The week of seniors

The week of seniors


Vinod Mirani

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) The Independence Day weekend has been hogged by the veterans of the Indian screen. Be it on Hindi, Tamil or Telugu screens.

This weekend is one of the special few in a year that filmmakers seek for the release of a new film. The other sought-after weekends are Republic Day (January 26), Diwali, Eid and Christmas.

Some of the biggest hits were released during one of these periods and it is universal knowledge that Hindi cinema's historical blockbuster, 'Sholay', was released on August 15, 1975.

Actors have their favourite release slots like the Eid week is Salman Khan's. Shah Rukh Khan chose January 26 this year for 'Pathaan'.

If the holiday for any of these special days falls on a Friday, it assures a film of a decent opening and the rest depends on its merits. But for any film, if the holiday for one of these occasions comes mid-week, it works as a booster dose adding to its weekend collections.

Independence Day was on a Tuesday this past week and one can't ask for a better weekend than this. Because, out of the four films released on August 11, three have opened well, though OMG2 was a slow starter. The four films are Sunny Deol's 'Gadar 2', Akshay Kumar’s 'OMG 2', Rajinikanth's 'Jailor' and Chiranjeevi's 'Bholaa Shankar'.

As the week progressed, as 'OMG 2' picked up pace, 'Bhola Shankar' started dropping.

I call this a week of the seniors because three of the four stars credited for these films are senior citizens. Sunny Deol is 66, Rajinikanth 72 and Chiranjeevi 68. Akshay Kumar at 55 isn't a senior citizen yet, but is a senior-enough artiste who has been doing films for almost 33 years.

What these four have done this past week is set the box office on fire all over. These films were released on August 11 and Independence Day, which fell on the fifth day of their release, only added to their glory. It may have also helped to have the Parsi New Year, an optional holiday in certain parts of India, fall on August 16.

As far as the initial draw went, Akshay Kumar's 'OMG 2' suffered because of the whimsical ways of the Censor Board. The exhibitors felt the film's release was uncertain because the Censors had raised some silly issues about the film's content. So, rather than not having a new release for the Independence Day week, most halls opted for 'Gadar 2', leaving fewer cinemas for 'OMG 2' than the film  merited.

Worst still was that this film, dealing with the sensitive issue of sex and young adults on the verge of entering the teens, was granted an Adult only certificate! Imagine, at age 12, a boy is going through his initial urges and seeking a solution, and the film can be seen only by an 18-plus. That 12-year-old and million such young adults needed to watch this movie!

With such setbacks, the film still managed to open with Rs 10 crore but the headlines were hogged by 'Gadar 2' grossing Rs 41 crore. It is worth seeking a legal opinion on whether the Censor Board can be sued for damages on the grounds of its nil understanding of the facts of life, whimsical ratings of films, and causing huge economic losses to films and filmmakers.

'OMG 2' picked up as the week progressed and it looks like it has overcome the initial setback.

Coming back to 'Gadar 2', though the sequel comes after a gap of 22 years, the fact is, the film would have done well even if it was not a sequel. Quite a few of the generation today may not have watched 'Gadar: Ek Prem Katha' and for those who did, the gap is too huge.

The reason is, the theme in the original and the sequel is the same, the cause is just incidental. And Sunny Deol's one-man army running roughshod over the Pakistanis and whatever represents power there.

What is more, for those who are familiar with the original, 'Gadar: Ek Prem Katha', it was a nostalgia trip with Sunny and Ameesha Patel still continuing their romance like a couple freshly in love and, best of all, this gives the makers an opportunity to replay old melodies from the original. Today, when music and melody in films are extinct, that is an inherent advantage the film enjoys.

'Gadar 2' has the advantage of complying with the national mood today. The nation exudes patriotism and nationalism with Indians being deeply immersed in these sentiments. In such a situation, no better villain to humiliate than the neighbouring country.

'Gadar 2' had shown a drop after bountiful first three days, but the film still had the Independence Day holiday and Parsi New Year the following day to regain its ground. The film ended its first week scoring Rs 284.6 crore.

My column has been advocating the return to traditional Indian themes. Drama, melodrama, romance, music and all that.

The approach of course can be in keeping with the times we live in. If the story has a mother, sister, sahelis and other such familiar elements around, the more the fun.

Now, all we need is a few writers with ideas and a few music composers to match the melodies of the bygone era. I know it is asking for too much in today's scenario, but it is not impossible.

Meanwhile, folks on social media are having a field day going ga-ga over 'Gadar 2'. Most are predicting the film's collections will go beyond the figures claimed by 'Pathaan'! Juggling of figures and tall claims despite empty cinema theatres has been a practice much in use by filmmakers. But, in the age of social media, people know what the real picture is. You may throw up big figures, but people don't counter you. They only take them with a pinch of salt, or a bagful of salt, depending on the claims.

Not saying that this is done by all filmmakers, but when two out of three do it, people become sceptical.

While of the subject of the box-office race between 'Pathaan' and 'Gadar 2', and of inflated figures, this does not seem to be happening in the Hindi film industry alone.

The same thing has been happening in other countries too. In South Korea, for instance, the Seoul Police has found the practice of inflating box-office figures being rampant. The numbers issued by the police are astonishing: box-office figures of 323 films were found to have been inflated over the past five years.

The Seoul Police has probed the business of 462 movies and 98 film distributors from 2018 till June this year. As a follow-up, it has referred 69 exhibitors and 24 film distributors to prosecutors, who will now decide on the action to be taken.

Now, this is a serious business. This amounts to cheating and misleading the masses and your other business associates such as the satellite and OTT rights buyers. Is this due to the GST to be paid on the amounts claimed to be collected?

How is it that when you check an online ticket booking portal, the charts show no seats available. But, if you go to the cinema theatre, there are as many available and as many as you wish to buy! Are the GST commissioners missing out on something?

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