Article Hindi

Rewind 2019: January release Uri was Hindi cinema's biggest hit last year


Last year saw not one but two Salman Khan movies being released, but neither got so much as a peek into the list of films with the highest return on investment.

Keyur Seta

Last year had one major similarity with 2018, the year that went before: the films that did the best business did not feature any big stars. Indeed, few would have predicted that a film starring Vicky Kaushal would top the list of hits (in terms of return on investment, or ROI). After all, movie-goers had only just started taking notice of the young actor in the past couple of years. Yet, that did not stop Uri: The Surgical Strike, a small film, from bringing home an enormous kitty of Rs244 crore.

Another film that overturned box-office calculations was director Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Kabir Singh, which finished with a mammoth domestic collection of over Rs275 crore.

There was a good mix of subjects and genres in the list of top box-office earners in 2019. Interestingly, the year saw not one but two Salman Khan films being released — Bharat and Dabangg 3 — but neither could make it to the list of big hits of the year. In fact, Dabangg 3 did not even qualify as a hit.

Here, then, is the list of top box-office hits in 2019, ranked on the basis of return on investment.

10. Mission Mangal (RoI 92.67 %)

Akshay Kumar is the one star who has been delivering hits consistently this decade. His run became even better after he latched on to the trend of patriotic and nationalistic films in the past five years.

Director Jagan Shakti’s Mission Mangal proved to be yet another feather in Akshay Kumar's cap, though this was not an Akshay Kumar film by any stretch of the imagination, given the formidable presence and performance of Vidya Balan.

Despite the title, Mission Mangal was more a human drama, of the bonding of a group of individuals, than a science thriller. Hence, the film had many entertaining moments, which worked in its favour. 

9. War (RoI 95.14%)

There was great anticipation about Siddharth Anand’s War since it was bringing two dancing stars, Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, together on the big screen for the first time. In fact, War was a rare two-hero project in today's age.

Both Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff have large fan followings and that, coupled with an entertaining product with lots of twists, paid rich dividends at the box office for Yash Raj Films. The banner had a lot riding on this film after its last biggie, Thugs Of Hindostan (2018), had proved to be Duds Of Hindostan at the ticket window.

Shroff’s previous film, Student Of The Year 2, which was also released in 2019, did not exactly set the cash registers ringing. But the success of War ensured that the young star had a good year at the box office.

8. Pati Patni Aur Woh (RoI 100.625 %)

Apart from Ayushmann Khurrana, it was Kartik Aaryan who had a very good 2019. This was the first time in his career that he had more than one release in a calendar year, and both worked at the box office. 

Directed by Mudassar Aziz, Pati Patni Aur Woh was the official remake of the 1978 BR Chopra film of the same name starring Sanjeev Kumar. Of course, the makers updated the story to suit today’s times. The result was entertaining. And considering Aaryan’s popularity, it was not a surprise that the film was a hit.

Pati Patni Aur Woh also added another feather in Bhumi Pednekar’s cap, who also had a very good 2019, featuring as she did in Bala and Saand Ki Aankh.

7. Bala (RoI 177.275 %)

In his career thus far, Ayushmann Khurrana has usually signed on for films dealing with unusual topics, from the life of a sperm donor in Vicky Donor (2012) to someone suffering from erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017). Last year, he took up a film that dealt with the subject of premature balding, Bala, and the result was the same: the film was a hit.

Although Bala, directed by Amar Kaushik, did not reach the heights that Dream Girl, also starring Khurrana, scaled, it still generated an impressive return on investment for its producers.

With three releases — there was the critically acclaimed Article 15 as well — in the year, all of them doing good business and also pleasing the critics, 2019 surely belonged to Ayushmann Khurrana.

6. Chhichhore (RoI 194.64%)

When a filmmaker delivers a blockbuster like the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal (2016), it is but natural that fans will expect a box-office winner from him the next time. Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore did not have a superstar like Khan in the cast, but the film starring Sushant Singh Rajput and Shraddha Kapoor still delivered in terms of the content and the box-office performance.

Despite its similarities to a few other college flicks of the past, Chhichhore was lapped up by the college-going crowd as well as grown-ups who loved the feeling of nostalgia it provided. It is safe to say that Tiwari played his cards well, since his film ended up at the sixth spot in our list.

5. Luka Chuppi (RoI 254%)

In the age of Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao, another actor who has quietly climbed the ladder of box-office success is Kartik Aaryan. After two successful ventures in Pyaar Ka Punchnama (2010) and Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2013) at the start of his career, the actor announced himself as a force to be reckoned with in his previous release Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (2018), which surprised many with its box-office performance.

Kartik struck gold last year, too, with director Laxman Utekar’s Luka Chuppi. The romantic comedy, which also starred Kriti Sanon, had enough in it to keep the masses entertained and so grab the fifth spot in our list. Although the film was one of only two on this list not to reach the coveted Rs100 crore mark, its low cost propelled it ahead of many other biggies. There is always something to be said for thrift.

4. Badla (RoI 264.83%)

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, Badla was the official remake of the Spanish thriller The Invisible Guest (2016). It turned out to be a well-made adaptation that was tweaked with the domestic film-goer in mind. The film also had a fine combination going between Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu whose characters were pitted against each other in a cat-and-mouse game.

As far as the box office is concerned, Badla is the other film on this list that did not reach the Rs100 crore mark. But again, what worked for the film was its modest budget and excellent word-of-mouth publicity which ensured that the film came home with a collection of Rs87.56 crore nett at the Indian box office. Enough to snare fourth spot on this list.

3. Kabir Singh (RoI 360.56%)

Directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga, Kabir Singh was the official remake of the Telugu film Arjun Reddy (2017) by the same director. Starring Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani, Kabir Singh generated a mixed response from the audience and critics. There were those, especially college-goers, who went gaga over the film. And then there were those who hated it for its apparent glorification of toxic masculinity.

In fact, few films have generated so many strong articles against it as Kabir Singh. Maybe because of the sharp divide, people seemed to have turned up in droves to see just what the fuss was all about. Consequently, Shahid Kapoor ended up with his first big solo hit. Before Kabir Singh, the actor did not have a single film in the Rs100 crore club as the lead actor. 

2. Dream Girl (RoI 364.56%)

Ayushmann Khurrana’s Dream Girl extended his purple patch at the box office that began back in 2017. What makes Khurrana's success all the more remarkable is that he has not repeated any subject or even genre in this period.

In Dream Girl, we got to see Khurrana in a Govinda-like comedy for the first time. Going by the film's performance at the box office, it was clear that the audience was willing to overlook the lack of logic in the Raaj Shaadilyaa film in return for a good laugh, as used to happen with many of the David Dhawan films starring Govinda in the 1990s.

That Dream Girl's budget was a rather measly Rs30 crore only just helped the film rise higher than most of the others on the hit list.

1. Uri: The Surgical Strike (RoI 454.54%)

As the title itself suggests, Uri: The Surgical Strike was based on the ‘surgical strike’ carried out by Indian forces in response to a terrorist attack on an army camp in Uri in 2016. Coincidentally, the film, directed by Aditya Dhar, was released around the time the Indian government claimed to have carried out an air strike in Balakot in Pakistan in response to another terrorist strike, this time in Pulwama, also in Jammu & Kashmir.

Of course, none among the film's cast and crew could have foreseen or prayed for this turn of events. But it worked like magic for Uri. Else, why would a film starring Vicky Kaushal, a brilliant actor but no matinee idol, at least not until Uri, become the one with the highest return on investment in 2019? To be fair to the film, Uri was a well-crafted action thriller. It also generated a mammoth collection of Rs244 crore nett at the domestic box office.