Can The Khans Do It?
Although the year has thus far only brought a string of flops, the industry is relying heavily on the magic of the three big and one not-so-big Khans to pull it out of the dire straits it is finding itself in. The disastrous box office response to Aamir Khan’s Dhobi Ghat, Akshay Kumar’s yet another dud, Patiala House, Vishal Bhardwaj’s much-touted 7 Khoon Maaf, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil to Bachcha Hai Ji (with last year’s dark horse, Ajay Devgun)—amongst others—has failed to inspire audience faith in the fare that has been on offer. Govinda’s long in the making Naughty @ 40 failed to generate the laugh riot that has generally been associated with the actor.
Add to this the Indian obsession with cricket, especially first the World Cup which took up the whole of February and March, and then the IPL have been majorly affecting box office collections. But then it is wrong to totally blame cricket mania. What about the content of the films itself? Devoid of any gripping narrative and over-dependence on gags, the films have been lacking in appeal. Let’s also examine the post-World Cup scenario. On offer are Basu Bhagnani’s F.A.L.T.U with son in the lead; Game (Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut), Thank You (Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol); Dum Maro Dum (Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu); Shor—In the City; Ragini MMS (a horror flick with Kangana Ranaut), Ready (Salman-Asin) and Ata Pata Lapata. Mention of Ready brings to mind the four reigning Khans: Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir and Saif.
Many in the industry feel that with over Rs 2,000 crores at stake, it could turn out to be a year of metamorphosis. And out of this an estimated Rs 450 crore ride on the four alone. Second half of the year will see the return of Shah Rukh with home production Ra.One with Kareena Kapoor as his heroine and Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2 co-starring Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta (which will finally find him caught and behind bars with a weird look); the resurgent Salman after the tremendous success of Dabangg, with Anees Bazmee’s Ready in which Asin is his heroine, and the Siddique-directed My Love Story (a remake of the Malayalam-hit, Bodyguard) co-starring Kareena Kapoor; Aamir’s yet untitled Reema Kagti-directed suspense-thriller in which he essays the role of a tough cop is also with Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee and; Saif’s home production Agent Vinod again co-starring Kareena. So it will also be a year of this diva.
Kareena Kapoor is leading the pack amongst the heroines together with Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra (despite the disaster of 7 Khoon Maaf in which she couldn’t do much in terms of variety), Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and the fast catching up Anushka Sharma (especially after the success of Band Baaja Baraat). Others like Bipasha Basu are working towards hanging in the towel, the romantic break-up with live-in John Abraham further aggravating bad luck. But the question that also crops up: where is Abraham’s career heading? After an impressive show in No One Killed Jessica, Rani Mukherjee is again getting back into reckoning, especially since she also has a film with the winner Khan, Aamir.
Amongst the other heroes, Shahid Kapoor is featuring with Sonam in his father’s directorial debut, Mausam; Ranbir Kapoor has Imtiaz Ali’s Rock Star with grand uncle Shammi doing a cameo; Hrithik Roshan-Katrina Kaif starrer Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara; Imran Khan dates Kareena in Short Term Shadi. On watch with both the public and the film industry will be Prateek Babbar after another impressive performance in Dhobi Ghat (particularly in Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan). The last word having been written about the inevitable fall of Akshay Kumar, the makers of his forthcoming starrers (Joker) must be ruing their lucks, and praying for a miracle. Ajay Devgun, amongst the other stars, who performed well at the box office last year, must also be hoping for continued blessings of lady luck this year as well.
Almost one quarter of the industry’s total budget for the year is loaded on the four Khans, and of this one third weighs on Shah Rukh’s shoulders alone. But the problem is for their major productions they have all shed considerable weight: Aamir: 15; Shah Rukh: 20 for the sci-fi home production; Salman: 10 and; Saif 12 kilos—again for his home production. Also, interestingly, all four—in one way or the other—have crime as the essential story portent. And it needs to be seen how in this time of slapsticks, romantic-comedies and mindless unconnected situations intended to become laugh riots these taut scripts fare at the box office.
In 2010 Salman’s last release Dabangg created box office history netting over 140 crore, thus becoming the second-highest grosser in Hindi cinema and cornering most popular awards at various forums; Aamir’s Dhobi Ghat, made at an estimated cost of Rs 11 crore only turned turtle, and failed to recover the investment though the producers made profits on reputation; Saif’s Kurbaan, despite the Karan Johar-Dharma Production banner, flopped miserably doing an overall business of less than 30 crore and; Shah Rukh’s sole starrer My Name is Khan failed to generate any enthusiasm in the domestic market though it is believed to be the highest overseas Bollywood grosser (Rs 90 crore). It had been a joint production of Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, and Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions.
Not unusually the first quarter of 2011 has generally brought a gloom. Not a single new film has had a promising opening. No One Killed Jessica, Dil to Bachcha Hai Ji, Tanu Weds Manu, 7 Khoon Maaf, Patiala House, Yeh Saali Zindagi—all came with a lot of hype but only for a turtle back from where they came. So the question everyone in Bollywood’s asking: Can the Khans do it?
By Suresh Kohli