The Dream Weekend when Cinema got Independence from failure!

Gadar 2 leads the pack of hits and is nearing the 300 crore mark in India. Photo: Universal Communications

It was high time. Correction: it was more, much more, than high time! For a reversal of the dwindling box-office figures of Indian cinema in the last few years, especially Hindi cinema.

The Producers’ Guild of India and the Multiplex Association of India have declared that the Independence Day weekend yielded the astronomical figure of Rs. 39 billion in collections. They have also stated that with over 2.10 crore (10 crore makes a billion) moviegoers (or, to use the popular old term, ‘footfalls’), the weekend from August 11 to August 13 saw the highest combined admissions (tickets sold) in the last decade!

Four principal films—two in Hindi—are responsible for the great news: Gadar 2 is towering over the rest, Rajinikanth’s Jailer following, and then we have OMG2 and the Telugu Bholaa Shankar. Of course, these figures have been taken far ahead, especially on Independence Day (August 15) itself and even on the connecting Monday (August 14), except with the last film.

55-plus heroes

There are multiple common points—though the difference is that Bholaa Shankar has ultimately not done well after the initial hype. The main commonality, of course, is that each film stars a veteran actor. Sunny Deol has made a comeback of sorts at 66 (Amitabh Bachchan was 58 when he did Kaun Banega Crorepati and his comeback film, Mohabbatein)—Sunny will be 67 in October. He had 11 flops since Yamla Pagla Deewana in 2011 with dad Dharmendra and brother Bobby Deol.

Akshay Kumar, 55, too had many flops, since his last hit, Sooryavanshi in 2021. Rajinikanth, 72, has done 168 films before Jailer, and almost all of the movies since Sivaji—The Boss (2007) have grossed impressive figures. For Chiranjeevi, 67, Bholaa Shankar was a decent opener even if it is now headed towards disaster—this, despite being the remake of a Tamil blockbuster, Vedalam, featuring Ajith.

Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel in Gadar 2. Photo: Universal Communications

Gadar 2 roars ahead

Gadar 2 roars ahead at a 7-day Indian collection of an expected Rs. 28.46 billion, while Jailer steams behind at a reported expectation of Rs. 22.5-plus bn.. While these are the mass movies that have audiences dancing, whistling and clapping in the movie halls, OMG2 is the critics’ darling that has also made the box-office grade by collecting Rs. 8.5 billion-plus (expected) in 7 days (today is the seventh day)—higher than the lifetime of the 2012 OMG at Rs 8.1 bn.

Of course, Gadar—Ek Prem Katha, the original film, released way back in 2001, and had grossed Rs. 13 billion worldwide then, which, inflation-adjusted, would make for a phenomenal score today of a minimum gross of around Rs. 80 bn.-plus!

The ‘others’

Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani. Photo: Hype PR

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani is a decided big hit in terms of audience love and b-o. response, even if the production budget is high (they have claimed pre-release recovery through various rights to the tune of 90 percent). Even by those standards, the film will at least be deemed a success. What’s more, the film is reportedly a blockbuster overseas and is well past the Rs. 14 billion nett mark in India, as of today. And the good news in Maharashtra is that the Marathi Baipan Bhaari Deva, produced by Jio Studios’ Jyoti Deshpande (also a co-producer on OMG2), has crossed Rs. 7.6 crore bn., making it the second-highest Marathi grosser of all timea after Sairaat—the only film that has crossed Rs. 100 crore mark in that language. And this film has no heroes, as it is totally pivoting around five heroines (who play sisters).

Pankaj Tripathi is the actual hero of OMG2. Photo: Hype PR

The smashed ‘Myths’

The myth that only young stars work is shown to be exactly that—for all the star-heroes are aged between 55 and 72! Also, it is Pankaj Tripathi (no star but a superb actor) who is actually the hero of OMG2, while Baipan Bhaari Deva has no hero and five actresses, not stars, who are in the lead!

Shariq Patel, CEO, Zee Studios, co-producers of Gadar 2 told me at the film’s party, “The Bandra to Juhu culture of films being made by and for the so-called elite metro and urban audiences has been busted. The real India is much more! There are films that are cerebral and films like these that should be celebrated. Indian tastes have not changed, and will not. We need family emotions and full-on entertainment. Zee Studios intend to make many more such films now.”

Director Anil Sharma echoed: “All human beings have emotions, which is why my film has connected with every kind of audience. Every child is upset when his parents are troubled, and so is every father and mother when there is something upsetting their kids. Besides, in all of us, the nose will always be between our eyes, right? That can never change!”

Akshaye Rathi, a seasoned exhibitor, adds, “This historic weekend proves that movies that did not make this kind of collections were substandard. And that more than one movie can co-exist.” He told Bombay Times, “This actually shows the consumption pattern of the country. All these notions that people don’t have money for theatres or that the future of theatres is bleak, have been busted.” However, he forgets that business would have escalated even more had admission rates been reasonable!!

And so, these movies belie the popular belief that single-screens are losing relevance. A good 60 percent of moneys coming in from Gadar 2 are from single-screens, while similar figures are there for Jailer.

Finally, each film is a minimum 2 hours 30 minutes—Gadar 2 is 170 minutes, Jailer is 168, Rocky… is 168 too and OMG2 156. It is only Baipan Bhaari Deva that has a runtime of 137 minutes.

So people are looking at content, pure desi content, and not length.

And let us not forget that we need many such triumphs for the industry to truly flourish. But the writing is on the wall, as Patel and Sharma pointed out.



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