Contrary to what many in the film industry have been speculating for the past few years now, today’s everyday Indian’s taste in cinema hasn’t “evolved” by leaps and bounds. He does not care whether Rajeev Masand liked a film in order for him to go and watch it.
Word-of-mouth still is the driving factor behind a film’s fate at the box office, not critic reviews. In fact, all of this year’s biggest films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Kaabil, Judwaa 2 and Golmaal Again have been unanimously lampooned by film critics.
“Doesn’t make much sense” and “crude” were some of the most flattering lines I found from reviews of Judwaa 2 yet the film managed to ink a little over 100 crores in its first week at the box office. Similarly, Kaabil, a pungent revival of Bollywood’s tired 90’s revenge flicks, was also thrashed by critics with the Guardian calling it “nonsense” while The Business Standard wasn’t sure whether it was “regressive” or “stupid”.
These savage reviews ultimately fell on deaf ears with Indian audiences flocking to theaters to watch Kaabil. The film raked in a little under 200 crores worldwide making it not only one of the most lucrative films of the year but also one of Roshan’s biggest hits ever!
Yes, coincidentally, most of last year’s critically acclaimed films also happened to be that year’s most commercially successful films (Airlift, Neerja Udta Punjab, Dangal, Pink et. al). There was an unequivocal intersection between public approval and critical approval in 2016.
But 2017 is a different ballgame altogether. The theory that’s been passing along in board room meetings that positive critic reviews equate to a positive reception at multiplexes must be debunked.
These are indeed daunting times for industry executives. Taking a line from Dolly Parton, they don’t know “whether to scratch their watches or wind their butts”. They don’t know if people want “stupid masala flop movies” (a comment one often sees online) or content-driven films with a bit of meat to them.
Everything is up in the air, or more to the point, in the shitter.
ARTWORK BY RACHNA RAVI