A Year with Good numbers : 2011

Great, so with Don 2 managing to get that much needed ‘opening’ at the box office, 2011 is ending in a positive note. It started off well with No One Killed Jessica and ending too isn’t the kind that one would really complain about. At times it was content that proved to be a winner while in some cases, it was buzz and star power that did the trick. Purists may question the growth of cinema per se, what with ‘Chikni Chameli‘ turning out to be ‘kaan-phaadu’ (as the slang goes) but for those who suddenly felt that ‘masala’ was the way to go; it was the likes of Singham that did the trick. With less than 100 hours left before the New Year beckons, here is ‘reflecting’ on how well did 2011 behave.

2011 – The ‘100 crore’ year

Yeh toh bas abhi shuruaat hai!

This is the exact sentiment if one looks at the Rs.100 crore affairs that Bollywood witnessed this year. The major share remained with Salman Khan whose Ready and Bodyguard went past the 100 crore mark way too comfortably. In fact even though Bodyguard is presumably the ‘least liked Salman film’ in recent times for our learned netizens, audience in the heartland seem to strongly disapprove as they made sure that the film goes on to cross the Rs.140 crore total of Dabangg.

Other than Salman, the only other actor who will end up making it two in a row is Shah Rukh Khan. Leaving aside the ROI and other ‘bahikhataa’ banter that could be well restricted to a financer’s office, in the record books he has Ra. One crossing 100 crore mark while Don 2 all set to comfortably repeat the fate as well (if Rs.50 crore opening weekend is any indication).

His peer though is an unsuspecting Kareena Kapoor who is the only other actor to score two centuries, first with Bodyguard and Ra.One. What was she doing in these films? Well, there may be debates but it is the moolah that ultimately counts.

Another not-so-unusual suspect is Ajay Devgn who made sure thatSingham makes him further consolidate his position in the big league with a Rs.100 crore earner. A solo starrer that was centred entirely on ‘herogiri’ when compared to other mega films that had many other buffer points to look at, Ajay now has a benchmark for himself which he would be expected to meet, if not surpass, with every other biggie.

Resurgence was round the corner too

2011 didn’t turn out to be a smash year for Akshay Kumar but he at the least managed to recover some good ground after all the backlash that came his way post Tees Maar Khan. The conversation which was entirely centred on ‘He is repeating himself’ changed to ‘Okay, so he is trying something different’, courtesy films like Desi Boyz and Patiala House. These films didn’t turn out to be one of those much anticipated clean hits that he currently needs but while the former still managed to come closer to the 50 crore mark and also ended the year on a decent note for Akshay, the latter fetched him some of the best reviews for his acting skills. There was a Thank You that came in between and while it could well be the last in the genre that Akshay is now leaving behind in favour of his action flicks ahead, it did manage to break even.

For Hrithik Roshan too there was time for resurgence with Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara wiping away the twin disappointment of Kites and Guzaarish. Just when one thought that he was out of Top-5, he bounced, and how, with this Zoya Akhtar film that has to be the biggest money spinner ever when it came to ‘experimental films’. Initially termed as film that was basically promoting Spain tourism, it found its own space amongst the youth even as Katrina Kaif was a far cry from being a ‘Sheila‘ or a ‘Chameli‘.

Talking of experiments… 

…it wasn’t just Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara that worked. Audience pretty much showed that if given an interesting subject with a good cast and effective awareness, they were more than happy to grab subjects that didn’t quite seem ‘safe’ to begin with. Who would have thought that a semi-documentary affair like No One Killed Jessica could see such massive acceptance across the country and that too after arriving on the first Friday of the New Year, something that is considered as a jinx? Even a film like Delhi Belly was a risk to begin with. So much so that even Aamir Khan pondered over it for three years before devising a marketing strategy that made it seem like a gift offering instead of an apologetic offering.

Meanwhile, someone out there decided to make a 3D movie with Mahakshay Chakraborty and thought that it would be a good enough reason for audience to scream their way into theatres. Well, that experiment clicked too; what with Vikram Bhatt bringing his formula of ghosts, chills and sex into Haunted that was one of the first clean hits of 2011. Ekta Kapoor too decided to name a film on a MMS and managed to make some quick profits with her minimally budgetedRagini MMS. Imtiaz Ali came up with an unconventional narrative forRockstar as a result of which reactions were mixed. The film went on to be an earner.

