Joginder Tuteja (DNA; August 13, 2017)

There was a time till a couple of years ago when star power ensured that a substandard or a bad film worked at least to an extent at the box office. Not anymore! While bad films are failing, even good films are finding it difficult to find an audience. The new era of Bollywood audiences is fairly and squarely announcing that they are the king.

How it all started
When the Rs 100-crore phenomenon kick-started with Ghajini, hordes of films followed suit. Each Khan — Aamir, Shah Rukh, and Salman got into a race to deliver a century. Soon enough, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Hrithik Roshan, too, had them to their names. The young brigade, Varun Dhawan, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, entered the club and countless films joined in.

There were bad apples
Each biggie delivered by superstars was not quite worth the Rs 100-crore fortune. To some, it seemed like a fluke where films managed to score big. In fact, there were bad apples — films managing to register big numbers despite being panned by critics. So, on the one hand, there was quality cinema being missed and on the other, there was this slogan of ‘Bollywood Shining’.

Stardom ruled
One of the key reasons for this phenomenon to gain prominence was the star system ruling Bollywood. A Khan film had to take an opening. A non-Khan superstar (read Akshay, Ajay, Hrithik) was a reliable commodity. Bring in Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, or Katrina Kaif into the mix and a ‘deal’ was well in place to draw in audiences at least during the opening weekend. More films started seeing a Rs 50 crore plus weekend and content took a backseat. Stardom ruled!

The bubble had to burst
This was a bubble waiting to burst, but the industry wasn’t willing to see it with open eyes. The projects continued to be put together and an occasional Rs 200-crore or Rs 300-crore blockbuster made many believe that this phenomenon was there to stay. Many didn’t bother to check the abysmal failure rate that stood over 60 per cent at least. Producers and distributors lost money on these films. Still, for the 20 per cent odd films where both parties made money, champagne bottles were popped. No one was willing to wake up.

Audiences wised up
As corporate presentations were being put together for the big projects, audiences were wising up, too. They decided not to be enticed by just star power or a package deal. The early signs, what with Salman’s Jai Ho, Ranbir Kapoor’s Besharam and Bombay Velvet, Ajay’s Action Jackson, and SRK’s Fan being rejected became prominent with Ranveer’s Befikre, Hrithik Roshan’s Mohenjo Daro flopping. Unfortunately, many still didn’t understand these signals.

The unforgiving audience
One look at how audiences have given a thumbs down to star power is pretty much a testimony to how they’ve come up with a collective call of ‘enough is enough’. Salman returns after 10 Rs 100-crore biggies and delivers a major failure in Tubelight. SRK returns in his romantic avatar with Jab Harry Met Sejal and even that’s not welcomed. Ranbir’s Jagga Jasoos finds itself in the midst of widespread negativity. Tiger Shroff sees his lowest grosser ever in Munna Michael. Rangoon and Raabta emerge as disasters. Youngsters are not impressed with OK Jaanu and Meri Pyaari Bindu. Amitabh Bachchan suffered one of the biggest disasters with Sarkar 3. In a year that has seen close to 60 releases already, 14 odd turned out to be profitable at least for the producers, if not for the distributors as well.

Will there be a change?
Change is the name of the game, but one waits to see if that would happen quickly. The rest of the releases of 2017 can’t be altered with the content already being shot. Most of 2018 releases won’t see much of a change either since the script has been drafted and the shooting commenced. So, if a remarkable turnaround is expected, it would be in 2019, when some sort of sanity would have returned to the scene. Guess life would indeed have to come full circle for Bollywood by then.