South remakes don’t work anymore and Hindi makers don’t have the writers who can create an original idea. The last two film releases, ‘Shehzada’ and ‘Selfiee’, were remakes of ‘Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo’ (Telugu) and ‘Driving Licence’ (Malayalam), respectively. Both proved to be unmitigated disasters. Imagine an Akshay Kumar-starrer opening to Rs 2.5 crore on Day One! The same star who turned everything he touched into gold not very long ago!
The problem is that borrowing stories from the South is no guarantee for success. Sadly, most remakes are action films and not all Hindi stars can justify action. There are phases for all genres, and the action genre needs a pause. Action films in the good old days were considered B grade and were the domains of actors such as Dara Singh, Kamran Khan, Sheikh Mukhtar and others in this league, and they had their takers away from what was described as the ‘gentry’, the family audience.
The one South remake that has worked recently is Ajay Devgn’s ‘Drishyam’, franchise; the first part was also a success. But, these successes are nowhere like the films which boasted of figures between Rs 200 crore and Rs 300 crore a few years back. Then came these South-dubbed films, which did business in bigger ranges, Rs 500 crore and more. The Hindi film industry was delivering flop after flop when Shah Rukh Khan decided to do something about it.
He came up with ‘Pathaan’, an action film akin to many others of the genre. Actually, action films have been a Salman Khan forte since his return with ‘Wanted’ in 2005. Akshay Kumar also made a name through action films, but also dabbled in nationalistic films and films of social relevance, which kept him in the reckoning. Now, the career of both these stars is dormant.
Today, it is the media and not the trade that has started deciding on a film’s fate and outcome! So, when the subject of ‘Pathaan’ crops up, the first question one is faced with is, how much of its success is genuine? Looks like throwing figures of Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,000 crore on social and other media does not seem to convince people.
In the present phase when Hindi films are not working, filmmakers and the stars will have to manage a hit. Just throw the figures, the media is easily convinced.
Meanwhile, there is good news. The China market has reopened for Hindi films and Yash Raj Films plans to release three films from its stable soon. The country boasts of 50,000 screens, but faces severe shortage of content.
The returns from China are not much – usually, at the rate of 25 per cent of the gross. So what, you can always pass on gross collections to the media, who knows the difference?
–By Vinod Mirani