Is Bollywood in crisis?

Mainstream Bollywood appears to be in crisis after new releases by Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar both tanked, writes SOURISH BHATTACHARYYA

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After disaster struck the two Independence Day long weekend releases – Aamir Khan’s long-awaited, mega-hyped Laal Singh Chaddha and the Akshay Kumar-starrer Raksha Bandhan – a wag commented that Bollywood has become like the Congress: it has only its past to live on and stares at a dim future, unless a miracle happens. Would it be right to conclude we’re seeing a Bollywood in crisis, or at least in strife of some sort?

For Aamir, Laal Singh Chaddha has been his worst commercially since his 2000 film Mela, despite getting a five-day holiday weekend, starting with Raksha Bandhan on August 11 and ending with Independence Day. And it has been his second successive flop after the Thugs of Hindostan, which bombed despite the additional presence of Amitabh Bachchan.

For Akshay Kumar, Raksha Bandhan has been his third successive dud – starting with Bachchan Pandey, which got wiped out by The Kashmir Files, and Samrat Prithviraj, despite the film being endorsed by the BJP top brass and made tax-free in three states.

Neither of the two films has been able to recover even a part of the money that went into producing them – and much of this money, in fact, was spent on the fees of their leading stars.

They are also not alone at the bottom of the heap – they were preceded by the ignominious failures of Shamshera (Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt) and Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar.


recent flops show a bollywood in crisis
Source: IMDb

That Bollywood is in crisis, is clear as daylight when you consider its stars are not drawing audiences in post-COVID India, whose worldview has been altered by storyline-driven original content streaming on OTT platforms. And for the first time in its history, Bollywood has neither a bankable star, nor a formula that works, not even music, which used to be its USP till not long ago.

At least Laal Singh Chaddha has had the biggest opening in the overseas market after the other commercial failure, 83, and it may just be able to recover some money in China, where Aamir has a big fan following, but Raksha Bandhan has sunk without a trace.

In fact, according to the trade media, among the films that have had the highest opening weekends this year, two are pan-India productions – KGF 2 and RRR; one is the sleeper hit, The Kashmir Files; and three are Hollywood releases, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love & Thunder and Jurassic World Dominion.

Of the four Bollywood films that made the cut to the above list, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (Rs 215 crore) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (Rs 153 crore) are the only two to figure among the top 10 grossers of 2022 across languages.

Neither of them has been powered by a superstar. One was led by the rising Kartik Aaryan. The other by a woman, Alia Bhatt – historically, it has not been easy for a female-centric film to do well in India.

Both these facts alone – that recent successes have come from non-typical elements – might well be further evidence that Bollywood is in crisis, standing at a crossroads where a pivot is needed quite desperately.

Seven of the remaining eight top-grossers (the eighth is The Kashmir Files) are from the South – KGF 2, RRR, the Kamal Haasan magnum opus Vikram, Kichcha Sudeep’s 3D Kannada movie Vikrant Rona, Tamil actioner Beast, Mahesh Babu’s Sarkaru Vaali Paata and James, featuring the late Kannada mega star, Puneeth Rajkumar.

Jugjugg Jeeyo with Varun Dhawan, Anil Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor is at No. 11 and even No. 12 is from deep down South – the Tamil Valimai, starring Ajith Kumar and Karthikeya. At least Bollywood can take solace from the fact that it has been produced by Boney Kapoor!


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