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Why PUSHPA Is A Hit & 83 Took A Hit – Analysis By Bharathi S Pradhan

83 the movie, was heartily hailed. It failed. Analysts ruled that a dubbed film wouldn’t do brisk business in Hindi. Telugu film Pushpa made Rs 84 crore in the Hindi market alone. While punditry went awry, the box-office wrote its own story!

Cold facts are an eye-opener. 

Critics assess the cinematic value of a film, their reviews do not represent commercial projections. And Kabir Khan did make a cinematically sound 83 while Ranveer Singh did hit a captain’s knock along with the rest of his team. 

But trade insiders are supposed to read the box-office and factor in elements outside of a film too. Like predicting that a cold wave will harm night collections. So how did the entire film trade (not just reviewers) get it so wrong?  

Agreeing that their projections had been off-the-mark, trade journalist Narendra Gupta analysed that after Diwali, the audience was waiting for a big film to come along. But Bunty Aur Babli, Tadap and Antim let them down badly. 

Pushpa came before 83, it came at the right time when people were looking forward to a great entertainer. Normally dubbed films from the south don’t do so well out here,” he observed. “But Pushpa was promoted well, the trailer was very good and the film fetched excellent reviews. Still, because dubbed films don’t normally do well, Pushpa had a weak opening of only Rs 2.5 crore. It picked up gradually and then held on despite strong competition from Spider-Man.

Pushpa was a full-on, three-hour entertainment package. People even started comparing it to Bahubali. There were a lot of factors that worked in its favour to make it register worldwide collections of Rs 350 crore.”

The unstinted enthusiasm of the Telugu-speaking audience was both expected and understandable.

But how did the Hindi dubbed version which had been written off and which starred an actor called Allu Arjun whose name the Hindi audience can’t even spell, roar at the box-office? 

Gupta reasoned, “It’s not as if there was excitement in the Hindi market over an Allu Arjun film or there was a buzz that it would fetch Rs 100 crore. People thought after an opening of Rs 2.5 crore, Pushpa would make about 10-12 crore and vanish. But it got a good release with a substantial number of screens and went on to do astonishing business. The makers of Pushpa took the right call to release it in Hindi simultaneously because the audience was waiting for a lavishly shot entertainer with a big budget where a big hero does it all. There was comedy, romance and plenty of action.

Must Read: Here’s What Samantha Said About Allu Arjun’s Performance In Pushpa

“But,” he agreed, “the business it did in Hindi was unexpected by us. Nobody expected Pushpa to do a business of Rs 84 crore in four weeks. But then people didn’t expect Spider-Man either to go on and do a business of Rs 200 crore in India and that too in Covid times where theatres in major territories like Maharashtra are running to only 50% capacity.”

As for 83 not living up to the predictions, Gupta explained that apart from several others factors that are now being openly discussed, “83 was affected because it came on the heels of two back-to-back blockbusters (Spider-Man and Pushpa). There was also dadagiri by one of the producers who demanded that theatres pull down Spider-Man and Pushpa and give them all the screens.

“Still, after an unexpectedly weak opening, 83 has done a business of Rs 100 crore so far which is decent. But I agree it’s not a blockbuster, it is a losing film.” Unimpressive because 83 was made at the high cost Rs 200 crore.  

Check Out: Arjun Kapoor As Kapil Dev Holding The 83 World Cup, Breaking News By Bharathi S Pradhan

From projecting it as a record-breaking box-office hit to consoling themselves that 83 joins the club of outstanding cinema which the box-office did not welcome, the trade has begun to talk of the film in a different vein. A few industry voices remarked, “There are many cult films like Kagaz Ke Phool, Andaz Apna Apna, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh, Lamhe and Silsila, which were very widely appreciated but didn’t do well at the box-office. 83 is one of those films.”

Gupta additionally pointed out, “Gadar did 7 times more business than Lagaan when both films were released. But Lagaan is appreciated to this day. People still watch it.”

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Veteran film producer Ramesh Taurani who has his ear to the ground said that Pushpa did well in Hindi because, “It’s a well-made, full-on masala film. Dubbed films from the south have been doing well on satellite TV. So the Hindi audience has begun to watch and accept well-made films from the south. Allu Arjun, Pawan Kalyan, Ram Charan, Jr NTR are all huge stars. But,” he cautioned, “not all dubbed films bring in good business. There have been so many of them after Bahubali but only KGF and now Pushpa have caught the fancy of the Hindi audience. There was novelty in the kind of smuggling they showed in Pushpa and for a three-hour film, it was so fast-paced that you didn’t realise it was such a long film.” 

Taurani lamented the fact that Hindi filmmakers are no longer making movies for the masses.

