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'Rockstar' to 'Jab We Met': Old Bollywood Movies Make a Comeback on Big Screen

Why are people eager to watch movies from the nineties and 2000s in theatres even when they are available on OTT?

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Last Friday, Hrithik Roshan-starrer Lakshya, a coming-of-age war drama from two decades ago, hit a select few Indian theatres. Coincidentally, the film celebrated its 20th year anniversary on 18 June – a few days before it was re-released on the big screen.

Lakshya joined the ranks of other iconic movies (mostly from the nineties and the 2000s) that have been brought back to theaters. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Rockstar, Jab We Met, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, to name a few, have all found renewed success as they hit the big screen decades after they were first made and released.

At a time when OTT has spoilt the audience for choice, why are old Bollywood movies finding takers? Is this even a new trend? The Quint finds out.

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The Comeback of Classics

In 2022, PVR celebrated Amitabh Bachchan's 80th birthday by organising a four-day film festival titled 'Bachchan Back to the Beginning.'

"PVR's idea was a huge hit with shows running full capacity. People who wanted to experience these films in theatre returned to watch and re-watch them. That's where the idea of making this a regular phenomenon started," says Varun Gupta, founder of Max Marketing Agency.

In the last few years, old movies have been re-released to mark the film's milestone anniversaries (like in the case of Lakshya), actors' birthdays (like in the case of Big B), or simply to cater to the popularity of certain films among the audience.

Upon completing 25 years, Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge was re-released in October 2020 in at least 15 countries. The film's lead pair Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol made appearances on various shows like The Kapil Sharma Show, and even surprised their fans by attending a screening in Mumbai.

Experts believe that the love for the movie across generations, coupled with the promotional strategies, made audiences queue up in large numbers again to watch the film.

Why are people eager to watch movies from the nineties and 2000s in theatres even when they are available on OTT?

Shah Rukh Khan in a scene from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

(Photo courtesy: YRF)

As the craze around Shah Rukh is omnipresent, Yash Raj Films, at the beginning of the year, brought back Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Chak De India, and Dil Toh Pagal Hai to the silver screen to celebrate the 'Nostalgia Film Festival'.

This Valentine's Day, romantic movies like Veer Zaara, Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, and Jab We Met got the same honour.

Even Imtiaz Ali directorial Rockstar is currently playing in cinema halls – and seems to be striking a chord all over again.

Why are people eager to watch movies from the nineties and 2000s in theatres even when they are available on OTT?

A poster of Rockstar.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

A New Trend or Old?

Gupta, however, says the trend has been around "for a long time, before the advent of social media".

“Initially, films weren't ready for release every week. There was a time when there weren't any releases between two films, so the distributors brought back older ones. They used to re-run those old films, and people would come and watch. I’m talking about the days of Raj Kapoor... it's just that those films weren't advertised enough because there was no social media. There were small paper ads – and the news would spread word of mouth."
Varun Gupta

“When it comes to the re-runs of Rockstar and Jab We Met, a lot of people are showing up in theatres out of nostalgia. These could be people who have seen them in theatre before," he adds.

"These films have found a following of their own. People are returning because probably you couldn’t react to the scenes or connect to them when they were released, but you are connecting to them now thanks to the memes, opinion pieces, and discussions," he opines.

What does the audience have to say?

"I got to know about Rockstar returning to theaters through Instagram. I've come back for the cinematic experience," says Sanjana Sharma, a CA student.

She adds, "The new movies don't have a strong storyline. The songs are weird too, and you cannot watch them with family."

Another viewer, Delhi University student Pihu Roy, who re-watched Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara recently, says, “My friends and I have all watched it before, but we wanted to watch it together in a theater. It gave us time with each other, and we could talk and relax.”

She, too, adds, “Nowadays, all the movies are generic or have cliche characters.

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Rewatch Value?

Prannoy Mehta, who worked as director Imtiaz Ali’s assistant on Love Aaj Kal 2 and is creative producer and writer on Netflix’s series SHE, explains that nostalgia is what's guiding the audience.

"I don’t think audiences are finding novelty among the new releases; it's not enough to get them to the theaters. With these older movies, there is a connection to the past," Mehta tells The Quint. "I feel another reason that people are going for older films is a lack of options... If the quality of the new films is not on par, people would rather go and watch the older films, which they know they will enjoy watching on the big screen. At the end of the day, people just want to watch a good story.”

However, he adds, “Sometimes, I also feel that the newer films, like Munjya or Chandu Champion, are good, but the audience takes time to discover them. Films like Rockstar or Jab We Met weren’t instant hits too... they grew over time. Some of these have taken many years for the audience to fully discover and rediscover them," he adds.

Low ticket prices and popular locations could also be seen as a crowd-puller in the case of the re-releases. Meanwhile, Gupta points out at a no-marketing approach when it comes to re-releasing the films. Reels, memes, or word of mouth are actually driving the audiences, he says.

“You must have noticed that there have been no promotions. It's only through focus groups, influencers, and a select few Instagram pages that people are discovering about older films re-releasing..."

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