With the massive success of Brahmastra, RRR and KGF, one thing is for certain - cinema-goers want to throng the theatres for movies that are larger than life. A compelling story isn't enough, the audience also wants an experience – meticulously choreographed action sequences, visually stunning images and perhaps a holier-than-thou hero. This is not to say small-budget movies can’t do well if given the opportunity. But the parameters of their success are different. The million-dollar question will always be - what is more likely to bring in business?
Arguably, the culture of cinema has always been like that. When Salman Khan singlehandedly beats at least fifty men to pulp, it incites a reaction from the audience. And if Rohit Shetty can get a car flying, despite gravity, there is nothing that can stop the audience from going bonkers. The ‘nonsensical’ is part of the movie-going business, and the audience is here for it.
Not much has changed, except the demand for the ‘spectacle’ is more fervent in theatres than one might remember. The pandemic took its toll on the theatres and the gazillion OTT platforms that have cropped up added to it. Then why should the casual moviegoer walk into the theatre when everything is available on their smartphone? What’s the incentive?
Movie-buffs discuss the possible reasons why:
Escaping Through Cinema
Arushi Bhaskar, a writer and a fan of the recent south blockbusters, believes films afford a certain amount of escapism for the more casual movie-goer. Intellectually stimulating films aren’t exactly their cup of tea. She goes on to say, “I am personally a fan of the larger-than-life films as the years go by. I believe that why they are enjoyed by the masses is because for those three hours you become detached from your life.”
“There is injustice, then there is this very self-righteous hero trying to fight evil and he figures out a very simplistic way to eradicate, which leads you to believe that even you can do that,” she adds.
Arushi believes that these films help fulfil a very ‘primal need’. Arguing that you don’t have to look too far to see that these simplistic narratives are a part and parcel of a person’s life, debarring the item numbers and masala elements, injustices happen every day.
Theatrical Releases Are Now An ‘Event’; Is Marketing Key?
Kushi, a movie buff, shares, “It’s not like people don’t want to go to theatres. But it’s become an event. It’s not as generic as it used to be. Cause it will come to streaming at some point.”
“It’s only when I want to see the movie on the big screen or the media has made a big deal out of it only then I go,” she adds
For instance, she highlights that marketing for Brahmastra has been going on for over a year. She goes on to say, “The wedding happened and then they released a part of the song, and it wasn’t even the whole song. After which, the song was released in different languages. There was so much that happened around the movie that everybody was curious – I watched the trailer multiple times, and I knew it was not going to be a good film but I still went and watched it.”
Is Bollywood Not Star Driven Anymore?
On the other end, Trisha Welde expressed her thoughts on why certain films aren’t working anymore. When talking about Akshay Kumar's films, she adds that perhaps his films have reached a saturation point. She argues, “People have seen so much of him doing a certain type of film, whether that is a more nationalistic film or something like a Raksha Bandhan.”
She adds, “With platforms like Netflix and Hotstar they (the audience) have the choice of saying that theatre is not the only source of entertainment. So if something like Shamshera or Raksha Bandhan is not going to interest me…then I have the choice of not watching that. ”
The Awe Around Marvel-Level VFX
Aditi, another avid movie-lover, puts another point across. “There is a lot of Marvel content available. The audience is exposed to that level of VFX, so when Brahmastra brought that in, it excited people to go and watch the film.”
The awe around the film is also because of its Hollywood-level VFX. To put it crudely, anything that the West does we imitate, and in all honesty, the audience is here for it, if done right.
What if the tickets were affordable?
National Cinema Day proved that the affordability of tickets could also make films a box-office success. Taking a cue from the success of the day in question, filmmaker Ayan Mukerji announced that during the Navratri week the tickets for the movie in question would be Rs 100. Can reducing ticket prices be the answer to the lack-lustre box-office business? Ishita, a casual movie-goer would say, yes. She believed that tickets have become largely unaffordable to a lot of the demographic.
Perhaps It’s A Combination of Factors?
But all five of them agree that perhaps it’s a combination of factors that leads to the success of a film. Perhaps there isn’t a set formula in this day and age. It isn’t enough to get a star on board, it isn’t enough to have a compelling story either. And simply adding visuals won’t do the trick, as evident with the failure of Shamshera. Marketing also helps but only to a certain extent. To that end, there needs to be a combination of factors that truly make it a box office success.
But then again, it’s challenging to anticipate why and how a film becomes a raging success. It might have all the right ingredients but manage to become a box-office dud. And sometimes, the most nonsensical, deeply cringy films might enjoy the fruits of success. But that's alright too, as long as it brings people to the theatres.