The Big Picture—with a small Poll!

Sunny Deol and Dulquer Salmaan head the cast of R. Balki’s Chup. Photo: Raindrop Media

It just started as a momentary, whimsical burst of relaxation—amidst my daily grind, I put up a simple, small poll on Twitter—yes, the same very vocal platform that sometimes invites so much controversy with its content.

Looking up the Hindi film releases until September-end, I asked the question, “In a flop-suffused scenario, which will be the next HIT film?” The options I offered were Brahmastra, Chup, Vikram Vedha and the fourth option was “None—but some small film”.

(The small films releasing in this phase include the non-star Saroj Ka Rishta and Jahaan Char Yaar, and Dhoka: Round D Corner with a Rocketry-fresh R. Madhavan heading the cast).

The poll conducted on Twitter. Photo: Twitter / Rajiv Vijayakar

I kept the poll going for 48 hours, 104 people voted, and to my surprise, the winner was Chup, with 59 percent of the votes polled! The highly-promoted biggies Brahmastra (which was trailing in third position initially) and Vikram Vedha both romped home equally, with 15 percent each, while 11 percent was the figure polled by the last option.

Since I sent the screenshot to Chup filmmaker R. Balki, the ever-grounded filmmaker thanked me profusely, as a committed storyteller like him must have got a moral boost from the poll results.

But I still wondered at the way the people’s curiosity, faith and thought-processes go. The promo of Chup shows a tag-line, “Revenge of an Artist” and what is interesting is that the material is extremely intriguing. Sunny Deol does a non-action role for the first time in eons (even his lighter roles have been action comedies!) and with him is an eclectic combination of Dulquer Salmaan, Shweta Dhanwantary and Pooja Bhatt in her film comeback!

Vikram Vedha, as we know, is the reworking of the massive South hit of that name, and features Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan. Today, South Indian film remakes are commercially passé unless significantly changed for the pan-Indian audience (thanks to the originals being freely available on the web!) and it remains to be seen if some freshness along with Hrithik’s star-value compensates for the remake part!

Brahmastra: Part One—Shiva is, of course, Karan Johar’s epic VFX-dominated blend of mythology and action. The Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt film’s cost is pegged at a mind-numbing Rs. 400 crore, a figure impossible to recover if practically thought about.

So what makes for this unique voting result vis-à-vis audience expectations? Do they go primarily for a filmmaker rather than stars? At first glance, it would seem so, because Ranbir Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan have a higher commercial ranking today than Sunny Deol! But R. Balki, based on his unique track-record (Cheeni Kum, Paa, Ki & Ka and writer of films like Pad-Man and Mission Mangal besides being the producer of English Vinglish) is a man who makes films from the heart and neither repeats a subject nor makes movies on standard commercial lines.

Balki also still thinks old-style Hindi cinema, a family experience with a strong story that becomes a great experience, having watched films in most of his formative life in old-world movie halls with the aroma of (affordable) samosas and popcorn wafting into the halls.

Chup also credits S.D. Burman as one of the music composers, and Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi among lyricists, thus making it clear (besides also from the promo visuals) that Guru Dutt, who made Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool, is an inspiration behind the story of this film.

Ultimately, the small poll that I conducted purely by chance opened up the Big Picture, that people today aremore willing to spend the now-extravagant ticket amount (for a family, it can be Rs. 2000 to 3000 in India!) only when there is promise of something good, not just different!

In these times when many people globally are facing financial constraints, what will work is the promise of engaging content that will make a collective movie-watching experience become value-for-money.  Therefore, merely big-ticket films or stars will not be unconditionally welcomed, unless the substance matches.

But that will be known only when a film hits the screen.







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