New Delhi: Anees Bazmee’s slapstick comedy Welcome Back has minted big numbers at the box office despite being written off by movie critics.

The Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar, John Abraham-starrer opened with 14.35 crore on Friday and went on to earn 17.05 crore and 19.60 crore on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, taking its total weekend business within the country to 51 crore, according to trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

The multi-starrer has been described by critics as overstretched, overcrowded and an insult to the 21st century viewer’s sense of humour. The critics’ verdict was that, apart from shoddy editing and tasteless music, the movie is marked by mediocre performances. But that obviously hasn’t deterred audiences. And Welcome Back is not the first instance of audiences proving the critics wrong.

Rohit Shetty’s loud and predictable Singham Returns had crossed 156 crore worldwide last year according to movie website Bollywood Hungama. Farah Khan’s multi-starrer Happy New Year, described as stale and incapable of being lifted even by Shah Rukh Khan’s presence, brought in more than 245 crore for its makers. Significantly, Indra Kumar’s adult comedy Grand Masti, described by one critic as “unbearable and obnoxious," also crossed the 100-crore mark in 2013.

“Audiences today have already made up their minds about the films they’re going to watch. And they are not really adventurous," said film critic Raja Sen. “There is a certain section that wants to go to the theatre knowing they will get what they paid for. In a Salman Khan film, they know that’ll be a couple of fights, some songs and a shirtless sequence. But in a Bombay Velvet, they don’t really know."

In the case of Welcome Back, Sen attributes the success to a matter of reduced expectations. “It’s not really trying to make sense," he said. “You know there’s going to be no Akshay Kumar or Katrina Kaif. Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar deliver in their own way. Anees Bazmee as director gives them room to play and they go wild."

Bazmee as director agrees his motive is to entertain audiences. “I’m not making a Satyajit Ray film," he said. “It’s clear that you should leave your brains behind when you watch this movie. We’re all leading such stressful lives that we’ve almost forgotten how to laugh."

But the director of hit comedies like No Entry (2005) is not entirely satisfied with the lack of critical acknowledgment. “Of course I’m hurt as a film maker because I respect critics. But I also feel audiences go to the theatre to enjoy themselves whereas some reviewers go with the opinion that in no case must they have a good time like ordinary individuals do," he said.

Sen also emphasizes that heavily marketed films with releases as wide as Welcome Back have anyway captured their audiences before the reviews are even out. “It’s only when a film like Piku or Tanu Weds Manu manages to run longer than the first three days that you get a sense of what it’s worth," he said.

And that is what Bazmee hopes to achieve too. “The same people who had criticized No Entry and Welcome call them cult films today. So I hope there comes a day soon when the reviewers praise my film on release. My day would be made. After all, we’ve all worked really hard for two-and-a-half years," he said.

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