What comprises a Bollywood boycott trend these days? An actor’s opinion about the country’s situation, an insensitive remark during an old interview? A movie scene shared without any context on social media? The trend has been gaining pace over the last few years, seeking a complete audience withdrawal from the Hindi film industry. With the recent boycott campaign against Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha and its subsequent commercial failure, speculations arose that this trend could adversely affect box collections of upcoming films. However, it took Ayan Mukherji’s Brahmastra to break the box office lull and the shackles of the boycott trend.
Vijay Deverakonda, who made his Hindi film debut with Liger, recently hit back at the boycott trend and said, “Shouldn’t we work? We have worked hard for three years to make this cinema. Shouldn’t we release our movies? Should we sit in homes?”
However, is a Twitter boycott campaign enough to lessen the commercial prospects of a film? Or is it just a façade, a distraction plummeting some actual problems to the ground?
Does Brahmastra success signal an end to the Boycott trend?
From the moment it was announced, everyone knew Brahmastra is a big-budget film. Billed as a fantasy action-adventure trilogy, the first part is laden with spectacles of visual effects (VFX) at regular intervals. There is a giant song-and-dance routine. There is love, light, and fire (literally)! There is also an archer who fires arrows that turn into snakes! And to top it off, Shah Rukh Khan makes a cameo as a Vanarastra! It’s a relentless barrage of sparkle and shine, which hopes to blind you to the flimsy plot. But does it work?
The ringing box office registers tell us – it did. Made on an budget of Rs 400 crore, the film has minted Rs 225 crore worldwide box office collections since its release on September 9.
The success of Brahmastra proves many things, particularly the ineffectuality of the boycott culture. You can’t kill the audiences’ enthusiasm, for one cannot stop cinema lovers from watching their favorite stars on big screens. Another film which bulldozed the boycott calls to emerge a success was this year’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, headlined by Alia Bhatt, who too was heavily attacked for her film family roots. What saved these films? Perhaps the inventive content.
Brahmastra taps into the mythological fantasy genre which is universally inhabited by young movie watchers. Despite criticism around its plotline, the film stayed true to its art form and took a risk of venturing into creation of an Indian science fiction film.
Critics have attributed the failure of several big-budget films this year, like Shamshera, Prithviraj Chauhan, Laal Singh Chaddha and Rakshabandhan to lacklustre stories that has nothing new to offer. Meanwhile, films that are opting for direct digital releases, like Darlings and Gehraiyaan, are being applauded for trying out new themes. A few films which underperformed at the box office have garnered more viewership and praise after being released on OTT, such as Badhaai Do, Jhund, and Jersey, proving to some extent that Hindi movies’ viewers prefer watching good content but probably at their convenience.
Perhaps the boycott culture is just a passing phase, a nuisance to create negative publicity. An agenda driven initiative that makes more noise than real impact, generating an online negative sentiment around Bollywood which may not necessarily mirror people’s feelings for the industry offline. A boycott campaign cannot cause a film to flop. It can have an effect, but it doesn’t. It definitely won’t stop viewers from flocking to cinema halls, cheering for their stars, humming to their songs and rejoicing at the win of their hero.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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