Home / Industry / Media /  The Kashmir Files’ success bolsters box office prospects for 'majoritarian films

The massive unexpected box office success of political drama The Kashmir Files that has become the first Hindi film after the pandemic to cross Rs. 250 crore in revenue, is expected to benefit a spate of hyper-nationalist Hindi films in the coming months. The popularity of Kashmir Files will ensure better show timings, bigger marketing budgets and greater box office potential for films that are similarly aligned and appeal to small-town India.

These projects include biopics on Veer Savarkar and Nathuram Godse and subjects like Delhi’s communal riots and love jihad. Vivek Agnihotri will complete his trilogy that started with The Tashkent Files with capital’s riot story in Delhi Files. On Monday, Agnihotri said he is planning two more films on ‘under-reported truths of Indian history.’

Other projects include Akshay Kumar's Gorkha, a film based on the life of Major General Ian Cardozo and OMG 2, where he is possibly playing Lord Shiva. Kangana Ranaut will also be seen playing an Indian air force pilot in Tejas.

Film trade experts said the official endorsement of The Kashmir Files by the government probably to build a favourable narrative in the run-up to the 2024 general elections, could emerge as a concrete strategy as majoritarianism takes over as a way of life in tier-two and tier-three towns.

“The RSS ideology of aggressive nationalism has seeped down and found patronage in small towns where it is now a way of life," said independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan who has witnessed emotional outbursts in his Purnea cinema during The Kashmir Files screenings. It is clear that the genre of pro-government films has come into its own and it only makes business sense to make more of them, said Chauhan. He feels theatres will be receptive to whatever brings audiences in and makes money, as will film studio executives who are likely to shoot down anything anti-establishment at the moment.

Over the years, every political regime has had filmmakers who want to remain in its good books, said Nikhil Taneja, co-founder and chief executive officer of Yuvaa Originals, a Mumbai-based youth media, research and impact organization. “Also, filmmakers would be employed or would get the backing of the regime to make films that speak to the sentiment of its voters," Taneja said. While the Congress too had its share of films that showed the party in a positive light, it is easier for a lot of nationalist films to be made now, which may have garnered lesser interest or backing earlier. He attributed the wide appeal of The Kashmir Files to both sensationalizing and representing certain political sentiments. “This film is definitely going to empower a lot of people who have a certain political bent. Filmmaking is ultimately a business and producers punt on things that have worked before," Taneja said.

“There has been a sense that the state usually doesn’t interfere with creative and aesthetic subjects but with films like The Kashmir Files or Uri, it has come out in the open to take a cultural standpoint and position and transgress those boundaries," political analyst Manisha Priyam said admitting cinema is a powerful political medium.

Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said there is no stopping the genre, especially in the current climate when the ruling party is making people aware of the value of patriotism. “It has to do with the overall atmosphere and mood of the nation. Plus, when the Prime Minister and other top leaders of the ruling party endorse a film, it goes a long way," Mohan said. However, at the end of the day, the film also has to be well made and the overall package including actors, script and treatment must be impressive, he said. Agreed a film producer who said The Kashmir Files is paving the way for several such films not just because every government realises cinema is a crucial tool to influence voters but also because it makes business sense on the box office. The person declined to be named.

Film producer Akshay Bardapurkar agreed the success of The Kashmir Files has to do with the current mood of the nation. “Cinema is a vehicle to take these stories to people but you also have to make a good film. The point is not everyone understands politics, which is why a lot of older films like The Accidental Prime Minister or PM Narendra Modi didn’t work," Bardapurkar said adding that a lot of such subjects alienate women audiences but The Kashmir Files managed to strike a chord.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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