There are good years, bad years, mediocre years… and then you have absolutely topsy-turvy years like the one we just witnessed!
A year in which some pretty heavy artillery misfired while some unheralded underdogs punched way above their weight. A year that showed us that sequels don’t necessarily equal more and cautioned us that franchises are remunerative assets only if constantly nurtured and bettered.
A year which saw Hindi films often playing second – or even third – fiddle to not only what Hollywood but also other Indian language industries had to offer. A year where run-ins with the Censors or hype around box-office clashes or the nationalities of film crews occupied a lot of space in the broadcast and social media, even if the same couldn’t be said for seats at cinema halls.
In sum, 2016 was a year when our business, maddeningly unpredictable though it has always been, entered some sort of twilight zone in which there were just no guarantees – a biopic on an Indian cricket captain could be a massive hit… and it could also sink without a trace; superstars could step out of their comfort zone and be rewarded… and also be denied; the next generation of stars could deliver… and also flatter to deceive. And, of course, not all curve balls came from the fickle audiences – you could find the chances of survival of your film vanish during the course of certain Prime Ministerial announcements!
As we say goodbye (and perhaps, good riddance!) to a very significant year, here’s our pick of ten milestone films from the last 12 months. They are not necessarily the Top 10 films of the year by collections or footfalls or critical acclaim, but rather, a cross-section that epitomises the year that was. Here they are, in order of their release:
Airlift – For giving us advance notice that this was going to be Akshay Kumar’s year at the box office. The film went on to cross the Rs 100-crore mark at the domestic box office, as did his subsequent releases, Housefull 3 and Rustom, thereby ensuring that Virat Kohli wasn’t the only Indian superstar consistently scoring centuries this year!
Neerja – For reassuring us that for all the devastating shocks that the box office metes out with depressing regularity, it can pleasantly surprise us too, especially when the quality of the content transcends the trade’s preconceived notions about the commercial value of the project.
Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921) – For offering us an exciting glimpse of where Hindi cinema is headed – an upgrade that holds on to the legacy that makes it work; a blend in which exciting new stars can combine seamlessly with veteran performers, and the most basic genre of them all – the family drama – can be recast as a hugely entertaining and insightful slice of our times.
The Jungle Book – For underlining just how far Hollywood has travelled from wallowing in a niche to planting itself in the absolute mainstream of the Indian box office, especially when the content and the marketing communication are intelligently localised.
Sairat – For marking a quantum leap for Marathi cinema with outstanding domestic collections of around Rs 80 crore that many A-list Hindi projects would envy. The fact that it managed to do so with a virtually unknown cast and a pretty limited catchment area should be heartening news for not only Marathi cinema but also other regional industries.
Sultan – For injecting some measure of certainty in a tumultuous year: yes, many things have changed but what hasn’t, is the box office jackpot that is struck when a Salman Khan film releases on Eid! And also for reiterating the one clear trend emerging from the befuddling last few years – the only hit jodi in our industry is the combination of star power and quality content.
Udta Punjab – For temporarily supplanting corruption, poverty and terrorism as the most pressing concern of the nation before the Bombay High Court stepped in to restore some sanity and ensure that the film released relatively unscathed.
Pink – For reminding us that cinema can enlighten even as it entertains, and sensitise without sensationalising. And that even in its fifth decade of lighting up our screens, the credit ‘Starring Amitabh Bachchan’ can still translate into box-office gold.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story – For pulling off a remarkable act of mass hypnosis wherein despite the life story unfolding on the screen being so well-known, and every gesture of its iconic protagonist being imprinted on the audience’s consciousness, the film still managed to engross, enthrall and inspire.
Dangal – For being the desperately needed ‘Happy Ending’ to a year that often seemed like a Kafkaesque tragedy. And, not surprisingly, it was a certain Mr Aamir Khan who pulled off the ultimate conjuring act with his sheer conviction, courage and content. If earlier he had made seemingly unattainable milestones like Rs 100/200/250/300 crore disappear, this time he made admission money magically appear in a cash-starved nation! And so it is that at a time when basic purchases are being postponed, this film is galloping towards becoming the highest grossing Hindi film of all time…ensuring that 2016 at least ends on a ‘topsy’ note even though it so often felt ‘turvy’!
Here’s looking forward to a lot more magic (and a lot less mayhem!) at the movies in 2017… and here’s wishing all of you lovely people a very Happy New Year from all of us at Box Office India!