The Dirty Dozen Major Bollywood Letdowns Of 2011
It is not unusual for Bollywood to churn out box office duds. On an average out of 120-odd new releases 100 are box office disasters, and, perhaps, an equal number turn out to be gold mines for the producers. But that is not necessarily the criterion by which the good, bad and ugly are judged. There are always some that arouse both interest and curiosity for a variety of reasons. The audience expectations soar because of the hype created and fire generated during production. Take, for instance, Shah Rukh Khan’s home production Ra. One that had been in the making for almost three years, touted as a 150-crore sci-fi that turned out to be one of the biggest letdowns of not only 2011 but of 100 years of Indian cinema as well. The same can be said about one of the biggest hits of the year, arch-rival Salman Khan’s Bodyguard or Ready for that matter which again had been a money spinner.
Let’s look back at alphabetically. The roll call begins with Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan (‘Reservation’). A powerhouse performance by the indomitable Amitabh Bachchan, ably supported by the much under-rated Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, the reliable Manoj Bajpeyi, and newcomer Prateik Babbar. Clearly the director went overboard trying to tackle too many socio-political issues and in the process making it look, like in the yore, one man’s fight against not only the corrupt and manipulative system but also vindication of his personal beliefs. Also the many others related issues get marginalised and watered down, making the whole narrative too melodramatic. It made money for the producer.
In complete contrast was the other Bachchan-starrer Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap. Puri Jagannath’s valiant misdirected effort at recreating the angry young man of the 1970s when the star had been the undisputed Bollywood czar who will eventually be credited or discredited for changing the very parameters of film making in India. Sporting outlandish dresses, colourful accessories Bachchan looks more like a buffoon than the ex-gangster he plays in the film. Sad, he accepted the role. But at this stage in his career neither rejection nor applause is irrelevant though like any other performer accolades are always welcome. Net result: Flop.
Salman Khan really rocked with job when the story-less, directionless situational flick, Bodyguard, literally romped all over the box office like a bulldozer. A completely contrived plot, some comic interludes, randomly placed songs, fisticuff and action. One critic amply summed it as: “If you value the mop on your scalp and the grey cells in your head and want guard yourself against this potentially mind-numbing body blow, give it a miss. Better be safe than sorry!” Another one dismissed it saying “for more parts, it is a sappy romantic pap.” But the film went on become the biggest grosser of the year. Ask yourself why?
In many ways, it is good he is no more to make what many of even his admirers that had begun to call ‘senile cinema’, Dev Anand’s Chargesheet instead of becoming his swansong came and went without a whimper despite an ensemble cast. The story ostensibly revolved around the murder of a female actor. If the inspiration had been the death of actor Divya Bharti some years ago, the Bollywood-underworld bonding, if any, resurfaces in the narrative with Naseerudin Shah essaying the Dubai don and Jackie Shroff cast in the role of a film director. Needless, Anand hogs the limelight as the former cop, Gambhir Singh—a role in which he repeatedly cast himself in his later box office duds.
Known for his class movies, Madhur Bhandarkar slipped badly with Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji trying to roll possibly three different kinds of relationships and break-ups, and reunions into a single unit. All from the male perspective. Though Bhandarkar tries to infuse some pertinent issues, the dogged shifting narrative, which was expected to reach and explore a new dimension when the three protagonists land in Goa, vowing never to get into relationships again.
Aamir Khan Productions’ Dhobi Ghat directed by present wife Kiran Rao cannot unfortunately be dubbed even middle-of-the road cinema starring Aamir Khan himself, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogra, Kriti Malhotra. It was dubbed ‘pretentious’, indulgent, ponderous-paced storytelling—even though seemingly telling the story of Mumbai city common folk like, as the title suggests, dhobis, domestic help, vegetable hawker without even making any attempt to explore their lives. Instead you have a reclusive painter, photo artist, a struggler in films. Looking at its lost cost, it did wonderfully well at the box office collecting Rs 14 crore alone from the domestic market.
One was unable to figure out what Double Dhamaal was all about and what an otherwise talented director wanted to say or do. If this is someone’s idea of a sitcom, he surely needs to visit his psychiatrist. A mindless con game or a double con to justify the title is the story with four buffoons trying to rob an old enemy. It could even be described as a ‘runners’ story’ with plenty of sex and dance and bad music. The narrative resulted in audience rushing to the near-by pharmacist for a headache tablet instead of fun they had been seeking. It did average business.
Pankaj Kapoor is known for his intense performances whether performing a comic role, or one with a deadpan face. Much was expected from his debut film, Mausam shot with son Shahid and Sonam Kapoor jostling from a rollicking Punjab village to the cool surrounds of Scotland, in the process failing miserably narrating a yarn that was speculated to be a timeless love story of separation and reunion. Unfortunately, like many other debut directors who themselves nursed the story idea, Pankaj invested his script with far too many ideas—swiftly moving from communal riots, terrorist attacks, aero flying but at a ponderous pace.
Rascals was as worn-out a narrative, complete with old gags and situations, as director David Dhawan himself. He has clearly run of steam, only trying to repeat himself while seemingly attempting sitcoms that worked for him two decades earlier. Chetan and Bhagat, friends-turned-foes, constantly play the one-upmanship game with one another, getting into different get-ups , mouthing meaningless innuendos, eventually getting conned themselves by Anthony and party. The film won two nominations for Bollywood Choice Ballot Awards, Worst Actor and Worst Film for Devgun. It is a mystery why the director was spared. Predictably, it couldn’t even cover the cost.
Ra.One—What can one say about Shah Rukh Khan’s dream misadventure? King Khan’s super hero’s nose-dive into the box office bottomless pitch because of a confused, jumbled up screenplay. Though it is reported to have done business of Rs 250 crore, it was a shocking disappointment.
Saat Khoon Maaf, based on Ruskin Bond’s Sussana’s Seven Husbands, this ambitious Vishal Bharadwaj misfired totally. Jealousy, self-esteem, sado-masochism, adultery, comrade-in-crime, cheating are the six weaknesses that govern Sussana’s six of the seven husbands. Despite a brilliant award-winning performance by Priyanka Chopra, ably supported by John Abraham, Naseerudin Shah, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan, Annu Kapoor, the film failed at the hustings.
And last, but not the least wee bit better, Thank You from Anees Bazmee’s stable. Yet another rom-com that fails to take off, deploying once again his favourite take on adultery. Akshay Kumar’s bad run at the box office did not help its performance either. Bobby Deol and Sonam Kapoor adding to the director’s discomfort by non-performing, though the narrative itself is flawed.
By Suresh Kohli