Action fatigue? Box office indicates big screen spectacles tanking


PTI, May 9, 2024, 1:43 PM IST

New Delhi : For the moment at least, action films seem to be out of favour with audiences giving a thumbs down to big screen spectacles such as Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Yodha while intimate comedies and romances are being ranked hits.

Madgaon Express, crew and Do Aur Do Pyaar have been the surprise hits of 2024, outpacing high octane stunt movies starring the likes of Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff and Sidharth Malhotra.

This is a far cry from 2023 when action movies drew in huge crowds, making Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan and Jawan blockbusters with takings of Rs 1,000 crore each. Besides, Ranbir Kapoor’s Animal made Rs 900 crore and Salman Khan’s Tiger 3 did reasonably well with earnings of more than Rs 450 crore.

And for a while it appeared that cinema goers wanted the 3S — stunts, stars and spectacle — on the big screen.

But audiences can be notoriously fickle as filmmakers and production houses soon found out.

Sidharth Anand’s Pathaan released on January 25, 2023. Exactly, a year later, he released Fighter, starring Hrithik Roshan alongside Pathaan actor Deepika Padukone. However, the film couldn’t recreate the Rs 1,000 crore magic and made just about Rs 350 crore gross globally, a conventional hit perhaps but nowhere near what was expected.

According to reports, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan starring Akshay and Tiger was mounted on a budget of Rs 350 crore but managed to earn just Rs 70 crore (India gross) at the ticket window.

Similarly, Ajay Devgn-starrer Maidaan, a biopic on football coach S A Rahim, couldn’t pull crowds to cinema houses. Made with a reported budget of Rs 250 crore, the film, which released after multiple delays, earned only around Rs 50 crore at the box office.

Action thriller Yodha with Sidharth in the lead managed to earn just Rs 53 crore, just short of its Rs 55 crore budget.

Action has been the reigning genre but is a degree of fatigue setting in? Maybe, said trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

“You don’t like having biryani every day. Similarly, you need a change in the genre also, not just the actors. You can’t really have the same stuff being rolled out to the audience and expect them to lap it up big time,” Adarsh told PTI, terming the success of Madgaon Expressa huge achievement.

Madgaon Express, a travel comedy about three friends, has no A-list stars but has done business of about Rs 30 crore, far more than its budget.

“In the 80s too, action was ruling the roost and then in the 90s came Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, then Maine Pyar Kiya, followed by Deewana, and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and then Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The romantic genre, which was written off due to the masala entertainment, was back,” Adarsh told PTI.

“You can’t write off a particular genre with one flop. Today, if an action film doesn’t work, we can’t write it off. If a biopic like Maidaan doesn’t work, we can’t write it off. Rom-coms will never go out of fashion. A Hindi film is incomplete without romance and emotion. It would still work if there’s no action.” Film critic Saibal Chatterjee added that comedies are back, but will never be as big as actioners like KGF, RRR or even Fighter .

“We live in an era when a lot of depressing stuff is happening. So when you see a comedy that is bright enough and has some amount of class, people are willing to go out and watch it. Madgaon Express is such a small film in terms of who the actors are, no big stars, no buzz and it came out of nowhere.”

Crew, at least, has Kareena and Tabu. But Madgaon Express is just plain good, intelligent writing which is in the absurdist zone but done with a lot of panache,” he said. Heist comedy Crew, also starring Kriti Sanon, has grossed over Rs 100 crore worldwide.

According to Sameer Nair of Applause Entertainment, one of the producers of Do Aur Do Pyaar, there is ‘no fatigue for action or for any other genre’.

He said the audience responds to good storytelling and good content will always bring viewers to the cinemas.

There are no box office estimates about Do Aur Do Pyaar, an urban relationship drama starring Pratik Gandhi and Vidya Balan, but the film was received well and people flocked to theatres to watch it.

“Audiences don’t come for genres, they come for the story, characters and the relationship drama. In the case of Do Aur Do Pyaar, you wouldn’t have watched it just for the rom-com genre. It has to be a great story well told. Genre isn’t everything. Same goes for action. Every viewer watching an action film knows all the tropes: there will be helicopters, big bazookas etc,” Nair said.

“Story, setting and the question “Why should I care for these people on screen?” is the key. If audiences care about your characters, you’ll be successful. The same applies for films like 12th Fail (2023), Do Aur Do Pyaar, Madgaon Express, and Crew,Nair said.

The situation is grim, said Bihar-based exhibitor Vishek Chauhan.

“Bollywood producers are afraid of the box office. The situation is grim because of the poor performance of films this year, including the two disastrous Eid releases (Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Maidaan)… Despite having stars, budgets, festive dates, movies have tanked.” Going ahead, the industry has high hopes this year from upcoming actioners Kill, Singham Again, Kalki 2898 AD, and Baby John as well as biopics Srikanth and Chandu Champion along with comedies Bad Newz , Stree 2, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3, and Welcome To The Jungle.

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