A Patriotic Ode to All Things Bollywood


The box office has been uncharacteristically kind this January, usually an unfavourable month for Hindi film releases over the years. Except for a stark Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar or an Aamir Khan release that have hit the bulls eye, most big releases have not found the legs to make the long run, still wobbly from the hangover of the year gone by.

For a dip in nostalgic waters, Shah Rukh Khan’s home production ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’ (2000) too released in the same period but failed to put up numbers at the box office then.

Twenty three years on, the mid-week release of Siddharth Anand’s ‘Pathaan’ starring the Khan himself along with Deepika Padukone and John Abraham in key roles took an earth shattering opening to collect Rs 56 crore (approx.) at the domestic box office on its opening day, a new record for any Hindi film, that too on a non-holiday.

Industry and trade analysts are currently in overdrive trying to get a grip on the astronomical numbers the film is notching up. Even at the overseas box office it shot past the blockbuster ‘Avatar – The Way of Water’ to take up the No.1 spot (at the North American box office) with a total cumulative of $4.50 million (Rs 37 crore) approximately.

As Bollywood struggled last year with a horde of flops peppered with paltry successes and as superstars waded into a bottomless abyss, tough questions were asked about the future of the Hindi film industry. With the mindboggling success of ‘Pathaan’ those important questions will now only be put on the backburner as Bollywood revels and celebrates a bona fide Hindi blockbuster in the here and now.

As the box office wheel of fortune turns gold for Bollywood and the flop-hit-blockbuster-flop cycle continues, the film industry is fervently hoping that the success of ‘Pathaan’ keeps the hit cycle going for a good as the chaos of flops is kept at bay.

An Aquarian Juggernaut Rewrites Records

Bollywood may as well adopt January as their favourite month, named after the two-headed Janus the Roman God of doorways, preferably the head beholding some rollicking times ahead rather than the one forlornly gazing at the tough times gone by. Made with a budget of Rs 250-300 crore (approx.) ‘Pathaan’ carries on the successful streak that the Yashraj Film Production house have been enjoying with their actioners for some years now starring huge names like Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan that have gone to spawn a YRF Spy Universe theme.

The film is on its way to emerge as the biggest box office hit of Bollywood, creating new records left, right and centre. From the initial three days it has collected Rs 164 crore (approx.) at the domestic box office from all versions, the trade is looking at a weekend two day total of at least another Rs 80-90 crore to add to this. This eventually will make ‘Pathaan’ the highest ever Hindi film grosser of all time, a record that will take some beating and with the current Shah Rukh hysteria, the bets are on him to do it himself once again.

This Khan Never Saved Anything for the Swim Back

Khan was still a rookie when he signed on to play a career defining role as a lover anti-hero in Yash Chopra’s ‘Darr’ (1993). He had in fact stepped into the role after Aamir Khan declined it earlier because the hero, Sunny Deol he felt would hog the limelight. Shah Rukh however had nothing to lose. At the ending of the film as Khan’s character repeatedly knifed the hero the rapturous audiences were clapping for him, rather than Deol’s.

The slashing carved a new high road for Shah Rukh Khan who has since never looked back. A thought he has mirrored in one of his latest tweets, posed as an advice from a 57 year old, that one is meant to move forward, not coming back, to finish what was started; referencing a line from the Hollywood film, “Gattaca”.

Khan has carried on that trek blossoming as the quintessential Bollywood hero, probably the last of the Hindi films evergreen superstars. That ‘Pathaan’ was releasing after a four year hiatus since Khan’s last release, ‘Zero’ (2018) had Khan almost bearing the weight of Bollywood on his own, as other Bollywood stars were given the short shrift by the mercurial domestic box office.

As the vice-like grip of a monstrous recession gets even more tighter, Khan’s ‘Pathaan’ even ensured that over 20 odd cinema halls that had downed their shutters sprung back to life with the films release. Such has been the phenomenal response to his new film that his two releases that are to follow this year, “Jawaan” and “Dunki” have their task cut out to match  the “Pathaan” numbers at the box office. 

Is Bollywood Back?

For starters, the Hindi film industry never went anywhere did it? It just needs to discover new frontiers as it adapts to the neoteric way people are viewing cinema and consuming various forms of entertainment. Once in a while, something like a ‘Pathaan’ is needed, a no-holds barred throwback to good old days of a classic unapologetic Hindi film potboiler with adequate doses of dance, action and emotion.

Bring it on, warts and all for there is nothing like perfect cinema and for the eternal question as to why do some movies fail and others succeed? To this no one has an answer, not even Shah Rukh Khan. If asked a month ago whether ‘Pathaan’ would strike gold at the box office, self-proclaimed film industry experts would have shied away from a response as the film was mired in one controversy after another.

Even the ‘Boycott Bollywood’ brigade with campaign calls for boycotting the film trended on social media. But with ‘Pathaan’ and Shah Rukh Khan coming out on top, all of them have retreated into their dark and dungy rathole, for they were unaware that they were up against a certain Khan who is Mr. Bollywood himself.

Anand Mathew is a social development consultant based in New Delhi. 

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.


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