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A view of the trends in Hindi mainstream cinema in 2019

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2019 was a great year for Hindi mainstream cinema starting with Vicky Kaushal’s Uri: The Surgical Strike, based on the Uri attack of 2016, which did over Rs250 crore net box office.

And somewhere it is ending with Dabangg 3 , which has underperformed and opened at 5th position this year, behind Ayushman Khurana’s Bala .

What’s happening here since the last 3 years in Hindi cinema is a renaissance of a certain kind.

To me it’s the classic buffet v/s a-la-carte menu- earlier a meal out was always to a buffet place- value for money meant getting a variety, didn’t matter if the menu repeated itself - butter chicken, dal tadka, palak paneer , papad pickle .. but now the audience prefers an a-la-carte, curated menu. ( It can still be the butter chicken and dal tadka, with a twist and served with the most authentic kulcha that does not come from a cookie cutter.

2019 has further proven that formulas don’t work. What’s clearly working is unconventional storylines coupled with a few more important aspects of storytelling.
The audience really wants authenticity coupled with entertainment. Indian audiences are reacting positively to the shift to show more local content that represents them and provides wholesome entertainment. 
The audience is not relating to films on just who the star is- they don’t care if it is big or small as long as the films represent what they have set out to tell , with honesty, quirkiness, and relatability.

Success is being witnessed with biopics, patriotic and multiple small star films in 2019 and ones that show unseen flawed characters played by lead actors..

Rajkummar Rao has played the lovable, desi, non sophisticated , wearing- his- emotions- on- his- sleeve- hero to great effect. No six packs abs, no conventional hero looks- just sheer acting prowess bringing hours of joy to the audience. “Vicky Pleeej” has charmed the hearts of the staunchest propah English speaking audience. 

2019 further brought dialogue delight . We started the year with 'How's the Josh?' which was quickly followed by 'Apna Time Aayega.' These dialogues connected with the audiences and will stay on even after the year ends. 
Localised dialects are also becoming more of a norm with authenticity being key to how audience member responds to a film. Be it the Mumbai slang we see in Gully Boy, or the accents that show us the universe of Dreamgirl, the more specific the dialogues are, the wider its mass appeal. 

Kabir Singha, the Telugu remake of Arjun Reddy became a blockbuster. Personally I have an issue with the subject, but the film also worked because it was authentic in terms of its characters. The flawed titular character in the film, who even though is scary with his violent streak, struck a chord with the masses.

At the same time, stories that come from a real, personal space like Chhichhore, did well- backed again by authentic characters , with its soul in the right place and a story that resonated and entertained 

Besides authenticity and entertainment, the emotional foundation in a film should be strong and relatable and this renaissance we are witnessing shows us that films withrealistic emotional depth work brilliantly - Article 15, Gully Boy also proves that. 

Akshay Kumar, the only actor besides Ayushman Khurana who has had a long run of hits , set a new trend for himself and Hindi cinema by doing unconventional storylines.
Khiladi Kumar had an unforgettable 2019 with three consecutive hits so far, each of which was a different genre film. He started the year with the historical film Kesari, which garnered him rave reviews and great collection at the box office. This was followed by the real-life Mars' mission-inspired Mission Mangal, which had an ensemble cast primarily dominated by female actors. The movie won the masses again with a timely release over the Independence Day weekend. His last film Housefull 4, the fourth instalment of the comedy franchise, quickly became a super hit partly because of the uniqueness of the story itself. The actor's last film of the year would be the family entertainer Good Newwz, which is also being touted to win hearts with its uniqueness and humour. 

A huge trend that will continue to work is heartland heartland heartland- this has proven to be the cash cow, as audiences are charmed by the language the setting the humour and the stories themselves.

Ayushmann Khurrana, has created a huge die hard audience base by bravely playing flawed, insecure men with confidence issues much to the delight of writers, directors and producers who can now look at the so-called hatke films with dollars in their eyes.

If 2018 showed Khurrana’s range as an actor, 2019 showed his talent at drawing numbers at the box office with each of his three films - Article 15, Dreamgirl, and Bala. With every film being as different as it can get, Khurrana managed to pull a coup with his idiosyncratic characters. Each of Khurrana’s films delved into a socially relevant and yet unique idea which given the numbers, audiences strongly related with. He even managed to draw crowds in the Chinese multiplexes with his 2018 release Andhadhun, which released in China this year and minted $45 million at the box office.

This takes me to what Vijay Sethupathy has done for Tamil cinema, similar to Khurana – playing comical, vulnerable and flawed characters.

The underdog that is unapologetically exposed, is worth every rupee.

War is not part of this trend, but then War’s trailer kept its promise- bromance, high class sophisticated action, sex on toast, bronzed Hrithik and Tiger—and a film that held it all together. The audience got its bang for their buck… at an average Rs 300 it was truly worth spending 3 hours in the cinema hall.

There is also the learnings from what didn’t work- Kalank, Student of the Year 2, amongst many others. The learning were- top stars, great opulent sets, fantastic songs and choreography cannot ensure box office success. The film needs to touch hearts , make people laugh, be genuine and written really well. And no amount of marketing can take the place of the powerful word of mouth. 

The Indian audience is smart, sassy and knows value for money. 

In terms of the business side of things, 2018 saw steller performance in the box office revenues which grew by 12.2% to reach an annual revenue of Rs 174.5 billion. Of this amount, the domestic film revenues crossed Rs 100 billion with net box office collections for Hindi films at Rs 32.5 billion – the highest ever.
Thirteen Hindi films reached the Rs 100 crore mark in 2018, the highest number the industry has ever seen. Multiplexes added to the total screen count to reach 9,601.
A major reason for this exponential growth is digitisation and the infusion of over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
Specifically, the digital revolution has created a tectonic shift in content consumption in India. In keeping with the global digitisation trend, OTT platforms invested heavily in acquiring exclusive rights to cinematographic films.
2019 will also be a growth year- growth coming from the unconventional and from Khurrana.  But to me finally, any film, that makes the popcorn taste better, is the one to watch. 

(The author is senior VP, creative and production at Kross Pictures. The views expressed are her own and Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to them.)
 

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