The ‘Little Wonders’ of Hindi cinema

Vicky Kaushal’s URI:The Surgical Strikes was a patriotic drama that did over Rs 200 crore domestic business before The Kashmir Files. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

The Kashmir Files has now entered the hallowed 200 crore club in Hindi cinema, which has less than 25 members since 2009, when the first film, 3 Idiots, opened this exclusive club. Likely to score greater glories, like joining the Indian 250 or 300-crore club in the next few days or weeks, the film has obviously shown humongous footfalls all over the country—and also the globe.

This is the right time to revisit the other small wonders of the film industry. Ranking among the biggest money-spinners in Indian cinema history was also Rattan (1944), the Naushad musical that had no big stars, much like The Kashmir Files. Directed by M. Sadiq and produced by A.R. Kardar, the film starred Karan Dewan, Swarna Lata and Amir Bano, none of them big names.

The film reportedly catapulted Naushad to the top as a composer, with super-hit songs like Ankhiyan milake and Milke bicchad gayi ankhiyan. Its music alone earned four times the production budget (a mere Rs. 75,000!) in royalties, but the film also was the biggest hit of that year.

Jai Santoshi Maa (1975), the low-budget devotional featuring three non-stars—Anita Guha, Asis Kumar and Kanan Kaushal—did business to rival Sholay that year, ranking second only to it in 1975. Rumors flooded that it was also released on the same date as that blockbuster, though it was actually released some weeks earlier. The devotional drama set off a chain of movies in that genre, none of which could match its business—or its chartbuster music by C. Arjun.

Among patriotic movies (the genre to which The Kashmir Files belongs), a major hit was the 2019 URI: The Surgical Strikes. Again, a real-life retelling of something that inspired a fierce sense of deshbhakti, the film made over Rs. 240 crore. It featured Vicky Kaushal and was directed by Aditya Dhar.

The third patriotic film, which hit the bull’s-eye and collected Rs. 12 crore on a production budget of Rs. 3 crore, was the 2008 patriotic thriller, A Wednesday!. It once again featured Anupam Kher, protagonist in the Kashmir Files, and Naseeruddin Shah. It ran in the theatres for a record almost three months, when successful films rarely ran for three weeks.

Star launches

The small films that hit big-time in the romantic genre included Sawan Bhadon  (Navin Nischol and Rekha /1970), Bobby (Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia / biggest hit of 1973), Noorie (Poonam Dhillon and Farouque Shaikh /1979), Love Story (Kumar Gaurav and Vijayta Pandit /1981), Ek Duuje Ke Liye (Kamal Haasan and Rati Agnihotri / biggest hit of 1981), Betaab (Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh / 1983) and Hero (Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri /1983).

The list continued with Ram Teri Ganga Maili (Rajiv Kapoor, Mandakini and Divya Rana / biggest hit of 1985), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla / 1988), Maine Pyar Kiya (Salman Khan and Bhagyashree / biggest hit of 1989 and the 1980s), Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai (Hrithik Roshan and Amisha Patel / biggest hit of 2000), Raaz (Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu and Malini Sharma / biggest hit of 2002) and Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (Imran Khan with Genelia D’Souza / 2008).

All these films did record business vis-à-vis both expectations and budgets and also launched the stars in it, besides most of them earning record sums for their music sales, which played a big part in their success.

Not all films that did big business were thus star-backed. In fact, many of these small wonders made actors into stars and heralded the breakthroughs of banners, filmmakers, music makers, writers and technicians.






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