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The Cup Is Half Full

The first half of 2018 has been a great antidote to a dismal 2017. And, it seems, it’s about to get even better

We are on the brink of wrapping the first half of 2018 and the Hindi film fraternity is heaving a huge sigh of relief because these first six months have proved to be one for the history books. The industry is still basking in the recent success stories that kept the box office ringing, even as it helps erase memories of a very dismal 2017.

Starting the first half with the mega period drama, Padmaavat, and ending with the phenomenal opening of Sanju, these six months have been very encouraging for the trade. Sandwiched between these two strong films, we had commercial successes like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Baaghi 2, Veere Di Wedding and Race 3, along with content-oriented stories like Pad Man, Hichki, Raid, October, Raazi and Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran putting in a splendid performance at the box office.

And why only Hindi films; Hollywood too has had a great showing at the ticket counter. While Avengers: Infinity War notched up record-breaking numbers in Indian markets, films like Black Panther, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the latest addition to this list, Incredibles 2, have left trade pundits stunned with the collections they are raking in.

And, remember, we are only half-way through 2018.

We have another six months to go, where we have a much richer mixed bag of films up for release. From real-life stories like Soorma and GOLD, to masala entertainers like Satyameva Jayate, Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se, Dhadak, Loveratri, Namaste England, Student Of The Year 2, Thugs Of Hindostan, Total Dhamaal, Zero and Simmba, we have it all in store. Other potential treasures like Fanney Khan, Karwaan, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Sui Dhaaga – Made In India and Kedarnath could also give the audience plenty lot to look forward to.

We chatted with some noted professionals from the Hindi film industry – producers, directors, writers and distributors – who shared their thoughts on the success of the first half of 2018, and based on that, what they expect from the second half of this year.

Bhushan Kumar, Chairperson and Managing Director, T-Series

It has been a phenomenal first half of the year for us. All our films, Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety, Raid and Blackmail belonged to different genres but have all performed exceptionally well with the audience and at the box office. We have always worked on the belief that a good entertaining film will always find its audience and perform to its potential.

We are happy with the strides T-Series has made in the first six months. Not just us but the industry saw phenomenal success in the first half. Films of different genres, heroic or non-heroic films, all worked and went on to gain more than Rs 100 crore at box office. Now the rest of the year will have more to offer to our audiences.

We are releasing several films under our banner; we have also acquired the music of several films that will work amazingly well among the audience, critics and the box office. I really hope the audience continues to accept and appreciate different genres and content-driven cinema. This will be like a game-changer era for Hindi cinema.

Sneha Rajani, Head – Sony Pictures Networks Production

I hope this trend continues because it is extremely important for all of us in the industry. We need to make great films and even more importantly, people should go and watch them. Looking at the line-up of films, I think it is going to be a fantastic second half. I think this trend of the last six months will continue for the next six too. We should all be very happy.

Jayantilal Gada, Producer-Distributor

This year shows all content-driven films doing well so far. Raking in `100 crore at the India box office is not all that hard for films any more. The market has grown and people are open to embracing new, offbeat content. I’m sure we will soon reach a point when a hit film will make `500 crore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that starts happening this year.

Nandu Ahuja, Senior VP, India Theatrical, Eros International

The audience today is exposed to some fabulous content across platforms and the first half of 2018 has seen the success of an interesting mix of cinema, with content gems across genres. We hope the second half of the year continues to draw in audiences with fresh and entertaining story plots.

After our highly appreciated Mukkabaaz earlier this year, we are looking forward to the release of the sequel Happy Phir Bhag Jayegi, a comedy of errors starring Sonakshi Sinha, Abhay Deol and Diana Penty, and hope to repeat the success of its predecessor. After successfully partnering on Mukkabaaz, we once again team up with Aanand L Rai and Anurag Kashyap for Manmarziyaan, an intense love story with Abhishek Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu and Vicky Kaushal in the lead.

Meghna Gulzar, Director

My outlook is very positive for the second half of the year. We are expecting some really good films. When something like this happens, it is so good for the industry and fraternity as a whole, because money is at a premium and it costs a lot to make these films. If a film does not do well, a hit is taken at various stages… producer, financer, studio, distributor, production house. So when a film performs well, you are just more confident of the next project.

Positivity begets positivity and, therefore on the whole, I think this year has been very good for the industry so far. Honestly, if I may be a bit old-school, I really don’t think digitisation is ever going to replace the experience of going to the theatre. It may cause a dent in it to a certain extent, but will never take its place.

