay Kumar, who has had more flops than hits in recent years, is now reuniting with an old favorite, director Priyadarshan, in a horror comedy. Priyadarshan also has had numerous flops after his hits with Akshay in Hera Pheri, Garam Masala and Bhool Bhulaiyaa (the director’s last Hindi hit). The two probably feel that they will become lucky together, even if their last two films, De Dana Dan and Khatta Meetha, both home productions of the actor, were flops.

Sequels, unless terribly made, usually come with a minimum amount of guarantee and so Akshay is also doing Welcome to the Jungle and has green-lit the next film in the Housefull franchise. This franchise is a kind of fixed deposit of goodwill for Sajid Nadiadwala, another filmmaker deluged by flops.

Ajay Devgn, who has only had Drishyam 2 as a solo hit after the 2020 Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (there were cameos in Sooryavanshi, RRR and Gangubai Kathaiwadi) is also opting for the safe route of franchises Singham Again and Raid 2. Of course, he is expected to revive his fortunes with his horror drama that was quickly made, Shaitan, and master-director Neeraj Pandey’s Auron Mein Kahan Dam Tha.

After the lukewarm response to Tiger 3, Yash Raj Films must also be having a lot of cerebration, and this time, franchises can not necessarily be safe propositions per se. A lot of additional brainstorming will now be done on War 2, starring Hrithik Roshan and NTR Jr., especially after Fighter has also underperformed beyond expectations! For Hrithik, it’s a second consecutive flop after Vikram Vedha, another good film that simply did not connect with the audience when remade in Hindi from a hit South original! As for Pathaan Vs. Tiger, as of now, it seems to be on a backburner.

Tiger Salman is also taking it easy, though projects have been planned and even announced with him. After Radhe—Your Most Wanted Bhai, Antim—The Final Truth and Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan had their roles to play in the way Tiger 3 did not get what was expected from the people and the franchise, much brainstorming is obviously happening on his front before he comes on screen again.

Yash Raj Films itself is now trying to reinvent after all their recent smaller films have come croppers. They have signed Mohit Suri, who has delivered many hits earlier, for a new film.

And after Laal Singh Chaddha, Aamir Khan too is lying low and is content with being producer of Lapataa Ladies, a small-budget social satirical drama helmed by ex-wife Kiran Rao, the mammoth Sunny Deol film, Lahore (obviously announced after Gadar 2) and a fresh love story featuring the debut of his son, Junaid Khan.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has the courage of conviction to attract audiences every time. Photo: Publicity Photo

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, however, continues in confident mode (his last flop came in 2010 and four hits have followed). Always a man of conviction, Sanjay has now signed a fresh and delectable combination—Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor and Vicky Kaushal—for his new film, Love And War.

After Fighter, fictional war and army movies are likely to be off the radar (!), and happily for Sriram Raghavan, though Merry Christmas has not done well, his next is a true-blue biopic in Ekkis, featuring Dharmendra and Agastya Nanda, who also needs a proper launch after the dismal reaction to The Archies.

Nothing succeeds like success also, therefore Bobby Deol will be an essential part of the sequel to Animal, named Animal Park, despite being “killed” on-screen by Ranbir in the 2023 hit. The Deols, incidentally, will be back in full force in 2024 and 2025.

For every filmmaker now aiming for the big screen, the TQ is going to figure tall in his psyche, and as of now, it is a mega-question mark! How, for example, can a small, star-less movie like 12th Fail continues to do well in cinemas when it is already being streamed?? This is a kind of record, and no analytical wisdom can give a true and real explanation for this!

So the answer lies finally in the mysterious key that unlocks the riddle: When and how does a film attract the audience to the movie halls?

And as of today, sadly, the answer, if there is one other than just word-of-mouth, remains a mystery.




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