On Friday, August 11, two big films will hit the cinemas simultaneously: Akshay Kumar’s ‘Raksha Bandhan’ and Aamir Khan’s ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’. This of course won’t be the first time that two such films will compete with each other or, to put it otherwise, vie for the major share of the box office.
Earlier, when such an occasion occurred, the makers of the two films, though each wished for the success of his own film, were never known to badmouth each other or their films. The rivalry was never personal and the Hindi adage always worked: Sabka bhala ho lekin mera jyada ho (Let everyone benefit, but may I do a little better).
The examples of two major films competing against each other are aplenty over the years: ‘Bajirao Mastani’ and ‘Dilwale’, ‘Aitraaz’ and ‘Veer Zaara’, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘Welcome’, ‘Lagaan’ and ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’, ‘Dil’ and ‘Ghayal’, and many more similar instances.
Like others, even the major stars deliver a flop from time to time and the eternal fact remains that it is the film in toto that works, and not because who it stars.
The greatest examples in the history of Hindi cinema, to my knowledge, are ‘Sholay’ and ‘Jai Santoshi Maa’, released on the same day, August 15, 1975. Both went on to become blockbusters. The producer of ‘Jai Santoshi Maa’ even went on to become the highest income-tax payer on record for that financial year.
In such instances where you have films of two top stars, or two renowned makers, releasing on the same day, sometimes both films work and otherwise, one does better than the other. It is the moviegoer who decides finally, not missing the film that interests him more. That may make the difference between the opening collections of one film over the other, but that is not the ultimate.
The collections of ‘Jai Santoshi Maa’ were better than ‘Sholay’ initially and so was its acceptance. That is how the film business works and that is how people show their preferences.
Of course, the film industry has a sadistic trait and it prevails universally, among producers, directors, actors, and down the line. When a film is released on a Friday and flops, the rest of the clan silently rejoices and celebrates.
It is a vicious circle. One who celebrates the other’s flop is at the receiving end when his film is released. Yet, they are all friends on the rest of the days. It has no logic, really.
The worst is what is happening now when two films of major artistes are due to be released on August 11. It has brought to the fore the industry’s pettiness. Opposing groups have been formed on the social media, bots are at work, especially on Twitter, where two camps, one for ‘Raksha Bandhan’ and the other for ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, are busy running down one film or the other. It is a no-holds-barred slugfest and even getting personal.
Shouldn’t they be promoting only the film of their own master, instead? But that is the name of the game. Make the other guy look small so you may look better! Both the stars, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar, have been in the industry since the last century, delivering films on regular intervals (Akshay’s intervals are shorter, though) and have survived so far. Will bad mouthing each other help their films?
The campaign on social media is about why people should not watch the other actor’s film. In the case of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, the Aamir Khan film, the appeal (if you may call it that) is to boycott his film because he’s anti-national! Aamir Khan promoters call Akshay anti-Hindu because in one of his films, ‘OMG: Oh My God’, it is suggested that milk must not be wasted by pouring it on a deity, and, instead, should be used to nourish the poor and the hungry.
In return, Aamir Khan is being accused of doing an anti-Hindu film, ‘PK’! Ironically, both the films were hits. But those who use social media should know that Akshay and Aamir play the roles they are assigned. They cannot be blamed for the characters and the lines written by others for them.
There are other issues, like most topics discussed on Aamir Khan’s popular television serial, ‘Satyamev Jayate’, played with the religious sentiments of the masses. Besides that, Aamir’s Turkey visit and meeting the country’s ‘anti-India President’ is held against him and the claim that his film ‘Dangal’ did a business of Rs 1,100 crore is branded as money laundering. Netizens are letting their imaginations fly with the worst possible ideas!
It is an open secret that actors and filmmakers engage people to promote their cause. That is to say, basically, to lie and spread negative stuff about other stars. The problem with such brigades is that they are not guided as to how to go about their job. You have read one post, you have read them all. The same matter, same fonts and same lack of grammar. And, to add to that, some get so worked up that they start using the filthiest foul words.
Is that how the stars want to be represented on social media?
The film industry as a whole, and the stars in particular, are not really enjoying people’s support anymore, let alone having a fan following. Idolising a star is a thing of the past. Sad that the stars have to manipulate vulnerable reporters or pay publications for their promotion.
You know, we have a generation of reporters who go to cover a star’s event more to click selfies with him/her than to do their job!
Recently, we have seen big-star films flop in a row, the same stars to see whose films the crowds would throng on the very first day. Akashy Kumar, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan — all haved failed to work the same magic. Why do the stars and the producers resort to publishing wrong, inflated collection figures even if the film is not doing well?
I think that is because they are not in touch with the sentiments of the masses anymore. And they fail to stand by their own tribe in the time of need. People have seen through this and are losing respect for the stars they loved.
Take the case of Sushant Singh Rajput or that of Kangna Ranaut. One is dead now and Kangana not only lost her property but also a booming career. Both had the sympathies of the people all around. Only their fellow film folk, especially the stars, let them down by not standing by them!
You think your film will run by running down the other film? If you aren’t promoting your own film so that it draws an audience, you are wasting time running down the other’s film!
Prediction is a risky business when it comes to films. But that is what I have done all my working life. So here, if any of the two films gets a better opening, ‘Lal Singh Chaddha’ will be it. Boycott or not. (Disclaimer: Miscreants, morchas and stoning cinema theatres have not been taken into account.)
A fan never questions his favourite star’s background. He puts him on a pedestal. What the stars, playing their games on social media, are doing, is showing their true colours, their background, education and upbringing. This may well raise the question: What if they had not become stars?
–By Vinod Mirani