The Fifty-Plus Club rocks Cinema 2023!

Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

Age is just a number. Now that has been proved as never before in Hindi Cinema 2023.

The men who have steered the biggest hits—Shah Rukh Khan, Sunny Deol and even Akshay Kumar—are all 50-plus! More, Shah Rukh Khan is almost 58 and has triumphed doubly—with Pathaan and Jawan—the latter being the first Hindi film to net Rs. 600 crore at the domestic box-office, and both have smashed records overseas.

Salman Khan, who made an extended cameo in the first-mentioned film, is also turning 58 by year-end, and his fans ascribe a good percentage of the collections to his presence! Sanjay Dutt, who made a brief appearance in Jawan, is all of 64. Even better, Sunny Deol, the leading man and in a way the iconic face of Gadar 2, is almost 66.

Interestingly, Nana Patekar, 72, was the narrator of this film, and is the protagonist also of The Vaccine War, which may have failed to entice audiences into the movie halls, but has garnered appreciation from most quarters from those who have actually watched it.

For that matter, Dharmendra, all of 87, headed the cast of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani. And even though his role was not so long, length-wise, it was the pivotal one that drove the story, along with senior heroines Jaya Bachchan and Shabana Azmi.

Last, but emphatically not the least, is Akshay Kumar, who has just crossed 56, His OMG-2, a home production with him in a crucial and extended cameo, also crossed Rs. 100 crore and did well overseas, queering the pitch in a way for Gadar 2, which would have done much more business had his film not released on the same day.

True, every film works on “merit”, the term strictly meaning as a quality that resonates with audience tastes and, in 2023, with the not-always-predictable “Theatre Quotient”. The Theatrical Quotient, to coin a term, is a movie’s potential to tempt audiences into the theatres to watch it on a big-screen rather than viewing it as a pirated print at home or waiting for the streaming that normally happens in around eight weeks.

But the concurrent success of all these movies proves, if at all it was needed, that stars that can pull in crowds if a film possesses such “merit” are not at all about how old they are, but it’s all to do with personal charisma and identity. Let us examine some crucial truths here.

One, the appeal of the blockbuster, The Kerala Story, minus any star of any level, lay in its subject and contemporary social relevance. In such cases, just like The Kashmir Files last year, URI—The Surgical Strike in 2019, and many thunderous hits down the decades (Rattan, Jai Santoshi Maa, Bobby and Maine Pyar Kiya at the time of their release), a film does not need stars to work. In fact, it can make stars out of newcomers if the films, roles and artistes connect with the masses.

Two, the sole other film that grossed around Rs. 150 crore domestically—Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar—had Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in the leads. Of course, Rocky… had Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt as the main lead players. But apart from that, Vicky Kaushal-Sara Ali Khan’s Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, was just a tepid success. There is also good reason to believe that Kartik Aaryan’s Satyaprem Ki Katha and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Dreamgirl 2 are nowhere near the successes they are touted to be, as in now the case with another star-less film, Fukrey 3. And by no stretch of the imagination can Vicky, Kartik or Ayushmann be considered in the league of true-blue stars.

Thirdly, franchises do matter and have a slight advantage: if Dreamgirl 2 and Fukrey 3 opened better than expected, it is because they were looked at as a brand, and the same was the case with OMG-2. The biggest example here, of course, was Gadar 2, though the original film was all of 22 years old!

Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel in Gadar 2. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Finally, as for the crowd-pullers, here is a lowdown:

Sunny Deol had never had a hit after Yamla Pagla Deewana in 2011, and not only both the sequels in this franchise, but his other films as well, like another sequel, Ghayal Once Again, Chup and Poster Boys, as well as a few films that were delayed, had all tanked before Gadar 2.

Shah Rukh Khan, too, had not enjoyed a hit for a decade—Chennai Express being the last! Happy New Year in 2014 had been a lukewarm success, but Dilwale, Fan, Raees, Jab Harry Met Sejal and Zero had all met with failure—this despite Dilwale doing well overseas and also making (like Raees) Rs. 100 crore domestically. SRK has now resoundingly returned with a bang, and though some sources suggest that both the films’ collection figures are exaggerated, there is no doubt that they have both done very well. Officially, SRK has become the first actor to make Rs. 1000 crore in a single year.

Salman Khan too has not enjoyed a hit since Tiger Zinda Hai in 2017. His Race and Bharat were considered to have just scraped through in terms of return of investment, though, like most of his films, including Dabangg 3 and Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan this year, they did accrue that minimum figure of Rs. 100 crore. But thanks to the quantum of loyal Salman Khan fans, those figures were achieved. And the less said about his abysmal fare like Radhe—Your Most Wanted Bhai and Antim—The Final Truth, which did not even make that level during the lockdown, the better.

Akshay Kumar too was beleaguered by flops, though Sooryavanshi (2021) was a lucky patch. Since then, his Bachchan Paandey, Rakshabandhan, Ram Setu and Selfiee were unqualified disasters.

So, neither is the age nor the name sacrosanct. What works is the film, and this year, the 50-Plus Club has rocked like never before.



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