In the risky and unpredictable business of filmmaking, people are always searching for ‘safe’ formulas and dependable ingredients that increase the chances of their films’ success. Well, there is nothing that can guarantee success when it comes to films but since I have been asked to pick one genre that is most bankable for this column, I will go with action – both as a film genre as also a must-have in a leading man’s abilities.
I occasionally hear about how people have written books and done a PhD thesis on how our Hindi films reflect the social and emotional mood of the nation and how the predominance of action films reflects an anti-establishment anger in our nation. Well, I have no clue how accurate and relevant these studies are. But I do know, and box office collections prove, that more than anything else, it is action that our audience prefers.
Perhaps things were different earlier. Looking back, legendary actors of our industry such as Dilip Kumar saab, Raj Kapoor saab, Dev Anand saab, Shammi Kapoor saab and Rajendra Kumar saab ruled from the ’40s to the ’60s without action being their main USP.
However, if you look at the history of our cinema from the ’70s onwards, action films have been at the forefront thanks to stalwarts such as Amitji and Dharamji. The genre has dominated the list of blockbusters of the last four decades or so. From time to time, you may have short spells where say, romantic films may have been the flavour of the season, but if you see the overall trend, action is by far the most successful genre followed perhaps by comedy. And that is true even if you see the films that have worked at the box office this year.
And even when it comes to comedy, and I have acted in a fair number of them, you will see that comic films like the three Golmaals or Bol Bachchan also have a fair amount of action to make them a complete package. Similarly, my next release Son Of Sardaar also has a nice mix of humour and action because that is what the large majority of our film going audience prefers.
I started out as an action hero with Phool Aur Kaante and over the years I have constantly tried to expand my range as an actor with films of varied genres such as Zakhm, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Company, Gangaajal, Bhoot, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh, Omkara, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, the Golmaal series, All The Best, Bol Bachchan and more.
However, in doing so, I have never lost sight of the fact that the Indian audience expects their heroes to be able to fight. The Indian hero should know how to use his fists and be able to single-handedly take on an army of armed villains. Only then will the audience accept you as a hero, and not just a male actor. I think Singham is a good example of what audiences expect from a hero, and I guess the film’s collection speaks for itself.
Having said that, for a film to work,everything needs to come together – the action has to be supported by a great script, performances, direction and lots more. Inserting mindless action without any context doesn’t guarantee success. Similarly, there is no reason why a well made love story or a suspense thriller or a horror film will necessarily not work at the box office.
However, as I said before, if I have to pick one genre that is most bankable then it would be action. And no, I am not biased because my father has been a leading action director for so many years!