2018: Rising Stars & failing superstars
Vinod Mirani

2018: Rising Stars & failing superstars
2018: Rising Stars & failing superstars

A transition seems to be taking place. In the galaxy of film stars, there is a massive movement. Looks like 2018 has been the year of falling superstars and emerging stars.

It became a grandly year with the first release of 2018 ‘Padmaavat’, and ended as gloriously with ‘Simmba’. But the films released Between the two came nowhere close to grand or glorious. 2018 saw the release of a 177 films. The success to failure rate for the year was among the worst in a long time. Albeit, some smaller films worked but these films combined were not enough to balance the losses incurred by big ticket flops.

If one goes into the statistics of 2018: out of the 177 films released, 17 sailed through at various levels of success. Theseare: ‘Padmaavat’, ‘Padman’, ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’, ‘Baaghi 2’, ‘Hitchki’, ‘Raazi’,  ‘Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran’, ‘Veere Di Wedding’, ‘Sanju’, ‘Gold’, ‘Stree’, ‘Sui Dhaaga: Made In India’, ‘102 Not Out’, ‘Badhaai Ho’, ‘Raid’, ‘Satyamev Jayate’, Andhadhun, and ‘Simmba’. That is 9.6 percent.

The major flops, to elaborate, all came from the three Khans: Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh. The release dates of films for these stars are planned to coincide with major national holiday weekends like Independence Day, Republic Day, Diwali, Eid or Christmas. No other filmmaker dare release opposite these big stars. These movies got the desired cinema chain, enhanced the admission rates all at their own terms. These are the films the moviegoers and the multiplex cinemas look forward to.

But, this year, all three Khans disappointed.

Talking of Salman Khan, he disappointed on two consecutive Eid festivals, 2017 and 2018, with ‘Tubelight’ and ‘Race 3’, respectively. He is the one the audience and the cinema chains have been most confident will deliver. ‘Tublight’ failure was due to Salman’s enthusiasm to adapt Hollywood films and failing to Indianise them. He picked up a child oriented American film, ‘Little Boy’, and converted it to an India-China war story, not realising the theme had lost its relevance for todays generation, especially, his fans.

Earlier, he had adapted the 1962 Hollywood movie, Yul Brynerstarrer’, Taras Bulba as ‘Veer’, the film bore no relevance to Indian story telling. His other folly is wanting to enrich his brothers by casting them in his films. They just don’t measure up!

Salman Khan was coming up with mediocre films in the first few years of 2000. But, then came ‘Wanted’ (2009), the remake of the Telugu film, ‘Pokiri’. Then, a line-up of South remakes followed in ‘Dabangg’ (2010), ‘Ready’ and ‘Bodyguard’ (both 2011). Some of Salman’s best and most appreciated films like ‘Ek ThaTiger’, ‘Dabangg 2’, ‘Kick’, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, ‘Sultan’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ followed making him the top draw at the box office.

But, with this kind of run of hits, when his two films, ‘Race 3’ and ‘Tubelight’, took the audience for granted, the disappointment is manifold.

Salman’s recent films have been working mainly on a dash of nationalism in the theme, relevant to the present day scenario. Better to stick to them.

Shah Rukh Khan has gone beyond a hat trick with his flops. His slide began in 2015 with ‘Dilwale’ where he tried to revive the old magic by casting Kajol as his co-star as well as adding the young generation star, Varun Dhawan, as a prop.

He followed this up with ‘Fan’, a film that reeked of self-obsession. The film was a sort of paean to SRK himself! ‘Dear Zindagi’ followed with Alia Bhatt who is soaring high. But, obsessed with his own image, Shah Rukh again decided to play a larger than life character. Alia falls in love with this mature man, Shah Rukh. He is a divorced single and has no reason to reject her love but he does! Logic?

Next, Shah Rukh Khan and his makers (in most cases he is one of the producers), decided to glorify a local Gujarat criminal, Latif, with the film ‘Raees’, with Pakistani actor, Mahira Khan, as his romantic link! How can one glorify an anti-national character who was eventually shot dead by the cops? Also, local love stories nor the local don stories work.

Being an eternal romantic at 50 plus does not help. And, Shah Rukh’s next, ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’, was totally rejected because you may have a much younger female co-star that does not make you any younger; only makes you much older! Also, the story was from the 1960/70s. Romantic actors have a short span. But, Shah Rukh kept on stretching it. His latest is about a short statured lad. He is as good as scoring with beauties like Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif even as a dwarf! They sleep with him and what not! He may be illiterate but lands up at NASA and spends 15 years on Mars? Doing what?

Shah Rukh Khan seems to be at a loss for fresh ideas and looks like he wants to be this ‘Romantic Till I die’ idea in mind. Time for him to take a break and comeback with a suitable subject.

