Thursday, January 8, 2015

Winding up 2014!

The hits, flops and the trends…

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This feature has been published in the January 3, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

A lot of misses and a few hits, is how one can describe 2014 at the movies.  Evidently, the year was slightly ‘thanda’ in the colloquial language, especially as compared to 2013 which saw films with some great content raking in moolah at the box-office. While few movies sprung up a surprise, few just disappointed. However, one observes several trends each year despite having a mix of both good and bad films. So, here’s taking a look at some interesting trends of the year gone by…

Women power at the box-office:
With ‘Queen’, ‘Mary Kom’, ‘Mardaani’, and ‘Highway’ one can definitely concur that women-oriented subjects are no longer a taboo in Hindi cinema. Though, it’s essentially, a male-dominated industry, films with women as protagonists were not only acclaimed by the critics, but also loved by the audience last year. While the lifetime collection of ‘Queen’ was Rs. 61 crore, ‘Mary Kom’ and ‘Mardaani’ have made Rs. 55crore and Rs. 35 crore respectively. Because all these three films were made under extremely moderate budgets, they proved to be hits, especially ‘Queen’ and ‘Mardaani’. Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ earned Rs. 23 crores, which is decent considering the low budget of the film.  

Good content triumphs: 
‘Queen’ has been the first film ever since ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’ whose second week collections were higher than the first week collections. The film did well, solely because of the positive word of mouth which stemmed from good content, leading to a six-week run at the box-office. Apart from ‘Queen’ it is Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Haider’ which is a testament to the fact that good content sells. The biggest USP of ‘PK’ was Aamir Khan but it was good content due to which film managed to sustain its performance even in the consecutive days after the opening weekend. There were also films which despite boasting of big actors and directors, failed because of the dearth of appealing content – ‘Action Jackson’, ‘Humshakals’, ‘Happy Ending’ being some of them.

Sticking to the basics:
More often than not, films just need to connect with the audience. Simplicity is a virtue under-rated and some films in 2014 just proved that. Not to mention, sometimes, just sticking to the basics and taking the formulaic Hindi cinema route works and how! Akshay Kumar’s ‘Holiday’ saw him doing what he does the best – hardcore action. The audience always loves the ‘hero’s victory over the villain’ end, and the patriotic theme further added to its appeal. ‘2 States’ was a simple love story, which worked because the audience could relate to the basic concept of the film. It had something for everyone. Also, after a very long time one saw a film with a good ensemble cast with every member of the cast being appreciated. ‘Gunday’ was another such film. Two mainstream heroes in one film, both having equal parts, with good music, a love triangle, action, and dialogue-baazi – all this took the audience back to the 70s adding to its appeal. ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’ also stuck to the simple boy-girl love story theme. Sometimes, all a film needs to do is entertain the audience, for example, David Dhawan’s ‘Main Tera Hero’, or Tiger Shroff’s debut vehicle, ‘Heropanti’.

Music plays a crucial part:  Hindi cinema is essentially known for its song-and-dance, which makes music a very important part of our films. 2014 proved it, yet again, that music plays a crucial role in drawing the audience to the cinema halls. Divya Khosla Kumar’s debut venture ‘Yaariyaan’ which had rank newcomers worked majorly because the film’s music was a big hit. Even if one song becomes popular, it helps the film in a big way – for instance, ‘Baby Doll’ worked wonders for ‘Ragini MMS 2’. ‘Tune Maari Entriyaan’ also added to ‘Gunday’s’ appeal. On the other hand, the music of ‘Jai Ho’ didn’t match the expectations one has from the music of a Salman Khan film. At the same time, the fact that the music of ‘Kick’ especially, ‘Jhumme Ki Raat’ and ‘Yaar Na Mile’ got popular, helped the film. Majority of the 100 crore success of Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain has to be attributed to the super hit music, especially ‘Galliyan’. The music of ‘Heropanti’ was also largely appreciated, and it went on to do a business of Rs. 50 crore which is great for a film with newcomers. But so many films were devoid of good music last year!