Even last year, I don’t think the digital boom was the reason films did not do well. It is more likely that conceptually the films or trailers looked good but the films didn’t live up to expectations. The reason it is different this year is not because people learnt their lessons and did things differently but because a whole different set of filmmakers have come out with movies this year.

I have always believed that our audiences are far more evolved than we give them credit for. The idea of dumbing it down, explaining it to them, spoon-feeding them, is wrong. They want to be able to identify with a film and connect with it. A lot of the films that have succeeded, whether this year or last year, have been the kind that are, even though I don’t like the word, ‘intelligent’. That is what the trade would call it.

In earlier reviews, it used to be one of the weaknesses, ki yeh toh ‘intelligent’ film hai. That has now become a positive thing where the audience is concerned – and not only in urban sectors and metros. I will say this for Raazi as well, that apart from the fact that it had a universal emotion, patriotism, at its core, it had a lot else for the viewer to get involved and connect with. The smaller towns, the B and C centres, also patronised and supported the film and that’s part of the reason it’s still running, after seven weeks.

There are so many big, exciting films still to come this year, like Sanju, Zero, Thugs of Hindostan and Fanney Khan. There are smaller gems which I am looking forward to too, like Soorma and GOLD, which are films with a blend of sports and cinema, which is always exciting. And the more, the merrier, yaar.

Saiwyn Quadras, Writer

Last year was a very bad year for the industry. But, even though every month of 2018 has had a 100-crore hit, I would not consider it a benchmark. Good films have released this year and good films have worked. It seems like people are going back to theatres again. If there is a 100-crore movie every month, it means people are going to the cinema regularly. That is a good thing.

Indeed, content is also changing and good content is being appreciated. If on one hand, we had Padmaavat, on the other hand, we had movies like Raazi and Raid, which are high-content films. Hichki, 102 Not Out and my film Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran did not fetch 100 crore but they have been appreciated by the audience. Hichki and 102 Not Out ran for two to three weeks, and Parmanu is in its fifth week in theatres. People are appreciating good content and that’s’ a sign that they want something new.

In the next 6 months, we have some very, very interesting films which have already piqued the audience’s curiosity. We have Sanju, Thugs Of Hinduston, GOLD and Zero coming up. It is a great time. If the content is good, people will continue to watch it. It looks like a good time for the industry and it is a good time for slightly out-of-the-box content too.

Ritesh Shah, Writer

Before 2018 began, expectations were higher of the second half of the year vis-à-vis the first. With the exception of Padmaavat, I think Raid, Hichki, Veere Di Wedding and Raazi have all been dark horses that have done very well. Such results were not expected from these films. The second half, according to me, will be even better. Starting with Sanju, this will be a very good year for the movies.

Last year was not all that great. What went wrong in 2017 is that the audience was suddenly ready for a new kind of content but it was not delivered. The films that touched the 100-crore mark this year are all of completely different genres. They were like chalk and cheese. Raazi was very different from Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety. One film was about a woman spy, the other was about an income tax raid, and another about a guy ganging up on his friend’s fiancée. We have not seen films like these before. Look at Hichki, 102 Not Out and Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran… they are all very different from each other. All kinds of films have worked this year.

Rajat Arora, Writer

I hope the latter half of the year is as good as the first year, if not better and that all the films do well. Some great films are coming up in the second half of the year. I am really looking forward to Sanju a lot. Many other interesting films are also lined up. The best part about this year is that films of diverse genres have done well. Great concepts have worked at the box office. Comedy films like Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety and Veere Di Wedding, and serious films like Raazi and Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran have seen phenomenal success. What is different about 2018 are the different concepts. Diverse content has been the hallmark of this year. They have worked big time. One film cannot be compared to the other. Not one particular formula is working.

Sanjay Chauhan, Writer

In the latter half, Sanju is likely to do very well. I am expecting a lot from Dhadak too. The target audience of the film is very different. Karwaan looks like a very different type of film. It will be entertaining and will surprise us like Hindi Medium did. GOLD is another film to watch out for. Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se might also do well because it is a part of a hit franchise. It has a lot of Punjabi flavour. According to me, J P Dutta’s Paltan will be a surprise package. Sui Dhaaga looks very fresh and interesting. It is based in Chanderi in a lower middle class set-up. I am also expecting something big from Ajay Devgn’s next with Akiv Ali. He is choosing different kinds of scripts and is doing hard-hitting films.