Aamir Khan did trivial films most of his life. Then, in 2001, he featured in ‘Lagaan’. The film had a lot of background about who started it, who bankrolled it initially and, eventually, who got the credit and the moolah. The film did not really work for its investors. Most of the distributors lost on the film as did the music company which had paid a huge price for the music rights.

But, the media built up the film. This was the beginning of the era when media cared more about filling spaces than reporting the true picture. Aamir has done some bad films since like ‘Mangal Pandey’, ‘Fanaa’, but seems to have developed a great sense of themes to choose.

Aamir’s line up except an odd ‘Talaash’ or ‘Dhobi Ghaat’, he enjoyed a great run with ‘Dhoom 3’, ‘PK’ and ‘Dangal’. But, then, he went overboard with ‘Secret Superstar’ (his own production) that was a very un-Aamir Khan like production. His attitude remained the same in YRF’s ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’, a very poorly researched and shoddily made film, the writers of which seemed to know much about what they had on hands. Aamir overdid his act and, sadly, being pitted against Amitabh Bachchan is a huge responsibility in itself! He fell short!

Akshay Kumar has balanced his career well, changing with time the kind of films he is accepting. Having played Khiladi and action as well as romantic roles, he now does purposeful films with social message and, yet, makes his films work. Also, who his female co-star is has not been all that relevant in his films. This year, he did two films, ‘Padman’ and ‘Gold’, both with positive outcome.

Hrithik Roshan has given flops in ‘Bang Bang’, ‘Mohenjo Daroand’, ‘Kaabil’ as his last films but has the ability to bounce back with a right script.

Among the not so veteran but not of the new crops are Ranbir Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor. Ranbir does some mediocre films but then comes up with a hit that keeps him going. This year, his hit was ‘Sanju’, a biopic on Sanjay Dutt, which was a challenging film to do. As for Shahid Kapoor, his hits are rare, but he is always in contention. His success this year was shared with Ranveer Singh in ‘Padmaavat.’

The good news is that, the new and younger lot is delivering.

Besides Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan is having a good run. He has done about 11 films so far since his debut in 2012 with ‘Student of the Year’ and enjoys almost 65 percent success ratio. Besides these two, ones to have carved a niche for themselves in the line are Ayushmann Khurana and Rajkumar Rao. Khurana, unsung stars. Khurana has done 10 films with six of them making their mark. In 2018, he had two successful, ‘Andhadhun’ and ‘Badhaai Ho’ with the latter proving to be a huge earner.

As for Rajkumar Rao, his rise was rather odd. Starting off with films like ‘LSD: Love Sex Dhokha’ and ‘Ragini MMS’, it took a few more films for him to be recognised with the release of ‘Kai Po Che!’ He played a loser in Kangana Ranaut dominated ‘Queen’. His following films like ‘Aligarh’, ‘Trapped’, ‘Newton’ earned him praises but not box office success. ‘Stree’ has brought him closer to commercial cinema. Time he migrated (like Naseeruddin Shah did when he realised that his talent was being exploited in parallel cinema but the remuneration was not commensurate! He changed sides and started accepting mainstream films.).

As for female stars, Deepika featured in the year’s biggest hit, ‘Padmaavat’, and sustained her top position. Alia Bhatt had one release, ‘Raazi’, a woman oriented film, which she ably carried on her shoulders. As for Anushka Sharma, she had two hits, ‘Sanju’ and ‘Sui Dhaaga: Made In India’, against two bad ones, ‘Pari’ and ‘Zero’. Katrina Kaif had two films, ‘Thugs Of Hindistan’ and ‘Zero’, both duds. Kareena Kapoor Khan had a solo release in ‘Veere Di Wedding’. Priyanka Chopra had no Hindi release this year.

@ The Box Office

Ranveer Singh, who started the year on a bright note with ‘Padmaavat’, also ends it with fireworks; his year-end release, ‘Simmba’, has come as a timely entertainer for the Christmas season. A remake of the Telugu film, ‘Temper’, it is well adapted for the Hindi audience. The first half is entertaining exploiting the zany side of Ranveer to the fullest, it turns to the South formula in the latter part and that is hero going after the villains. In the Hindi films of yore, there used to be just one villain, South formula has many. Also, funnily, the South goons are much disciplined; they attack the hero one by one, never in a group! Funny indeed!

*The film opened to a decent 20 crore on Friday, improved to 23 crore on Saturday (normally, films drop on Saturday, whatever the opening or the merit), excelled on Sunday with almost 35 percent rise over Friday with close to 31 crore.  But, for any film, the real test starts Monday onwards but ‘Simmba’ held on with Monday with figures of 21 crore and creating an unbelievable Tuesday box office of 28 crore. The film crossed 100 crore and more on day five! It is expected to close its first week with an impressive 150+ crore.

* ‘Zero’ flops badly. May not even cross 100 crore after its second week.