Bollywood Masala: Higher The Expectations Bigger The Thud

In an era when a film’s success is measured in crore, to start with as to how many crore the film scored on its opening day, the opening weekend, first week, and finally, how many hundred crore it managed through its run at the box office.

Records are being broken as soon as they are set. Salman Khan got the ball rolling when his films started with 100 crore figures and soon went on to cross 300 crore. And, this was just in the domestic theatrical market.

An Aamir Khan film comes along every now and then to shatter previous records and create its own higher benchmarks. 3 Idiots, PK followed by Dangal, all recorded figures in multi-crore.

Dubbed films had none or limited market as gap fillers during dull periods for the cinema halls. Neither Rajnikant nor Kamal Haasan dubbed film could score in the Hindi belt. But, then came one film, Bahubali, which proved such a hit that it left behind all the Hindi top grossers!

Earlier it used to be the jubilee landmarks: Silver Jubilee (25 weeks), Golden Jubilee (50 weeks) or Diamond Jubilee (60 weeks). Some films also ran for 100 weeks; at times in regular shows and otherwise in combined shows that is shifting the film to one matinee show every day after its regular run.

The measure of success of a film has been changing its definition on a regular basis since the 21st Century set in.

This Diwali weekend, all those records were expected to be rewritten as Yash Raj’s Thugs Of Hindostan hits the screens. And, this observation is notwithstanding the merits of the film. Because, it is all about other factors that work in the film’s favour. For one, it comes in the Diwali weekend, releasing as it did on Thursday, November 8, a day after Diwali (which is a dull day, anyways, for film collections) and the New Year and Bhai Dooj fall during its release followed by a weekend. That gives the film a five day-long weekend of festive period.

That the film comes from the Yash Raj stable has its own brand value besides the fact that it brings together Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan.

And, finally, and eventually, what is expected to help the film set new records is its 5,000 screen release in India with admission rates raised to a considerable degree (plus 2000 screen overseas but that is not the issue here). That would rate as the biggest release ever in India so far and, if that is not enough to create a new high at the box office, nothing else is. Or is it?

Because, as it turns out, the film has nothing to do with thugs as such! The film is about a conflict between Amitabh Bachchan, a rebel who has pledged to unroot the British rule with the help of his band of loyal followers (thugs had little or nothing to do with ships and high seas!). Bachchan’s character is based on the historical character, Kanhoji Angre, the chief of the Maratha Navy who fought against the navy of British and other countries trying to dominate Indian seas. The character was earlier depicted by Dilip Kumar in Manoj Kumar’s film Kranti.

And, character of Aamir Khan, whose fans were expected to lap up this film, certainly didn’t expect buffoonery in the name of acting for that is what Aamir does through the film.

In 1960s and 70s, such films were called B or C grade cinema. Aimed at certain cinema halls patronised by a section of audience, the working, labour and daily wage class. They were described as stunt films.

Said to be based on Philip Meadows Taylor’s 1839 novel, Confessions of a Thug, the makers are being accused of having copied a Hollywood film. But, that is how the social media works. Thugs were a huge menace in that era in India, they not only mercilessly killed rich people and other travellers to loot them due to which the British were up in arms with these thugs. In the process both sides got killed. Most of their stories and exploits relate to mainland and not high seas and that is what may have raised doubts in the minds of the sceptics.

There have been a lot of TV episodes about these Thugs on some channels recently. Unfortunately, they are telecast on channels few people watch.

@ The Box Office

Thugs Of Hindustan has been released extensively with 5,000 screens. The ticket rates have been increased. That is double jeopardy. Where do you find audience to fill up these 5,000 screens and at raised admission rates at that?

During Diwali, there are traditional priorities like Pooja, New Year and Janardan Pooja on day after Diwali depending on where you belong in India and Bhai Dooj. Three days of tradition obligations and then comes outing, films.

Thugs Of Hindostan released on Thursday instead of conventional Friday release. The early release carries its own risks. Like, filmmakers tried to follow Hollywood trend of paid previews of opening the film on Thursday evening for a couple of shows. This aping of the Hollywood trend led to disaster of many major films. Since the reports hit the social media on a Thursday, it wiped out the prospects of a film for the entire weekend. The trend has been put to rest, thankfully.

n In the case of Thugs Of Hindostan, the Thursday release may do more harm than good. Not only had the film got expected opening day considering its 5,000 screens. But, it is bound to show a decline today onwards in footfalls and, hence, the collections.

Diwali release is not about 5,000 screens, star cast and the studio. It works on the monsoon and the farm outputs. That is what makes a rupee generates another rupee in India. That is what Diwali celebrations have always been all about. Sadly, this year has not been very positive on that count. The metro audience may have a certain amount to spend on recreation, but, overall, it does not help any business, least of films.

In the case of Thugs Of Hindostan, it looks like it will be able to set only first day collection records. And, as per figures released by Yash Raj Films, the movie has created a new high with the first day collections of 52.25 crore including 1.75 crore from Tamil and Telugu dubbed versions. The trade expectations after the public response bordered around a figure of around 40 crore, though!

Looks like people invest and make films only to feed empty screens. But, while the cinema hall owners as well as the makers of such dud film may be thrilled, it does not lead to any lucrative outcome eventually.

n This is the dullest period for a film release, especially the pre-Diwali 15 days. Yet, the last week saw the release of 11 films, the week before boasted of Kaashi-In Search Of Ganga, 5 Weddings and The Journey Of Karma flop badly.

n Just for the record, last Friday saw the release of Ekkees Tareekh Shubh Muharat, Ilaaka Kishorganj, Jack & Dil, Kutte Ki Dum, Love Training, Lupt, Mausam Ikrar Ke Do Pal Pyaar Ke, Namaste Bihar, Pending Love, Rashtraputra and Summer Camp. But, there was no audience. Such films are total loss of investment. Nobody turns up. Why they are made is one question and, then, why the makers spend more to release them is another!

All sunk without a trace.