This is not a secret- Bollywood is going through a bad phase like never before. Big budget period films, action-thrillers, social comedies, no genre is finding takers in cinemas. No actor can now boast of blindly drawing viewers to the theatres. The industry is now waiting with bated breath for two big releases this week- Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan. But there is a lingering sense of doom, despite it being a festive season. How did Bollywood get here? Who is to be blamed?
Over the past few months, the fate of Hindi cinema has been under scrutiny every time a much-talked-about film tanked at the box office. Be it Tiger Shroff’s Heropanti 2, Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj or Radhe Shyam featuring Prabhas and Jersey, led by Shahid Kapoor, big names, ambitious scale, grand vision, nothing impressed viewers. Even the lure of seeing Ranbir Kapoor on the silver screen after a hiatus of four years failed to boost ticket sales of Shamshera. One thing common in all these highly-anticipated flops is that they were led by male actors who had ruled the box office in the past. However, there have also been claims that women-led films are also performing poorly.
During a recent interaction actor Vidya Balan, pointed out how the performance of women-led films is being scrutinised unfairly. “The pandemic has become an easy excuse for people to say that now female-led films will not work in the theatres, because basically, our industry is going through some kind of flux where a lot of our films are bombing, terribly. And they are your so-called, male hero-led films. But who takes the beating is the female-led films.” Balan then observed how Gangubai Kathiawadi, one of 2022 biggest hits, was spearheaded by a woman actor (Alia Bhatt).
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According to Balan, even her ‘worst flops have made more money’, in terms of ratios and return-on-investments, than some of the major bombs of this year as the economics of female-led films is different, because they cost much less.
Bollywood Flops 2022: Who is to be blamed?
The argument makes a lot of sense and makes us wonder, are women-centric films being written off unfairly? Is the Hindi film industry showing too much faith in the fading star power of male actors, thus setting itself up for more failures?
While the argument Balan makes in favour of women-centric films is absolutely spot on, why big budget Hindi films led by men are not working isn’t all about fading male star power in Bollywood. Male centric films still work. People want seetimaar dialogues, a macho hero who protects dignity of his lady love and a bashes up bad guys. Success of southern massy entertainers like Vikram, Pushpa: The Rise and RRR proves that male star power is not extinct. So perhaps Bollywood’s error boils down to this- the industry is churning out substandard films and expecting them to run purely based on men who lead them.
Films that have worked at the box office so far have all been praised by viewers for their entertainment quotient and this holds to true for regional films too. So while a Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 brought footfall to cinemas, regional releases like Beast and Sarkaru Vaari Paata, didn’t impress the viewers despite the star power they boasted of. The reason being they failed to meet expectations of viewers and didn’t seem to give them their money’s worth. Also, most films on daring subjects are directly heading to OTT, because producers have lost confidence and do not want to take chances with films that they think will not be liked by the masses. Curiously, a lot of these films, like Gehraiyaan, Jalsa and Darlings are led by women.
Thus, taking the conversation started by Vidya Balan ahead, perhaps Bollywood needs to focus more on content and story rather than who is leading the film. In the longer run, this would end the industry’s dependence of select few stars and help it ride over bad bouts like the one it is currently experiencing.
Views expressed are the author’s own.