As we bid adieu to what has truly been an eventful and momentous year for the film trade in India, we are leaning on some iconic (and many not-so-iconic!) film titles to remind ourselves of some of the key highlights of the last 12 months – some good, some bad and some downright ugly.
Padmaavat, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid, Baaghi 2, Raazi, Race 3, Sanju, GOLD, Stree, Badhaai Ho, Thugs Of Hindostan and 2.0 (Hindi version) – with 12 films already having gone past the `100-crore mark at the domestic box office, and Zero and Simmba also likely to do the same; 2018 delivered the highest number of centurions ever, easily topping the previous high of nine such films in 2012.
Sooper Se Ooper
In terms of collections: Sanju > PK > 3 Idiots > Lage Raho Munna Bhai > Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. Rajkumar Hirani continued to defy the laws of gravity as well as averages in 2018, extending his record of each of his films beating the tally of his previous release.
With the year’s highest grosser (Sanju) as also three other films in the `100-crore (Raid, Raazi and GOLD), coupled with strong performances by Pad Man and Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran, the truth was certainly stronger than fiction at the box office this year. No wonder, then, producers are chucking away their DVDs of South Indian hits and instead turning to history books and the daily newspapers for inspiration!
Biopics and films based on reality weren’t the only ones to find favour with the audience this year. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that 2018 featured by far the most diverse roster of genres to strike gold at the box office. In addition to the titles previously mentioned in this note, films like AndhaDhun, Satyameva Jayate, Veere Di Wedding, Sui Dhaaga,: Made In India, 102 Not Out, Dhadak, Kedarnath, Hichki and October ensured that the era of a predominant genre ruling the box office had been replaced by one in which films succeeded – or failed – depending on the quality of their stories and storytelling, not the labels ascribed to them.
Not only did 2018 see a never-before range of genres succeed at the box office, it also witnessed winds of change sweeping through the roster of bankable talents in the industry. Tiger Shroff, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Kartik Aaryan and Vicky Kaushal enjoyed breakout years as they strode into the Rs 100-crore club, while Janhvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan made sparkling debuts. For filmmakers casting for future projects, the talent bank has never been richer with so many commercially viable options.
In a year that saw some unlikely dark horses gallop past the winning post, some of our most decorated thoroughbreds limped on leaving the starting gate. To add insult to injury, the disappointing runs of Race 3, Thugs Of Hindostan and Zero coincided with what are supposed to be the most remunerative release windows for the trade – the Eid, Diwali and Christmas weekends, respectively.
Purab Aur Pachhim
Avengers: Infinity War made history this year by becoming the first Hollywood film to collect over Rs 200 crore at the Indian box office while many other imports did well too – Black Panther, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2, Ant Man And The Wasp, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Nun and Aquaman, among others. The message from the audience was loud and clear: quality, not nationality, dictated their theatre outings.
With Race 3, Namaste England, Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se, Vishwaroop 2 and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3 failing to live up the perceived potential of their respective franchises, the law of diminishing marginal utility intensified this year for the once safe harbour offered by sequels. However, as the success of Baaghi 2 and 2.0 showed us, the fault may not lie in sequels per se but the quality of their content.
Prime Video’s Inside Edge set the ball rolling last year and Breathe kept the momentum going, but the growing convergence between the film and OTT spaces was underlined this year by the global splash generated by Netflix’s Sacred Games. With bona fide film talents like Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Radhika Apte, Pankaj Tripathi and others featuring in the series, we were forcefully reminded that the digital space is not a shoddily produced television substitute but a formidable rival – both for the audience’s attention as also our human resources.
Aaj Ka Gunda Raj
The year started with Padmaavat being denied its constitutional right to screen in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and ended with Kedarnath similarly being blacked out from Uttarakhand – despite both films being certified as fit for public exhibition and courts of law upholding the same after (unnecessary) legal proceedings. In between, films like Sanju, Aiyaari, Manmarziyaan, Sarkar (Tamil), Mulk, LoveYatri, Manto and Zero found themselves being dragged into needless controversy. In 2018, like in every other year, the film industry continued to be the favourite punching bag for rabble-rousers and a magnet for publicity seekers, given the total lack of administrative support extended to our vocation.
The Dirty Picture
The #MeToo movement began as a trickle and then became a flood that inundated news headlines and social media feeds. While not exactly the film industry’s proudest moment, the conversation and clean-up that the movement initiated was much needed and one hopes this reformation continues even though the subject may no longer dominate the daily news cycle. We also hope that no one guilty goes unpunished, just as no one innocent becomes collateral damage at the hands of those making baseless allegations to grab some headlines or settle unrelated scores.
At the very end of the year, the film industry had rare reason to rejoice with the GST Council finally acceding to our demand for a reduction in the GST rates applicable on film ticket sales. Of course, one may question why they were placed in the highest rate slab to begin with but you know what they say about never looking a gift horse in the mouth!
And with that, it’s a wrap for 2018. But before we sign off, here’s a final title for you, dear reader:
Happy New Year!
- Nitin Tej Ahuja