Going by the number of sleeper hits Bollywood has generated in the last one year, a film’s opening weekend may soon no longer be a sure shot indicator of its success. The most recent example verifying this trend is the Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer, Dum Laga Ke Haisha. The film had limited promotions, had an unconventional premise, and also starred a newcomer, Bhumi Pednekar. Yet, now, the film — it started slow and is running successfully in theatres in its third week — has been declared a hit.
Trade insiders say that Anushka Sharma’s recently released maiden production, NH10 that started off slow, is also on its way to becoming a sleeper hit as it got positive reviews across the board. A sleeper hit is a film that opens slowly, amidst limited promotions and with positive word of mouth, and goes on to become a success over time.
Content is king
Films like these rarely rely on big stars and massive budgets. Instead, they are supported by strong scripts. As a result, the expectations from such ‘story-driven movies’ are limited. However, the box-office success of many such projects has given the actors and the makers of such movies the faith to continue doing them.
Anushka says, "We are satisfied that we made a different film. In the future also, I can now dare to make such films," says the actor, who also turned producer with the film.
Talking about doing such a ‘un-hero’ role in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Ayushmann says, "Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) sir had given me the script to read. I came back the next day and said to him, ‘Sir, I want to do this film.’ He was really proud of me, and said, ‘I am surprised that you have chosen such an unconventional film’.” The decision has clearly paid off." The actor, who had two successive duds before this one, has received critical acclaim for this release.
Other big sleeper hits in Bollywood include Yaariyan (2014), Queen (2014), Highway (2014), Mardaani (2014), Haider (2014) and Badlapur (2015), among others.
Keep calm and carry on
Director of NH10, Navdeep Singh is glad that this trend has emerged. According to him, it gives young makers the faith that good storytelling also has takers in India. "The other thing is that when it comes to getting your next film made or finding a maker for it, financial success works better than critical success," says Navdeep, who took eight years to make his second film (he last helmed Manorama Six Feet Under; 2007).
Confident that the audience will continue to demand quality cinema in the years to come, Irrfan Khan says, "The demand for such films is growing. For instance, a film like Haider doing good business is commendable. The fact that it was appreciated in small towns too is a good sign." He starred in Haider.