Full disclosure: There are spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk.
Last week’s big release Begum Jaan-starring Vidya Balan is having a dismal run at the box office. Trade analyst Taran Adarsh said the film earned Rs 13.35 crore in first four days of its release.
#BegumJaan Fri 3.94 cr, Sat 3.51 cr, Sun 4.03 cr, Mon 1.87 cr. Total: ₹ 13.35 cr. India biz.— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) April 18, 2017
Makers can boast about Begum Jaan still being profitable due to its limited cost, but these numbers are nowhere close to being called a hit with an A-lister in the lead.
But counting Begum Jaan’s box office numbers isn’t the priority here. Actually, it’s a trend that’s taking a shape through the box office failure of films like Begum Jaan and most of these are stories with sad endings.
The biggest hits of the last 2 years are: Baby, Gabbar Is Back, Piku, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, ABCD 2, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Bajirao Mastani, Dilwale, Airlift, Neerja, Kapoor And Sons, Housefull 3, Udta Punjab, Sultan, Rustom, Pink, MS Dhoni, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dangal, Kaabil, Raees and Jolly LLB 2.
All these commercially successful films were released between January 2015 and April 2017, before Begum Jaan to be precise. And, apart from Bajirao Mastani, none of these films actually have a sad ending. Even if they have, it’s not outright depressing in nature.
However, some of the biggest hits in Bollywood’s history have tragic stories: Sholay and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak have the instant recall value. But the trend is probably changing.
Not that films with sad endings don’t do well at all, but their success is limited. And in some cases, heartbreaking. For example, critically-acclaimed films like Aligarh, Saala Khadoos, Court and Talvar didn’t actually put the box office on fire.
The list of moderately successful films also has mostly happy endings.
Humorous takes on social issues are also finding enough takers. Most of Akshay Kumar films fit into this category. Salman Khan and Aamir Khan also try their best to cut into this zone. Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dangal are stories with a social cause as themes.
Outright ‘serious’ films like Masaan, Budhia Singh and Haraamkhor struggled at the ticket window, while fun films like Happy Bhaag Jayegi and Singh Is Bling did better than expectations.
The trend gives rise to the question whether it a shift from issue-oriented serious filmmaking or it’s just a phase.
Moreover, going by the fate Begum Jaan met, filmmakers would be even more sceptical in making films with themes that require serious treatment.
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