Lest one forgets, a bunch of six unknown faces backed by a first time producer (Abhishek Pathak) and director (Luv Ranjan) were indeed serious about going ahead and bashing the fairer sex for over two hours on screen. Guess what, even the female audience applauded and confessed that what they saw on screen was indeed true when the curtains rolled down for Pyaar Ka Punchnama. Ditto for Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster where the mastermind was projected as some kind of a victim, only to show all over again that audience can root for the villain (in this the vamp) if a movie is as interesting as this Tigmanshu Dhulia affair. Tables were just slightly reserved in Yeh Saali Zindagi, most arguably one of the best movies of the year, which didn’t quite go all the way at the box office but was still hailed by all who saw it.

Not all experiments worked though

2011 will go down as a year when a whopping count of first time directors came up with different stories to tell. Some were appreciated while others were panned. A few deserved to fail while the rest deserved better. Still, the fact remains that the big daddies in the corporate world of Bollywood were willing to back them at the least (even thought at times they just lost faith when the film was ready for release).

Though one can’t really blame them because experiments (or shall we say misadventures?) like 7 Khoon Maaf, Mausam, Gandhi To Hitler, My Friend Pinto, Dam 999, Teen Thay Bhai and Zokkomon should have actually stayed in the cans rather than being unleashed on the audience. On the other hand, films likeChillar Party, Shaitan, Shor In The City, Stanley Ka Dabba, I Am, Not A Love Story, I Am Kalam, 404, Bhindi Baazaar Inc., Bubble Gum, Monica and Shagird, which took a route less taken, definitely deserved a better fate.

Safety comes first

Meanwhile there were filmmakers who just changed the packaging (and in some cases didn’t even bother doing that) by taking the good old Bollywood formulaic route. Tanu Weds Manu started the year with feel-good written all over it and audience too screamed ‘Saadi Galli Aaya Karo‘ in unison. F.A.L.T.U. ensured that it had a good soundtrack to boast of and though not many were willing to put their bet on this Jackky Bhagnani film, dad Vashu’s conviction paid off despite a clash with World Cup finals. Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji was Madhur Bhandarkar’s turn to stop experimenting and playing safe. The film made him breathe easy.

Double Dhamaal relied entirely on gags and recovered its costs in one week flat. Yamla Pagla Deewanaplayed on Deols family reunion which was one big celebration for not just them but also the audience.Force was the kind of ‘dhishum dhishum’ affair that was in vogue during the 80s and John Abraham’s endeavour to be ‘Action Abraham’ saw one step forward movement for itself. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan was a mish-mash of everything that has been seen in the past but for audience, some good songs and the charm to see Imran Khan and Katrina Kaif together was a good enough incentive to step into theatres.

Meanwhile Neha Dhupia’s prophecy came true

Sex, when sold in the wrapper of a quintessential Bollywood entertainer can do wonders and that was on display all over again with Murder 2 and The Dirty Picture turning out to be blockbusters. This is how they carry a much better weight than a Hawas Ke Pujari or a Champa Ki Jawani because sex, when on display in just the right proportion with added ingredients of romance, thrills and drama, is pretty much an irresistible preposition when backed by ‘reputed’ makers.

Neha Dhupia had observed that ‘sex sells’ (and also Shah Rukh Khan) and Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan were more than willing to support her claim with their limited budget films that went on to earn maximum profits for their makers.

On the other hand, when makers thought that by exploiting the sex quotient they could earn moolah, it was audience’s turn to show their back. Films like Naughty @ 40, Happy Husbands, Impatient Vivek andRivaaz were such films that followed this route, were terrible by all means and didn’t even get a good theatrical release.

What to expect from 2012? 

Well, many more Rs.100 crore earners for sure! Now whether they would boast of good quality or not is debatable but one thing is for sure, far less number of biggies would flop (2011 was the best in last so many years when it came to success ratio for big films) since there are many avenues for safety. On the other hand, small films would have many other factors to depend upon – as stated in last week’s ‘Reflections’ [2011 – Faith lost in small films – than just small budgets.

Meanwhile action is making a big time comeback with everyone from Akshay and Salman to Ajay, Saif and Hrithik getting their punches right. The big daddies of Bollywood, Yash Chopra and Ramesh Sippy are making a comeback which is a reason to rejoice while return of Karisma Kapoor and Sridevi would be much anticipated as well. As one awaits Priyanka’s return to the thick of affairs where her presence actually adds weight to the plot and Vidya actually manages to do enough that would make Khans add Balan to their surname, Kareena would most definitely extend her Rs.100 crore winning streak while Katrina would enjoy an ever expanding fan base as well.

Here is wishing them all the very best of luck. Well, for their sake, for audience’s sake and in general for Bollywood’s sake.

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