Thugs Of Hinduston and Student Of The Year 2 are also something to look forward to. Indra Kumar’s Total Dhamaal promises to be an out-and-out family comedy. Then there is Zero. It has a deadly combination of Aanand L Rai, Shah Rukh Khan and Himanshu Sharma. I have very high expectations from that film.

The year will end fabulously with Rohit Shetty’s Simmba. I have seen the rough cut of Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3, and it looks great. It is a different type of genre that we have attempted. And Sanjay Dutt has come on board as a gangster. These are the films that will make the latter half good.

In 2018, content has met commerce. Even the big stars are now careful about the kind of film they want to do. If a film has a big star, it is always an advantage. But if they have good content, it is an added advantage. 

Remo D’Souza, Director-Producer

2018 has been a great year for all films at the box office. My expectations from the latter half of the year are high because a lot of good films are coming up. The second half looks very promising. I am really looking forward to films like Sanju, GOLD and Zero. It is the audience who decides which film should work and which film should not. Compared to 2017, audiences have been very open in terms of accepting and appreciating different flavours of films in 2018. It is a great time for the industry.

Siddharth P Malhotra, Director

I think the latter half of 2018 is only going to get better and bigger because the big-ticket films will release in the second half of the year. I think this will be the best year in a long time for the film industry, both box-office and content-wise. Filmmakers are waking up to content before jumping into a project. The larger community is first working on scripts before jumping into making films.

The line-up of films for the second half looks interesting. There are brilliant makers and minds behind those films. The actors in them are big too. Putting it all together, it is a perfect package for cinema goers to get their money’s worth.

2018 is proof for detractors that content is king and will always be king. With the advent of digital platforms, you will have to make the cinema-going experience worth people’s time and money. The same content is now available in six to eight weeks on Amazon or Netflix. As filmmakers, we will have to keep the audience’s attention now more than ever. Now they need to have a cinematic experience or else they can get the same content on television or they can turn to the digital space. It is each filmmaker’s responsibility to deliver that kind of experience.

As far as detractors go, they were effectively silenced in the first half of this year, which has proved that if you give the audience good or even decently half-baked good films, they will come and watch.

I am definitely looking forward to Thugs Of Hindustan. We will get to see Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan together in the same frame for the first time. That is one film I really, really want to watch.

Siddharth Anand Kumar, Vice-President, Films and Television, Saregama

Finally, the film industry is having a great year. With the growing focus on content-based films, I believe we will see increased box-office revenues. The audience has clearly spoken in favour of story and the fact that filmmakers are listening has translated into this year’s successes. I expect this trend to continue.

Tanuj Garg, Managing Partner, Ellipsis Entertainment

This is the age of concepts, and real, relatable, compelling and entertaining content is sure to find an audience. We’ve seen that this year, the success of multi-genre films of different shapes and sizes, ran on the strength of great word-of-mouth and despite some people waxing eloquent about the online media sounding the death knell of theatrical. The second half of the year looks just as exciting and promising with films like Zero, The Accidental Prime Minister, Simmba, Thugs of Hindostan, Gold, Andhadhun, Namaste England, Sui Dhaaga and many more.

Omung Kumar, Producer-Director

The fact that we are seeing windfalls at the box office is welcome news for all filmmakers. It means, first, that content is king. Second, producers will now be eager to invest in more films. And finally, it means that small-budget films can and will enter the `100 crore club more and more. I predict that in the second half too, good, content-based films will see a good response at the box office. Cinema-going is not dead. In fact, it seems to be growing. This puts the onus on filmmakers like me to make good cinema, because the audience wants to come out and watch quality films.

Milap Zaveri, Writer-Director

I am looking forward to the rest of 2018. It has been a fantastic year so far. Every month has seen one blockbuster film along with many other successful gems. It has been great to see all types of genres work so well – Baaghi 2, Padmaavat, Hichki, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid, Raazi and so many others. The trend of successes looks set to continue with this week’s release of Sanju.

Other movies like Fanney Khan and Soorma are due for release soon. Then, on August 15, our films Satyameva Jayate and GOLD will be out and I hope both of them do very well. The upcoming year will also see the releases of Thugs of Hindostan, Zero, Simmba and Total Dhamaal, all of which are big and exciting films. I am particularly looking forward to Thugs of Hindostan because it has Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan in it, and has been made on such a grand scale.

