Truly the best ever - the quality of films, their commercial prospects and their presence worldwide. It was never so good. And I would like to believe this is just the beginning' -Amitabh Bachchan on 2006 for Bollywood.
And he is not the only one who is delighted with the performance of the industry this year. 2006 has brought a smile on everybody's face in Bollywood. Trade pundits are already busy calculating the business Bollywood has done in 2006.
The figures, as of now, are astounding. Trade expert Taran Adarsh assesses that the volume of business has increased by 40 per cent. Hits after hits with money pouring in - it's indeed party time for the Indian Film Industry.
Business wise, all kinds of films made money at the box-office. If the biggies like Rang De Basanti, Fanaa, Krrish, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Don and Dhoom 2 did exceptionally well, small-budget films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Pyaar Ke Side Effects and Malamaal Weekly also raked in huge profits.
Even Sooraj Barjatya's Vivah, which was highly panned by the critics due to its weak story, has been a big success at the box-office. And the profits have been greater than last year.
The net domestic gross of big-budget films like Krrish (Rs 64.86 crore), RDB (Rs 51.07 crore), Fanaa (Rs 53.13 crore), Lage Raho Munnabhai (Rs 69.94 crore), KANK (Rs 46.40 crore), Don (Rs 49.97 crore) and Dhoom 2 (Rs 68.24 crore) has been far more than that of 2005's big hits like No Entry (Rs 44.84 crore), Bunty Aur Babli (Rs 34.62 crore) or 2004's Veer- Zaara (Rs 41 crore) (Source: Boxofficeindia.com).
Besides them, experimental projects with unconventional storylines like Golmaal, Phir Hera Pheri and Gangster also grossed in large profits. Even the lack-luster Malamaal Weekly grossed Rs 30 crore. Khosla Ka Ghosla did business worth Rs 9 crore and Pyaar Ke Side/Effects amassed Rs 17 crore. And all of these films had a budget of Rs 10 crore. And this stint hasn't got over yet. Reports say that even the latest released Kabul Express and Bhagam Bhag are doing well.
Well, we shouldn't assess Bollywood on the basis of figures alone; the success lies elsewhere. 2006 marks the triumph of variety in Bollywood. And this time the small and medium budget films opened a new chapter in Bollywood.
Says filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, "This year has been particularly good for Bollywood as all kinds of movies have worked. There has been so much of variety, which has worked wonders for the industry."
Adds actor-director Anupam Kher, "With the audience being cinema savvy, the whole scenario has changed. People now understand what entertainment is about." Indeed, the success of small-budget films like Khosla Ka Ghosla proves that the audience is ready to appreciate films with good subjects with or without stars.
This trend is interesting if you look at what happened in 2003 and 2004, when hits were elusive. The industry lost money in spite of multi-starrers and big-budget films like Kal Ho Naa Ho and Baghban.
The trend was similar in 2004 with Veer-Zaara, Main Hoon Na, Dhoom and Hum Tum setting the cash registers ringing. In 2005, biggies like Bunty Aur Babli, Black, Waqt The Race Against Time, No Entry, Sarkar and Parineeta were successes, but the smaller films, except Page 3, didn't quite click.
Subject is the winner
The success of Bollywood this year also has to do with the subjects of films. If Rang De Basanti had patriotism at its core, Lage Raho Munnabhai resurrected Gandhian values in the youth.
Even- a director like Karan Johar, who is famous for his larger than life candy-floss flicks, came up with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, which got a lot og flak due to its plot that dealt with extra-marital affairs.
Karan Johar says, "For me, as a filmmaker, it was essential to make KANK because it monitors my growth. But it also needed to be made for society as a whole."
Another successful film was Khosla Ka Ghosla which did good business. Pyaar Ke Side/Effects went a step ahead and proved that success was not limited to a genre. Says Khosla… director Dibakar Banerjee, "The audience is the real winner and they are the ones who make a difference. Today, the Indian audience has come of age and is ready to accept films with unconventional subjects."
Besides making waves at the domestic front, Hindi films have emerged as a winner at the global level too. KANK (Rs 44.50 crore), Don (Rs 32 crore), Lage Raho… (Rs 21.25 crore), Fanaa (Rs 28.25 crore),) and Rang De Basanti (Rs 20 crore) have figured amongst the top 10 grossers overseas in the last 10 years. Even Ravi Chopra's Baabul is minting money abroad despite being a failure at home. "There is a wider audience base now which is not just limited to the Indian diaspora," says Adarsh. With mainstream Hindi films being appreciated in festival circuits, the picture looks bright too.
Speaking about the actors, one can't really point out any Hero No. 1 or Heroine No. 1 this year. If Hrithik was back with a bang with two superhits, Krrish and Dhoom 2, Aamir Khan proved his mettle with Fanaa and Rang De Basanti.
Likewise, Shah Rukh Khan, whose Paheli and Swades failed to attract audiences last year, was a winner with KANK and Don. The success of 36 China Town and Vivah marks a new chapter in Shahid Kapur's career.
And the actresses were not behind. Rani Mukerji had mixed success with KANK and Baabul. Kajol bounced back with Fanaa and Priyanka Chopra hit the bull's eye with Krrish and Don.
Though Kareena Kapoor's performance was highly appreciated in Omkara, her only success this year was 36 ChinaTown. However, Bong babe Bipasha Basu had a terrific year with Phir Hera Pheri, Corporate and Dhoom 2 and of course the Beedi number in Omkara.
2006 was also a comeback for Aishwarya Rai with Dhoom 2, though her Umrao Jaan sank without a trace. Preity Zinta has had a mixed year with KANK and Jaan-e-Mann. The field looks even as of now, which, according to many is a great sign. Says says actor-director-producer Sohail Khan, "There's healthy competition in the industry and this goes to prove that everybody is working hard."
Future Looks Bright
The success of middle-of-the road cinema this year actually encourages young directors like Saket Chaudhary and Banerji to move ahead. Small-budget films with unconventional storylines no longer need to target the festival circuit and are actually gunning for commercial success. "The system is little more democratic now. You may not have to wait for somebody's patronage to get producers," says Chaudhary.
Still a lot to be done
However, many people still believe that a lot has to be done. Mahesh Bhatt, for instance, feels there is no reason to rejoice.
If big-budget films and high figh marketing skills are signs of genius then we need to reconnect with our creative roots. "Only few of us did that and they are Anurag Basu in Gangster, Mohit Suri in Woh Lamhe, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra in Rang De Basanti and Dibakar Banerji in Khosla Ka Ghosla. The rest is not worth mentioning," says Bhatt.
He further states that Bollywood today is following the Hollywood model, "which is big in numbers but low in content. You are now going to emulate the Western model where the bottomline is going to be the only yardstick."
"I do not argue with the belief of a producer that if you invest money but I am not dazzled by big budgets and big star casts," says Bhatt.
With that note of caution, it's time for Bollywood to begin a brand new year.