Films with mes­sages strike gold at the box of­fice

Aamir Khan and Aks hay Ku­mar prove met­tle with di­dac­tic movies; heat on oth­ers

Business Standard - - COMPANIES - URVI MALVANIA

One might think that a movie about a hus­band try­ing to make a toi­let for his wife would not re­ally ap­peal to an au­di­ence seek­ing en­ter­tain­ment, but Toi­let: Ek

Prem Katha seems to have rewrit­ten the rules. The Ak­shay Ku­mar-star­rer has raked in ~135 crore since re­leas­ing on Au­gust 11.

And, it is not an ex­cep­tion. Over the past few years, films with some so­cial mes­sage seem to be find­ing favour with au­di­ences — as well as crit­ics — rather than tra­di­tional boy-meets-girl ro­mances or dra­mas.

Last year, Pink, star­ring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu, dealt with the is­sue of women’s con­sent. Made at a cost of ~25 crore, it earned about ~75 crore. Other such films in re­cent years are Dum

Laga Ke Haisha and Ba­jrangi Bhai­jaan (both 2015), PK (2014), and Vicky Donor (2012), among oth­ers.

Films with so­cial mes­sages have been around in Bol­ly­wood for long — Do Bigha

Zameen (1953) and Naya Daur (1957) are some ex­am­ples. But, in re­cent years, the treat­ment of the sub­jects seems to have changed and au­di­ences are more will­ing to ac­cept th­ese films.

“While pres­ence of mar­quee names (ac­tors/direc­tors) does help in the open­ing week, for long-term suc­cess at the box of­fice (and rev­enues), films with dif­fer­en­ti­ated con­tent pro­vide ef­fec­tive re­turn on in­vest­ment,” said Sud­han­shu Vats, group chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Vi­a­com 18, cit­ing ex­am­ples of Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha, as well as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) and

Queen (2013). In con­trast, movies with run-of-themill sto­ry­lines or for­mula scripts have bombed at the box of­fice, no mat­ter which su­per­star leads the cast.

The most re­cent ex­am­ple is Shah Rukh Khan- and Anushka Sharma-star­rer Jab

Harry Met Se­jal. Di­rected by Im­tiaz Ali, who has de­liv­ered hits such as Rock­star (2011) and High­way (2014), this film found few tak­ers.

A sim­i­lar fate greeted Saif Ali Khan-, Kan­gana Ra­naut- and Shahid Kapoorstar­rer Ran­goon ear­lier this year; Sal­man Khan’s Eid re­lease, Tube­light, too, went out with­out a mak­ing a mark. Last year, Hrithik Roshan’s Mo­henjo

Daro strut­ted in with a lot of aplomb but bombed at the box of­fice, as did Be­fikre, star­ring Ran­veer Singh and di­rected by none other than Aditya Cho­pra.

“The bank­a­bil­ity of most A-lis­ters is un­der fire. We’ve been say­ing that sto­ries — and not stars — will be the se­cret of movies’ suc­cess; it’s fi­nally hap­pen­ing,” said Ko­mal Nahta, trade an­a­lyst and pub­lisher of Film In­for­ma­tion.

Nahta added, “The au­di­ence wants good con­tent. Gone are the days when fans would flock the the­atres just to see their favourite su­per­star on the screen. People de­mand bet­ter now and if it’s not de­liv­ered, no mat­ter who is in the film, the au­di­ence will re­ject (the movie).”

Vats agreed, “For a longer reign at the box of­fice, con­tent is all-im­por­tant. A-lis­ters help make a mark and in pulling in au­di­ences in the open­ing week­end. How­ever, for suc­cess be­yond the first week, films de­pend on con­tent.”

Among the A-lis­ters, only Aamir Khan and Ak­shay Ku­mar have con­sis­tently churned out hits. In­ci­den­tally, they have also been most ac­tive is do­ing projects that go be­yond the reg­u­lar ro­mance or ac­tion sto­ries.

Ayush­maan Khu­rana, Ra­naut and Nawazud­din Sid­diqui also seem to have found a bal­ance be­tween the more main­stream films and those with a so­cial mes­sage.

Lead­ing ladies, too, are ex­per­i­ment­ing with the projects they choose. Ra­naut has a Queen un­der her belt; Alia Bhatt found suc­cess with Dear Zindagi. Bhumi Ped­nekar de­buted with a film that spoke about the stigma against heavy girls in the so­ci­ety ( Dum Laga Ke Haisha) and has tasted suc­cess again with Toi­let. Kalki Koech­lin’s por­trayal of a para­plegic ex­plor­ing her sex­u­al­ity in Mar­garita with a Straw won her ku­dos.

Ex­perts be­lieve that suc­cess of th­ese films could also be at­trib­uted to state­ments made sub­tly and not in a preachy man­ner.

“A good story is what will work, no mat­ter the cast as long as the treat­ment is sen­si­ble. Mar­ket­ing the film goes a long way too, but just hav­ing a big name on the reel is not go­ing to do the job,” said an­other stu­dio ex­ec­u­tive.

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