Indian culture

Do audiences only want films rooted in Indian culture or history?

While Aamir Khan’s ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and ‘Raksha Bandhan’, released last week, have sunk without a trace, a small Telugu film – ‘Karthikeya 2’ – is making waves in Hindi circuits. Nikhil Siddhartha, the lead role in the film, is quite popular in Telugu-speaking areas but is not a household name among Hindi audiences. Therefore, as expected, the Hindi dubbed version of the film earned only Rs 7 lakh on Day 1.

But as the collections of the other two big films began to crumble, “Karthikeya 2” began to pick up steam without any publicity or hubbub. On its second Friday, ‘Karthikeya 2’ (dubbed in Hindi) recorded Rs 2.46 crore nett which is better than the combined collections of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and ‘Raksha Bandhan’. So far, this Nikhil Siddhartha has garnered Rs 8.21 crore nett and is expected to skyrocket further.

‘Karthikeya 2’ is a mystery film that has its roots in Indian mythology. This is yet another example of a film steeped in Indian culture or history taking the box office by storm. Earlier this year, SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’ and Vivek Agnihotri’s ‘The Kashmir Files’ proved to be huge money-makers. While “RRR” celebrated India‘s cultural heritage, “The Kashmir Files” depicted a brutal chapter in India’s history. A few years ago, the ‘Baahubali’ series devastated the box office by becoming the biggest blockbuster in the annals of Indian cinema.

Today, the success of “Karthikeya 2” has caused many experts to sit down and do some soul-searching. Are Indian audiences more interested in films that celebrate India’s glorious culture or are rooted in history? The abject debacle of a chain of regular pots reinforced this perception. The New Indian talked to a few trade experts on the subject. Here’s what they have to say:

Komal Nahta (Veteran Business Analyst): I do not fully subscribe to this notion. While it’s true that ‘RRR’, ‘The Kashmir Files’ and ‘Karthikeya 2’ are rooted in Indian history or mythology, that’s not the only reason for their success. How about ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ which was a pot in its own right but became a blockbuster?

I have been in the business for many years. People talk about ‘trends’ and ‘flavor of the season’, but I’ve seen films of all genres do wonders at the box office in all decades. It all comes down to content. A movie of any genre can be a hit if it engages people.

Although I have to add here, our audience has certainly become “content aware”. They want splendid content, not boring movies. This happened because they are now exposed to world-class content available on OTT platforms. People have become picky and demanding. Our creators and stars need to realize this now rather than just tending to their wounds.

Raj Bansal (Exhibitor and major distributor): Our family has been in this business for over five decades. My dad always told me that only movies that are rooted in Indian soil. His advice was very helpful to me. You see, audiences have become wiser and want better content, but they haven’t limited themselves to any particular genre. They want to watch all kinds of movies if they are entertaining.

So many people, including my reps, told me to watch “Karthikeya 2”. Everyone who has seen him is delighted with it and that is why he is doing well. Nothing works like word of mouth from people. On the other hand, those who have watched ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ discourage others from going to cinemas. No amount of ersatz social media trends or advertisements can alter the fate of a film. The paying public is quite perceptive.

My request to filmmakers is to make entertaining films, whatever their genre, rather than making projects. I’m sure Bollywood will come back with a bang.