Now, let’s hear it from the industry folks as to how they think 2014 was…

Arjun Kapoor, actor
“If I look back at 2014, I think it was a year where I truly got accepted from the audience. It is one thing to get the acceptance from the industry for signing you for films but 2014 was the year where the audience reciprocated the love and affiliation that the industry had felt when they gave me these films. So, I’ll always look back at 2014 as a very important year in my life, because I got to do three films from different genres – ‘Gunday’ which was a two-hero film and it was still celebrated and enjoyed, a ‘2 States’ which every person in India can relate to, and then a slightly niche film like ‘Finding Fanny’ with such great actors. Also, I shot for ‘Tevar’ the entire year, and it was a very important milestone in my life to start that film. So, for me, certainly it’s been a very fulfilling year.”

Hansal Mehta, film-maker 

“I see 2014 as a wake-up call. The 100-crore-plus club has emerged as one of the most misleading indications of a film’s actual success. There was no analysis of return on investment or profitability of all the shrill noises about films crossing the 200 crore mark. Films like ‘Queen’ proved that moderate budgets and good content will always have takers and will have their investors smiling. For me 2014 was satisfying. My first national award after 17 years of making films and 20 years of being around on the fringes made this my most special year. I was also happy that my low-budget film ‘Citylights’ made a decent profit for both Fox Star Studios and Vishesh Films. I was happy to make a film that echoed the spirit of some of Mahesh Bhatt’s signature films and that won both the film and its team a lot of critical acclaim. I enjoyed ‘Highway’, and ‘Queen’ immensely but for me ‘Haider’ was the best Hindi film of the year. I also loved a Marathi film ‘Killa’ by cinematographer-director Avinash Arun. I definitely think we have a lot to learn from the Marathi film industry in terms of content and financial discipline.”

Ramesh Taurani, producer
“It was an average year and the best film among the lot for me, was ‘PK’. The best was saved for the last. Other films like ‘Kick’, ‘PK’, ‘Happy New Year’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’, ‘Queen’, ‘Ek Villain’, ‘Tu Mera Hero’, ‘Entertainment’ and few more, have also done well. I think the year consolidated the fact that good films work and bad films fail.

Shyam Shroff, director, Shringar Films
“I don’t think it’s been a very good year. Some movies which I was expecting to do well didn’t do well. I think something is wrong with the movies in the sense that, people are not paying sufficient attention to the contents of the film, and even this year, overall, the music has been quite poor. From the point of view, it’s been a disappointment. There’s been nothing major to shout about, except for films like ‘PK’, ‘Kick’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Queen’, or ‘Happy New Year’.

Akshaye Rathi, distributor-exhibitor, Rathi
"It has not been a very exciting year, because as compared to 2013, there has been a shortfall in the overall business of films rather than growth. And that is for a lot of reasons: one, the elections came in the early part of the year, which really hampered the business. After that, the markets didn’t see too much liquidity because of which people didn’t have too much of disposable income to spend on movies as much as they would have, in any other year. There have been a few sparks in the pan like, ‘Kick’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Singham Returns’, ‘Bang Bang’, ‘Happy New Year’, but those have not been enough to really lift up the spirits. At the end of the year, we finally found a reason to smile with ‘PK’, but even that’s not enough to compensate for the cold weather that the industry has experienced through all through 2014. For Hindi films and Hollywood, the world over, it’s just not been a great year. As far as the most profitable films are concerned, you ultimately look at the return on investment, and how much everyone at all levels (the producer, distributor and exhibitor) make out of it. There have been very few films which have done that. ‘Ek Villain’ was certainly one of the films this year which made money for everyone across the value chain. ‘Happy New Year’s’ economics were really sensible. ‘PK’ of course, was phenomenally profitable for everyone involved."

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