2018 – THE YEAR WHEN BIG STARS FAIL AT BOX OFFICE – Shaaminder Malik

Bollywood, the popular name given to the Hindi film industry, has a great charm and connect with the masses. In a country divided by cast, creed and religion, there are only two things – Bollywood and cricket – which unite its people who used to worship the stars from these two fields.
But by looking at the performance of their films in 2018, it seems that Bollywood superstars are now losing their touch. At least, the theme of the last year (2018), if one goes by the box-office numbers, clearly is the birth of new kind of cinema and failure of the star power.
When I sit at my study table, ponder on all the conversations with the filmy-folks and look at all the numbers of the years, there are a few definitive trends, which are clearly visible. Here are my top picks.
Superstars no longer guarantee success of the film
The troika of Khans – Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman – as well as Amitab Bachahan, Akshay Kumar and even South Indian star Rajinikant, all had one thing common this year, their films bombed or were rejected by the moviegoers, causing serious business losses to the distributors. These include some of the biggest films – Zero, 2.0, Thugs of Hindostan and Race 3. None of the films could create the magic or recover their high cost. (I have considered only Hindi version of 2.0 for the calculations).
Having said that I will not write-off the big stars just yet as they still are the crowd pullers and can draw the audiences to the cinema screens. Why else a Thugs of Hindostan will open to a historic Rs 50 crore collection on day 1, breaking all previous records, and went on to make over Rs 100 crore in the first weekend. However, the film just tanked after the first weekend itself. Its life time collections remained under Rs 150 crore.
So yes, the stars still gather crowd, but after first weekend, the film can run only on the pull of content and not on star power, and this fact has clearly been established now.
Content-driven films got a big thumbs-up
So while big stars failed, there were some completely unanticipated successes with either lesser-known or less popular actors and small budgets. For example, films like ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’, ‘Raazi’, ‘Stree’, ‘Andhadhun’, ‘Badhaai Ho’ were some of the examples, where audience voted in the favour of ‘content-driven’ films over the ‘star-power’.
The message from the audiences is now as clear as the writing on the wall – don’t waste our time with old model of faltoo, ghisi-piti story with some item songs and big stars. Instead, audience today want – rather demand – better scripts and storytelling, good performance by actors, and entertainment.
Gone are the days when people wanted to see only known faces on the large screen. They are ready to pay and support good content.
In fact, this has been a trend since last three years. There has been a clear surge in number of pure content-oriented films, with no or limited dependence on big stars. These are also the lifelines for multiplexes, which otherwise would have faced major loss if not for some of the films mentioned above.
Another interesting trend within content films was, there is no need to categorise content into one particular genre. What will you call the year’s biggest hit ‘Sanju’? The film, which collected Rs 343 crore, was neither a biopic, nor a family drama. It transcends these genres. It worked merely on the strength of its storytelling, which turned out to be a smashing hit.
It’s all about freshness of concept, treatment and ultimately – entertainment. In other words, as many of these films have crossed the Rs100 crore milestone at the box-office, they have achieved it on the back of strong word-of-mouth recommendations and not because of stars who could change the fortune of a film by just being in the film.
Earlier, like Sachin Tendulkar could take the responsibility of the entire team, a star could ensure the success of the film, but not anymore. Today, content is the only driving force that will bring in audiences to theatres, otherwise, they don’t have scarcity of avenues to have entertainment outside.
Who will take over the Khans?
Since last 4-5 years, many film buffs have asked me this question, who will take the reins over from the Khans, who are now in their 50s. The clear answer is, Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. Both young actors have proved their mantle this year too. While Kapoor’s Sanju was a smashing hit, Singh brought the classes and the masses to the cinema theatres this year, first with ‘Padmaavat’ and now with ‘Simmba’. While there are many actors who have shown promise, these – Ranveer and Ranbir – to my mind, have the potential to take over and rule Bollywood, provided they continue to select the scripts judiciously.
Multiplex Vs Single Screen
Overall, the year may have been of smaller films, but it was a tough year for the single screens. The films, which have worked, have got audiences in the multiplex. There were just a handful of films, which got audiences to single screens. This is a worrying sign.
Finally, as another year comes to an end, it is suffice to say that audiences are increasingly becoming more discerning. Rather than going for first day first show, they will wait and watch and take an informed decision whether to watch a film based on word of mouth. If it is not worth their money, they can always watch it on television or Amazon and Netflix after a month.

 

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