By Vinayak Chakravorty
New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Going into the second half of the year, Bollywood has a strange challenge at hand. So far, the biggest hot at the domestic box-office is a Hollywood film. "Avengers: Endgame" has crossed the Rs 365-crore mark in India, and is by far the big film of the year so far.
Not even did the mighty Salman Khan manage to beat the record-busting show of the Avengers with his much-hyped "Bharat", nor was Akshay Kumar's patriotic action drama "Kesari" up to the mark.
Most Bollywood fans are now looking at Salman's second release this year, "Dabangg 3", as the film that might break the immense run of "Endgame", when it releases in the Christmas 2019 weekend. The box-office show of "Dabangg 3" will also be a test for Salman at another level. Although "Bharat" is a hit, having crossed the Rs 200-crore mark at the Indian box-office, it is far from the record-breaking show you expect from a Salman Khan film.
At a time when the Khans are struggling to stay in contention against the threat of younger heroes, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have no releases lined up in the year ahead. Ranveer Singh, the box-office golden boy of the hour, will only return next year with his next, "83", and so will Ranbir Kapoor with "Brahmastra" and "Shamshera". The other new-age frontrunners, Tiger Shroff and Varun Dhawan, have bitten the dust lately, with "Kalank" and "Student of the Year 2" respectively.
On the other hand, Bollywood's offbeat heroes are going great guns. Ayushmann Khurrana is on a roll, having completed a hattrick. After "Andhadhun" and "Badhaai Ho" last year, he has scored a big hit with "Article 15" now. The small film has earned over Rs 63 crore at the domestic market, impressing the audience with its hard-as-nails content.
The success of small, content-driven films such as "Article 15" and "Badla", and the cold response to big-budget spectacles as "Kalank" that don't mean much, shed light on the awful truth that will rule box-office trends in the months to come and beyond -- in B-Town, content is the new superstar.
The success of "Uri", a film touting no big star but banking on solid content and a stylish narrative to instil patriotic fervour, has underlined this. The film made over Rs 244.06 crore, second only to Shahid Kapoor's grand comeback in "Kabir Singh", which raked in Rs 271.24 crore, but is still far away from the Avengers mark, though it is still counting the numbers at the box-office.
Incidentally, the super success of "Kabir Singh" basically pointed at two things: First, any rehash of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's "Devdas" will invariably work in any age. Secondly, if you build a solid publicity strategy around good music, you are bound to draw the crowds in the opening weekend.
The music bit, in particular, is something that Bollywood should pay attention to in the coming months, especially at a time more and more people are voicing tiredness over assembly-line remixes (they are fashionably called recreations nowadays). "Dabangg 3" apart, makers of every other upcoming commercial biggie needs to remember the power of original music for a good start.
Big films coming up in the coming months include Akshay Kumar's "Housefull 4", and the Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff action thriller "War". The success or failure of these primarily glamour-driven productions will firmly establish if the Bollywood audience is still in the mood to celebrate larger-than-life content that is low on substance.
But the big film that looks most likely to bust a record or two is, incidentally, going to come from outside Bollywood. "Bahubali" star Prabhas returns in "Saaho", the multilingual fantasy thriller rumoured to be budgeted at far beyond Rs 150 crore. The film is scheduled to open on August 30, and is billed as one that might redefine on-screen entertainment in Indian mainstream cinema.
The real toast at the end of the year, however, will probably be raised to films narrating real stories. The clash between John Abraham's "Batla House" and Akshay Kumar's "Mission Mangal" should be an interesting one on August 15, in this context. Both films will try to instil the spirit of patriotism through stories of very different flavours.
If "Batla House" and "Mission Mangal", coming after "Uri", underline nothing sells like the patriotic mantra right now, heroine-oriented films are also pleasantly growing in numbers and stature. This is an era when roles for actresses have overall become stronger. In the coming months, Priyanka Chopra will make a strong comeback bid with Shonali Bose's drama, "The Sky Is Pink". Sonam Kapoor returns with another home banner-backed heroine centric script, "The Zoya Factor".
"Mission Mangal" is the other anticipated film that will celebrate the power of womanhood this year, with its story of the all-women ISRO team that made India's Mars mission possible.
It looks like an assorted mix right now, As the months roll, we will know which of these films are truly memorable fare.
Check out some interesting films in store:
Nikkhil Advani's film picks up the real life story of a cop's battle against an accusation of encounter that he wants the world to know is fake. John Abraham returns in what could be a defining role of his career in this Independence Day release.
This year's other Independence Day release has Akshay Kumar playing head of ISRO's Mars mission, and how he led an all-women team into making the mission possible. Vidya Balan, Tapsee Pannu, Sonkashi Sinha and Kirti Kulhari essay the team of ISRO.
"Bahubali" star Prabhas makes a comeback to the big screen, but that is not the only reason this film has garnered hype. Rumoured to be the costliest film India has ever made, the Shraddha Kapoor-costarrer is a special effects spectacular like never before.
Salman Khan returns as Chulbul Pandey, the affable heartland cop, for a new adventure. Prabhudheva has taken over as director, and while Sonakshi Sinha returns as Rajjo, Salman also gets to romance 20-something Saiee Manjrekar in the film.
The Yash Raj production unites Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff – two of the hottest action stars of Bollywood's new generation – in a high-tech, high-octane action thriller. The film is lavishly shot across Portugal, Iceland and India, among other countries.
The box-office fate of this film will be a test of the traditional Bollywood comic entertainer as we knew it. Series mascots Akshay Kumar and Riteish Deshmukh return with a new cast comprising Kriti Sanon and Pooja Hegde.
THE SKY IS PINK
Shonali Bose, who shot to fame directing "Amu", has signed up the star power of Priyanka Chopra to celebrate will power of a woman. Priyanka plays Aisha, who is afflicted by the fatal illness, pulmonary fibrosis. This is also Zaira Wasim's last film.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)