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Half Yearly Toast

Every year the success and failure of Hindi films shows us how the industry is faring in terms of entertaining and engaging the audience. The first half of this year too has taught filmmakers and people in the business of making movies something new.

Starting with the blockbuster URI: The Surgical Strike in January, 2019 was predicted to be a strong year in terms of content. The Vicky Kaushal starrer was followed by Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: Queen Of Jhansi in the same month, which also garnered a positive response. February had two `100 crore hits, with Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt’s Gully Boy and the multi-starrer Total Dhamaal. The beginning of March brought in films like Luka Chuppi and Badla, followed by Akshay Kumar’s Kesari, which again entertained the audience and made merry at the ticket counters. Smaller films like The Tashkent Files also performed strongly at the box office. Then there  was Ajay Devgn’s De De Pyaar De, the Hollywood film Avengers: Endgame and many others, followed  by Salman KhanBharat, Shahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Article 15,  which managed to bring the six-month term of 2019 to a profitable end.

We did have some disappointments like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Kalank, Sonchiriya , Why Cheat India, RAW and India’s Most Wanted. But even with those, the first half of 2019 can be termed as a successful period, with over `1,600 crores being collected from all the releases.

And this is just the first six months that we are talking about. The next year has some interesting films in store, like Judgementall Hai Kya, Batla House, Saaho, Mission Mangal, Marjaavaan, Saand Ki Aankh, Housefull 4, Bala, Pagalpanti, Panipat, Dabangg 3 and Good News, along with smaller gems that are bound to surprise the audience

As we enter the second half of 2019, we talk to some noted filmmakers from the industry and ask them for their opinion on how the first half of the year has been and what films they are looking forward to.

Bhushan Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, T-Series

The first six months have been amazing and exceptionally good for the industry in 2019 and I have a hunch that the next six months are going to be equally good. The audience has showered love on films that have managed to entertain, films that have managed to tell a good story convincingly and engagingly. Earlier people would postulate that only action films are working,  or only love stories are working, etc. If you have a cursory look at the films that have done good business in the first half of 2019, you will realise that all kinds of films across genres have been successful.

Films such as URI: The Surgical Strike, Gully Boy, Luka Chuppi, Total Dhamaal have found acceptance with the ticket paying audience. Similarlyour own films such as De De Pyaar De, Bharat and now Kabir Singh have received a thumbs up from the audience. Viewers are willing to spend their money and come to cinema halls if you give them good content that will grab their attention. Our recent film Kabir Singh has surpassed all expectations at the box office.

I am optimistic that the remaining six months will give the industry more reasons to rejoice, because the film fraternity as a whole has awakened to the power of good content. In the coming months, we will offer the audience a wide variety and range of content. Our slate of films such as Arjun Patiala, Khandaani Shafakhana, Batla House, Saaho, Jhund, Marjaavaan and Pagalpanti will bring smiles to all.

Indra Kumar, Director

I am very happy about how the first half of 2019 has gone for the industry, especially when your film is among the top grossers of the year. I am really thankful to God for that. The thing is, times are changing and good cinema always works, be it a big film or a small film. Films like URI: The Surgical Strike, Total Dhamaal and Gully Boy have worked so amazingly. For that matter, a comparatively small budget film like Luka Chuppi also did well at the box office. My film was a complete family entertainer, which you dont get to see much in these times. Most of the films today are for a specific target audience. I am the one who aims at the family. No matter if it was a film for a family audience or for any target audience, we all have achieved good numbers. Basically, it is a very good thing that a different kind of cinema is appreciated and audiences have really become open to experiments now. All the fear factors have gone with this. This is a great time to be in the industry. Look at Kabir Singh and how it is working at the box office - hats off to the director and the actor for that!

I pray that the next six months are more amazing than the ones that have already passed. 

Anees Bazmee, Writer-Director

2019 has been really great so far. On one hand films like Kabir Singh, URI: The Surgical Strike, Badla have done amazingly well, while on the other, films like Total Dhamaal and Luka Chuppi  have entertained the audiences and did outstanding numbers at the box office too. The audience is well aware and they know what to look for in a particular film. I hope the trend of identification of good cinema continues and we are able to entertain audiences. In the end, that is what matters most.