I think with this line-up, the second half of the year is going to be bigger than the first. This will prove to be one of the best years for the film industry and this makes me happy because last year there was talk of digital overtaking cinema, which I have always maintained will never happen. The entire experience of watching a film on the big screen as part of an audience is unparalleled. You cannot recreate that alone, at home, with your laptop or TV. I believe that cinema will always mean the big screen. As long as we make honest films, whatever the genre be, we will do well. All the films that have done well this year have been honest, true to their genre. And that has worked for audiences. I hope Satyameva Jayate continues this trend on August 15.

Sethumadhavan Napan, COO of DAR Media/DAR Motion Pictures

This has indeed been a very good year for Bollywood, so far, and indicators for the second half are also very positive. There are a lot of interesting films up for release, including Soorma, Dhadak, GOLD, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Thugs of Hindostan, Total Dhamaal, Zero, Simmba. Each of these films (and a few others) is unique in its own way and has the potential to be a box office winner. Hence we are looking forward to a very good second half in 2018 and hopefully the year on the whole will turn out to be an exceptionally wonderful one for Hindi cinema.

Arun Mehra, Distributor

This year was definitely better than last year, because last year we didn’t have these kinds of content-driven movies. Generally, January to June is a weak period and July to December is far better due to the many festivals. If this year’s January to June has been better than last year, hopefully the second half will be even better and the year 2018 will prove to be much better than 2017.

Towards the end of the year, movies with stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are set for release, and many other movies featuring good stars and good directors are coming out too. Of course, two biggies were released in the first half, because of an early Eid date. So let’s see if the upcoming films can sustain this kind of growth.

BH Basha, Distributor

There are a lot of big films releasing in the latter part of the year, like Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero, Aamir Khan’s Thugs of Hindostan, Akshay Kumar’s GOLD and Sanju. These are expected to do very well. The second half should be better than the first half. And 2018 already seems much better than 2017 was. With many good films, so many films with a lot of star value, this year will be a very good one for the industry.

Gaurav Ruparel, Distributor

The second half of every year is always good because there are so many festivals at that time. There is Independence Day, Diwali, Christmas. All the big-budget movies are made keeping these periods in mind, so the second half is always strong. This year, the first half has already been so good that the second half definitely seems set to be better. Aamir Khan’s Thugs of Hindostan is due out on Diwali, then Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero and Ranveer Singh’s Simmba at Christmas, and even before that there is Total Dhamaal with a huge star cast. Besides these, there are other films with good stories and strong content coming out, so there is a huge possibility that the second half will be better than the previous half.

Another aspect is marketing, which has improved a lot too. Films are being marketed more on social media, which is creating more buzz among youngsters. If you see the marketing style of all the `100-crore films this year, from the first promo itself people were talking about wanting to go and watch the film.

Sarang Chandak, Distributor

I think the first half of 2018 has been dull. All the movies that I think will do better are being released in the second half of the year. The first half was the weaker one; not a very good one for the industry. Except for Padmaavat and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, all the movies were actually not up to the mark. Baaghi 2 was a good movie and it has done good business. I think the second half will be the better one. I think Sanju will be a blockbuster and Thugs of Hindostan, which is releasing during Diwali, will be a blockbuster too. Zero will be a good movie and GOLD could do well, depending on the story.

Chitrangda Singh, Actor-Producer

I think the trend is all about making very viable projects and being very careful about one’s projects. There is a conscious effort and it is apparent everywhere. Business is very well-balanced and that is why we see very films being very successful this year.

Anjum Rizvi, Producer

I feel this year is meant to be good and the upcoming films too will rock and do good business. It will be good for the industry. For instance, Sanju’s director has a 100 per cent track record and expectations are high. It is definitely going to be a good film. The line-up after that too is very interesting. Filmmakers are now really focusing on good content and good scripts. Actors too have become very conscious about the films they choose. I am sure it’s ultimately going to benefit the people who are paying for the films. I am very optimistic about this year and I feel the second half is going to be as good as the first half.

Also, 2018 was much better than 2017 because the quality of films was much better this year, with diverse genres. Ultimately content is king, not a star, not any particular actor. The first half was packed with all sorts of genres, except Race 3 which was an out-and-out commercial movie with Salman Khan in it. Race 3 was not a content-driven film. All the other releases were content-rich, whether Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety or Veere Di Wedding. Even the upcoming films are strong in content. So, this is going to be a fabulous year for the industry, filled with so many content-driven films. 

Ajay Kapoor, Producer

I think it’s been a great year so far and there definitely seems to be upward mobility. The line-up in the second half includes various genres and all the releases have massive potential. This could be one of the most profitable years at the movies so far.

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