Article Hindi

Comment: The days of thugging audiences are past

If star power fails, can the star system survive?

Rajeev Pai

Hindi film audiences have been maturing slowly but surely over the past couple of decades. The growing acceptance of edgier content and narrow-focus stories is evidence of this.

The process now appears to be moving to its logical next step, which is when the audience starts discounting 'star' value and 'big' banners and their marketing spiel and looking more closely at what is being served.

No longer are audiences flocking to theatres merely because a film has big stars and is backed by a big banner, nor are they falling for cynical gimmicks masquerading as social awareness campaigns.

Not too long ago, a poorly made film like Thugs Of Hindostan with a skimpy storyline could hope to rake in the moolah at the box office merely on the strength of its star cast and a banner that has become a pastmaster at marketing.

This time, only the first day crowd seems to have fallen for the bait. Thereafter the word spread rapidly and the producers have been struggling to get bums on seats.

Thugs Of Hindostan is not the first film to face this plight. It's merely the latest. Shah Rukh Khan discovered this with Fan (2016), Raees (2017) and Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017), Hrithik Roshan with Mohenjodaro (2016) and Kaabil (2017), and Salman Khan with Tubelight (2017) and Race 3 (2018). Now it's the turn of Aamir Khan to learn that fans will not trust him blindly.

The producers may well tomtom their ability to recover their investment through digital and satellite rights, but logic suggests that if box-office collections fall, those rights are unlikely to find buyers at astronomical rates much longer. A producer who cannot pull the crowds to the theatres with his film is not going to be able to hold out too long for the price he wants.

Of course, logic also dictates that if the stars cannot pull crowds to the theatres, their prices must also come down. Whether that happens, we will have to wait and watch.