Sujoy Ghosh, Director

In the coming year, I am looking forward to every film now. And that is because the best thing that the first half has done is shown us something extremely different. The first six months of this year have been the most unpredictable. It has shattered many theories, many myths and the gyaan that people like to dole out. Basically, according to me, what the first half has proven is that nobody knows anything about films. You just cannot predict anything. All this while people used to be likeI know or you know or he knows or she knows, but yeh sab bakwaas hai. This is something that I have always maintained, that there is no formula to filmmaking or success. At the end of the day, it is the audience who decides, and if they like something, then they do, and vice-versa. The unpredictability of the first half is something that I loved. We make a film and then it is upon the audience to give the verdict. As simple as that! Nothing else matters but the film. That is what I feel. My biggest happiness is that nobody can say that ‘this is how you do something’ or explain how to do that. None of that matters any more. If you see the films that have worked, from URI to Kabir Singh to Manikarnika to Luka Chuppi and the others, they have all been very different. The remakes are also working - my film Badla was a remake and so is Kabir Singh. If you make anything good, the audience is willing to lap it up.

Vivek Agnihotri, Director

For m  it was fantastic. For the industry, at the end of every year I feel we will have some films that are big hits and some that are disappointing. But some films this year made me think twice about what kinds of films are going to work in the future. The greatest examples are The Tashkent FilesKalank and Kabir Singh. Why? Because Kalank had every element of a film that attracts an audience - good director, big producers, best of the screens, five-day weekend... and not only that - they are experts in these kinds of films. It was also such a heavily advertised film, because I remember my film was also released at that time and my marketing team told me that there is no point in doing any publicity right now because we think that it will get overshadowed by Kalank. But Kalank didnt work at all. For Kabir Singh, everybody had written off this film and said it won’t work, but it worked...and how! My film, The Tashkent Files, was boycotted by the critics. We had so many films that came and went, be it Kalank, Avengers: Endgame, Student Of The Year 2, De De Pyaar De and Bharat, but The Tashkent Files kept running. That means the audience doesn’t care about the marketing of the old kind. Same happened with Kabir Singh. Everybody from the industry had written off Kabir Singh, but look at the way it is working!

What is happening is that people are getting exposed to a lot of things through social media, through digital, so now they are looking for different kinds of concepts. In the case of my film, I think it worked simply because people expected nothing from us,  and most didn’t even know that such a film was even coming. Today is the 87th day and our film is still running.

About the second half of 2019, I seriously have no idea what really great films are coming, but I have a feeling that now, since the elections and cricket are over,  for a month there will be a little lull and towards Diwali, the market will pick up. I hope there are some good films that will come towards the end of the year.

Sunir Kheterpal, CEO, Azure Entertainment

The first half of 2019 has turned out to be the utopian marketplace that producers have envisioned for a long time. Continuing the trend that started in 2018, this year is turning out to be the year where popular content came into being and showed all stakeholders its power at the box office. Popular not only with respect to stars and genres; popular also implying the trend when consumers flock to cinemas aided by positive word of mouth around a film, thus amplifying the momentum created by a good, entertaining story. It did not matter who the lead actor was. The only thing that mattered was how much the audience liked a film and how much they went out and spoke to others about it - through social media or otherwise. As a result, unimaginable box office grosses were created by films like URI, Kabir Singh, Luka Chuppi and our own Badla and Kesari. The coming months are promising and the general motto is going to be that the audience is king and they will come in unheard of numbers as long as the films are working for them, irrespective of the size of the budget, scale of the film, stature of the stars and genre of the film. The other thing that will drive numbers will be the ever-growing incidence of the audience’s word of mouth. I also think that marketing and promotion of films will undergo a change in the activity mix. There will be fewer city visits and TV promotions and more of a presence in digital media. Big films will become bigger at the risk of under-performing if content does not work irrespective of stars, but the biggest returns will come from smaller and medium budget films, as long as they deliver on story and the audience’s emotional and entertainment quotient.