“Rohit Shetty is the only filmmaker who continues to make commercial films,” he said. “Pushpa has action, romance, comedy, everything to keep a mass audience entertained. Unfortunately, we’re not making such films in Hindi anymore. We’ve gone intellectual, we go for issue-based films, and we’ve stopped catering to the mass audience. When a Sooryavanshi comes along, it does well. There’s a large audience that just wants entertainment but Hindi cinema is no longer catering to them.”

Producer Boney Kapoor who has his feet firmly planted in both the Hindi and Tamil film industries augmented Taurani’s thought by adding, “By and large, Hindi film producers have forgotten that they are making films for a general audience. They get carried away by the look, or by the authenticity, or by an issue, and they work on one genre without diverting from it. 

Films like Pushpa are multi-genre with a winning mix of everything, says Boney Kapoor.

“Films like Pushpa are multi-genre pictures with family emotions, friendships, comedy, action. It’s a winning mix of everything. That’s why dubbed films like Bahubali, KGF, Robot 1 and Pushpa have done exceedingly well in Hindi too. This mix of ingredients is missing from Hindi films today. 

Sooryavanshi pitched itself accurately to the audience by saying, ‘Come back to the theatres’, with all three heroes standing together. Who wouldn’t want to see three big stars in a film? Rohit Shetty excels in in-your-face commercial cinema. Something that Hindi filmmakers have lost sight of.

“Basically, the south still believes in heroes,” continued Boney. His own film Wanted had gone along with it and played up its hero to full strength in 2009, resulting in a hit that opened the doors of single screens which had been closed by the multiplex culture. Wanted was the remake of the Telugu blockbuster Pokiri.

“The south still has the pulse of the mass audience. Hindi films like DDLJ and Hum Aaapke Hain Koun did well because they had family drama, emotions, songs. These days, songs too have been reduced in Hindi films. Repeat value used to be songs and dialogues. Nowadays actors say, the dialogues are not natural, it should be the way we speak. So the entire thinking has taken an about turn,” commented Boney. 

Well-informed about the film trade, Boney also pointed out that contrary to predictions that Pushpa would do well in Andhra and not in the Hindi market, “It hasn’t done that well in Andhra. Pushpa has done well in Telangana but not in AP. Not because of lack of merit,” he quickly explained, “but because of other factors like the rates of tickets which have come down and other reasons like some theatres closing down. So the buyer of AP may not make money, not because of the content but because of other factors.”

Ramesh Taurani joined the rest of his industry in expressing shock and sadness that 83 didn’t fare as well as was expected. “It was so well-made, I haven’t met a single person who bad-mouthed it. The reactions ranged from good to very good, excellent and extraordinary. Nobody had a negative opinion on it.”

A few insiders who wished to remain unnamed put forth their views on 83

“It was a weak title that carried no weight,” said one. “If it had been titled Kapil Dev, it might’ve fared better. Besides, they didn’t publicise the film well. There were many producers involved in it and it had gone so grossly over budget that they didn’t spend on publicity. They relied on social media posts which is not enough. They didn’t do any publicity on TV and other places to create awareness and enthusiasm.”    

“Only the connoisseurs of good cinema enjoyed 83,” opined another. “It catered to the palate of the elitist class which appreciates aspects like the craft or the authenticity. 

“Hindi films need to be multi-layered and multi-dimensional. The makers of 83 concentrated on the games which people had already seen many times. There were no twists and turns, everybody knew what was happening. The only excitement was in seeing Ranveer enact Kapil Dev which he did very well. But it was ultimately a well-shot docu-drama on the game of cricket with no surprises. Everybody knew the climax that India would win. So the general audience felt there was no excitement.” 

“Cricket is a religion here,” said a reputed filmmaker. “In every nook and corner, there are people who know exactly when the tide turned for India. It was in 83 after the World Cup though some will say the turning point was in 71 when Sunil Gavaskar started winning in the West Indies. Cricket buffs know it all, the stadiums are full of buffs who know every stroke and ball played. 

83 was a good effort by the crew and the team to keep it as authentic as possible. That’s the reason the trade thought it would be a blockbuster. But trade people didn’t realise that these are well-documented stories, nothing unexpected happened in the film, there was no comedy, no romance, no relationships. A film has to be rich with emotions and relationships. For instance, in actuality, there was dissidence among the players at the World Cup in 1983, the players were agitated at one point. Gavaskar had been dropped from one game. But none of this was explored in the film which was uni-dimensional.”

Why the trade didn’t think this through before making their predictions was explained by one producer who put it simply: “Some well-known trade pundits are too busy pleasing everybody today. When some of them are of the calibre that they predict Radhe will be a big hit, they are bound to go wrong.”

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