Bollywood’s pendulum bob continues to swing to and fro. If 2007, after a long time, saw a slew of solo-hero/heroine projects that did well at the box office — Namastey London, Aap Ka Surroor, Guru, Chak De! India, Om Shanti Om, Jab We Met and Taare Zameen Par — among them, 2008 takes us back to the age of multi-starrers. Does this smack of a certain confusion in the minds of today’s filmmakers about what works and what doesn’t?
A quick dekko
The year 2008 is also one of big-budget films. Large production houses like Yash Raj Films, TIPS, UTV Motion Pictures and Shree Ashtavinayak Films spend a lot to ensure that their films earn enough at the box office. Except Jodhaa-Akbar and Drona, the majority of the releases this year boast a crowd of stars.
Films like Race, Aladdin and the Mystery of the Lamp, God Tussi Great Ho, Golmaal Returns, Heroes, Tashan and Sarkaar Raaj are some of the keenly-anticipated films releasing this year and all of them are multi-starrers.
The track record
Last year was clearly not propitious for these ‘busy’ projects. Eklavya, Salaam-e-Ishq, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Cash, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Fool’N’ Final, Naqab and Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag bombed at the box office.
<b1>There were successes like Shootout At Lokhandwala, Partner, Welcome, Life in a Metro, Dhamaal, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Heyy Babyy but the biggest hits last year, Chak De! India and Om Shanti Om, rested on the able shoulder and sexy six-pack abs of one man, Shah Rukh Khan. Chak De! India grossed around Rs 64 crore while OSO has so far grossed close to Rs 87 crore.
TZP’s gross has been more than Rs 51 crore. On the other hand, Partner grossed around Rs 62 crore, Bhool Bhulaiyaa Rs 54 crore while Heyy Babyy earned around Rs 52 crore. The winners clearly are the solo projects.
Is it about multiple stars?
Could be. Or else why would the big banners take the route? Leaving aside the three Khans, Hrithik and Akshay Kumar, there is hardly anyone who can pull off a hit. Abhishek or Shahid Kapur have only had one hit —
Jab We Met
— apiece and had Mithun Chakraborty and Kareena Kapoor respectively for company. Akshay’s major hits (
) too have been multi-starrers.
Says Hansal Mehta, CEO, White Feather Films, the producers of
Shootout At Lokhandwala
, “Despite escalating budgets, distributors are increasingly seeking the safety of multi-starrers. One superstar may not be enough to command audience attention. If there are three or four, the package is stronger.”
Filmmaker Ravi Chopra seconds him, “Though some young ones are coming up, we don’t have too many top stars now. A mix of youngsters and established stars works well.”
Filmmaker Sajid Khan who delivered Heyy Babyy, one of the biggest hits last year, adds that the script is the boss. “If it demands a multi-starrer, so be it,” he decrees. But what if it required a solo hero or heroine?
“I would go for star power while ensuring that the actor suited the role completely,” he replies. And we call that playing safe.
Isn’t the dearth of stars forcing makers to go for multistarrer scripts? Says Mehta, “Star power steers people towards multiplexes these days. Actors like Arshad Warsi and Riteish Deshmukh have to be packaged smartly with megastars. Even an actor like Saif belonged to this category till about a few years ago.”