For the first time since 2012, the magical duo of Salman Khan and Kabir Khan have failed to set the cash registers ringing. Their recent product , ‘ Tubelight ’, set against the backdrop of 1962 Indo China War, that also witnesses thereturn of Salman’s brother and a dud actor, Sohail Khan, fails to create any records and barely manages to recover its own costs, earning a total of only Rs. 159.19 crore as of now.
But why am I talking about its performance? How does it matter to us? In a country, where a content oriented, original cinematic masterpiece bites the dust, and trashy films like ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Gunday’, ‘Housefull’, ‘Happy New Year’ romp home with dollops of cash in their pockets, one tends to think, if Indian cinema, especially the Hindi
Bollywood, is the worst place possible for a meaningful cinema. But after films OK Jaanu, Raees, and now Tubelight tanked without a promise, one can say : NO! Our cinema audience is improving, they’re becoming more sensible.
Till 2011, trash like Golmaal series would become massive hits, while classics like ‘Lakshya’ would tank down at the box office, denying the people of a golden chance to see something better, something different. Until one director broke this trend. Named Tigmanshu Dhulia, he gave it all to this one biopic, which was made at a shoestring budget of Rs. 5 crores, and released it, without even thinking of the massive fame it would bring to him. The film was ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, based on the legendary steeplechase gold medalist from Bengal Engineers, Roorkee, who turned into a dacoit when the system turned him down.
Not much later, released ‘Kahaani’, a film by director Sujoy Ghosh, whose earlier films, ‘Home Delivery’ and ‘Aladin’ had tanked massively at the box office. Comprising of unconventional actors, led by the recently successful Vidya Balan, Sujoy Ghosh turned the tables with his sleeper hit ‘Kahaani, with an unconventional backdrop of Kolkata, and a thriller, that actually fastened you to your seats .
Even Tigmanshu the director immortalized himself as the ruthless, but impulsive villain Ramadheer Singh fighting the Khan clan of Sardar [Manoj Bajpayee] and his son Faizal [Nawazuddin Siddiqui], in the cult hit ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. For the first time, people actually spent their bucks on watching movies that actually entertained them, and served them something different, instead of the run of the mill candy floss crap that mainstream Bollywood served them. However, except for such exceptions, the cycle of crap movies earning millions continued up to 2017, with some of the epic cringe worthy successes being films like ‘Happy New Year’, ‘Gunday’, to name a few.
But not 2017. This year was like a bolt from the blue for the so called elite club of Bollywood, who thought that they could serve anything in the name of mass entertainers. The year began with OK Jaanu, touted as a new age romantic masterpiece, which proved to be a cringe worthy dud. This was followed by another massive failure, that of Vishal Bharadwaj’s epic drama ‘Rangoon’. Even pseudo feminist propaganda like ‘Begum Jaan’, where some scenes depicted a horrific justification of rape through songs, didn’t manage to sway the public at all.
Some other honorary mentions in the ‘Hall of Rubbish’ of 2017 are ‘Meri Pyaari Bindu’, ‘Sarkaar 3’, ‘Noor’, ‘Bank Chor’, ‘Raabta’ etc., where the same old wine in the new bottle didn’t impress the audience at all. Even the much touted ‘Raees’ barely managed to cross Rs. 200 crores, and couldn’t diminish the popularity of its main rival, ‘Kaabil’, starring Hrithik Roshan as a blind voiceover artist out for revenge.
On the contrary, content oriented classics like ‘The Ghazi Attack’, ‘Hindi Medium’, to name a few, managed to surprise one and all with their massive success. Even films like Phillauri and Jolly LLB 2 managed to impress the audiences with their offbeat content and disciplined commitment to the content.
If the audience can be impressed by this, a tried and tested formula being repeated again and again just won’t work. That is precisely the case with Tubelight, where the typical case of lost and found worked against the movie. Besides, Kabir was already under a soup for labeling a previous year classic, ‘Airlift’, as an overrated dud. But how could he say this, when his own Tubelight turned out to be a desi copy of the 2015 film ‘Little Boy’, with many scenes copied almost frame by frame?
Well to be frank, I hardly believe in superstitions, but why do I connect Salman’s fortune swing everytime Sohail Khan comes on board as an actor. Right from the time of Main aur Mrs. Khanna, whenever Sohail Khan has accompanied Salman as a co actor in any movie, that movie has turned out to be anything but a blockbuster that is usually expected from Salman Bhai. Only 3 years ago, Sohail Khan had directed his debut film ‘Jai Ho’, which despite earning millions, did not prove to be the box office blockbuster that Salman is known for, and now Tubelight, which is heavily panned by both critics and the audience.
So what should we make out? Has the audience changed? To an extent, yes, for there is no other reason why Bahubali 2’s dubbed version was a massive success. But given that there are still folks who would go for a film as horrible as Half Girlfriend, I still have my doubts. I only hope the audiences dispel them the way they did with Tubelight.