The curious case of Bollywood’s critic-proof films
New Delhi: By Monday, Rohit Shetty’s Diwali release Golmaal Again had crossed the Rs200 crore mark at the box office. Following Varun Dhawan’s late September release, Judwaa 2, which made around Rs138.55 crore in domestic earnings alone, the Ajay Devgn-starrer is the second film in recent times to have scored at the box office despite being heavily panned by critics.
Even as critics and filmmakers emphasize that content is king and even big stars can’t entirely guarantee returns, there is still a noticeable genre of critic-proof films in Bollywood.
“The combination of the right star and packaging is undeniable,” said film critic Baradwaj Rangan. “We often make the mistake of pointing out trends with the success of a few (small and experimental) films like Newton, the truth is there are some things that have worked in cinema, both Hollywood and Bollywood, since the beginning of time, and those are movies that deliver on what they promise.”
Rangan added that while critics may care about the quality of films, which is anyway a subjective term, the average person sees movies as an outing. In which case, colourful packages like Golmaal Again and Judwaa 2 work. Of course, a big, charismatic star is the glue that sticks it all together. Even a tepidly received Dilwale (2015) made more than Rs140 crore in India and $4,865,684 (Rs31.8 crore) in the US, thanks to Shah Rukh Khan’s star power.
“It is the small and niche films that work on reviews and word-of-mouth. The business grows over the weekend if people read good things on a Friday,” film trade and business expert Girish Johar said. “For the truly commercial movies, reviews are always, at best, average. But they provide value for money and people like to go out with the family without thinking too much.”
Along with the Housefull movie series and films like Akshay Kumar’s action comedy Singh Is Bliing, the critic-proof genre of commercial entertainers goes as far back as the Manmohan Desai-directed films of the 1970s and ’80s where logic inevitably took a backseat, said Johar.
However, given the performance of some big-ticket films like Salman Khan’s Tubelight and Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Harry Met Sejal this year, there seems some sort of a caveat even to the formula.
“Yes, there are films that continue to be critic-proof but it isn’t something you can bank on completely these days,” said film critic Shubhra Gupta. While Golmaal Again has a certain consistent lunacy to it, Judwaa 2 banked on a crisp pace besides Dhawan’s presence, she said.
“That a new film of a hit franchise will notch up the same or more numbers isn’t a hundred per cent given anymore. Something about the alchemy of the film and the actors still has to work,” she said.
All figures have been sourced from movie website Bollywood Hungama.