Shariq Patel, CEO, Zee Studios

Smaller films, high on concept, continue to do well at the box office. Strong content with gripping, edgy and entertaining storylines backed by power-packed performances have been applauded by the audiences this year so far, like our own The Tashkent Files (that continues to run in theatres for over 75 days now), Badla and Luka Chuppi, among others.

Another significant trend that we have seen is that films with nationalism at their core have also performed exceedingly well at the box office. Films like URI, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and Kesari have surpassed expectations. Two of these were our marquee films that marched strongly at the box officeManikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi had the widest release (3, 000 screens in India and 700 overseas) for a female-led film, also beating records of the highest single day collection by any solo female-led Hindi film at `18.10 crores (first Saturday). On the other hand, Kesari became Akshay Kumar’s highest grossing film till date. Definitely, this is an important year to realise that the story and the content are what really works, followed by the star cast.

We have an exciting content line-up for the second half of the year as well, with a varied portfolio of films across genres and languages (Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi), including Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, Sunny Deol’s directorial, among others...announcements will follow soon!

A fantastic line-up of movies is expected in the latter half of the year, and we look forward to and expect another rocking year at the cinemas!

Milap Milan Zaveri, Writer-Director

I think it has been a fabulous first half. According to me it has been one of the best first halves in our industry since a long time. We have had huge blockbusters, unexpected superhit films like URI and Kabir Singh. We have had other huge hits like Simmba because I want to include that in 2019 as it released late last year. Then there are films like Total Dhamaal, Gully Boy, Luka Chuppi, De De Pyaar De, Bharat and now there is Kabir Singh and Article 15. So many films that have done so well and it is really amazing because different genres have done well. Every kind of film from a masala movie to a thriller to an intelligent film to a comedy to a rom-com, everything has done well. And I am most happy that the biggest myth that people had that digital affects the footfalls of audience in theatres has now been put to rest. It has been completely blown away. There is a great second half ahead of us, starting with Super 30, Jabariya Jodi, JudgeMentall Hai Kya, Batla House on August 15, Saaho, our film Marjaavaan along with the Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff YRF film on October 2, Housefull 4 dring Diwali, Pagalpanti in November and then later during Christmas there is Dabangg 3. There are so many potentially big films coming in this latter half and I have lots of hopes that this second half will be as good as if not better than the first half. 2019 will be a landmark year for the industry.

Shaailesh R Singh, Producer

The first six months of 2019 has been great. We’ve seen some big disappointments with Student Of The Year 2 and Kalank. January was fantastic. February was good and so was March. April was a little disappointing,  but May picked up well. Recently we saw some big hits with De De Pyaar DeKabir Singh and Article 15. So this has been a fantastic first half. Now it has become very important that we focus on the story and content more than anything, which is a very good thing. If you have a star in a film, that’s great, but you have to have a story first. Stars definitely have the power to bring more people to the theatres. And if you support them with good content, then that will be great. Shahid (Kapoor) has always been a star. The only thing was that he didn’t have was a great script backing him. Kabir Singh is about to cross `200-250 crore. Ayushmann (Khurrana) has always been known for being part of great scripts and ideas. Things have changed in the last one or one-and-a-half years, because we have access to Netflix and Amazon and so we’re watching a lot of international content. We’ve begun consuming different kinds of stories, which is a great thing. Now everyone asks for good stories. I’m not saying that the old formula won’t work, but even that needs to have a different flavour. When I made films like Tanu Weds Manu, heartland stories weren’t so common. Then we made Shahid and that paved the way for the biopic trendPaan Singh Tomar and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were made post that. We made Aligarh and Simran after that. We have always made films that are story-drivenJabariya Jodi might look like a massy entertainerbut the concept and story are very different. We tackled the strong issue of forced marriages in a light-hearted way. JudgeMentall Hai Kya is also a very different film. Im very excited and happy that Ive been doing this for almost seven-eight years. My expectations from the next six months are high and we hope that the audience likes our films


- Bhakti Mehta, Bhavi Gathani, Titas Chowdhury


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