The Wrap-Up of 2020: What went down, what went right and what to expect for the coming year?

Firstly, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who has been reading, supporting and sharing our articles this year. This year has been a complete platform change-over for Kismat Talkies and we do thank everyone who had made it possible.  As for this article, it would have not been possible without two individuals – Mr Rav Kumar who helped in a big way in conceiving, viewing and reviewing the content of this article. Secondly, thanks to Mr Shantanu Prasher for the tremendous help– who again was a big hand with his inputs.

The phenomenal rollercoaster of the year 2020 has undoubtedly been year which for a generation will remember, either for the right or wrong reasons.  From a virus outbreak, to a lockdown in most parts of the world, to various controversies and outbreaks etc, you know all what we have seen this year. Our Hindi film industry, right from the beginning of the year has found a complete balance of the graph. No-one in their wildest dreams would have predicted that a virus outbreak will take such a toll on the industry. The entire year has been a huge shift in changes with various notions and movement of change of trade and basic industry practices.

As for the respect of the deceased, some of the last few films of the ones we lost this year will not be discussed in this article. The year we lost such great film personalities like Jagdeep, Rishi Kapoor, Saroj Khan, Irrfan Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Basu Chatterjee, S P Balasubrahmanyam, Wajid Khan, Nishikant Kamat, Asif Basra and our thoughts are with them all.

The article will speak about the earlier quarter of the year, Jan till March we had a decent number of films hitting the cinemas later which due to the pandemic, many announced and many released straight to digital streaming platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime etc . Our take in this article will be on every film released this entire year – speaking financial as well as the content of the failures and success stories of the year 2020.

 So strap our seatbelts and take a complete look what we have seen in the year 2020, step by step.

What worked in 2020 & The Box Office Earners

Starting on positive note, we begin with the financial grossers of the year. We all are aware, the closure of cinemas was announced on 13th March 2020 till the reopening of many cinemas on Diwali, so in terms of financially, these are top five grossing films of the year:

  1. Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior (Verdict – Blockbuster)
  2. Baaghi 3 (Verdict – Above Average)
  3. Street Dancer 3D (Verdict – Flop)
  4. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Verdict – Below Average)
  5. Malang (Verdict – Below Average)

Other than these five films – no other film made any mark at the box office this year. Tanhaji is the most profitable film this year at the box office by making almost a 100 Crore in profit alone. Baaghi 3 just scratched a profit before going into the closure of cinemas. Except for Tanhaji, Baaghi 3 and Street Dance 3D, the two other films had just broken even. Street Dancer 3D pulled in high numbers but due to the high production cost – it’s still classed as a loss.

It won’t be wrong in saying that the entire year belongs to Ajay Devgan. Devgan had one release in the year and the only film in the year 2020 that actually minted cash for the producers. Despite being a high budgeted film (almost 170 Crore in production) and releasing early January which is usually a lull phase – it racked in numbers from being well promoted, high in content and became a cinema-attraction for Pan India.

Tanhaji was a complete cinema attraction – the large canvas, commercially friendly and the 3D format adding to the spectatorship of the film – and let’s not forget the leads in the film that held the film together.  Devgan’s other film, Bhuj: The Pride of India was announced to be released straight on an OTT platform but if what we hear is to be true, Devgan may take the call of giving it a theatrical release as well but only time can tell.

Malang was certainly a success story for this year. At the box office and even benefitted when released on Netflix with the high number in terms of viewership. Malang didn’t have saleability in its initial marketing promotion, going by the cast and Mohit Suri’s last two outings. Prior to its release, trade pundits didn’t expect a lot from this Mohit Suri venture but it impressed as it sold to the weekly moviegoers. The public and members of the media spoke highly of its value of entertainment – which was its point of sale. It even somewhat brought back some saleability to Aditya Roy Kapoor’s name again which the trade had wrote him off around a year ago – hence its verdict, it’s a remains a success story.

On the contrary, despite Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’s verdict at the box office – it is seen as an underachiever. Many expectations were riding on the film – Ayushmann Khurrana’s last few films had done exceptionally well, so the trade had expected a lot more from the film. The film took a decent opening but numbers began to decrease as days followed. The decrease was because of two strong reasons – firstly, the subject of homosexuality did not go well with the family audience, it being blown into a commercial film which is something the public are still finding hard to digest – something which similarly happened last year to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Secondly, the lacklustre screenplay. The second half of the film is where many of the audience members waved goodbye to the cinema hall, not at all holding the attention of the public. The other problem with Shubh Mangal here as well was the increase in scale too – Ayushmann’s last few films being medium budget films, this however was slightly costlier (around 60-65 Crore budget) hence the recovery was harder. It still had broken even for some distributors in certain circuits, but is a forgettable fare.

Baaghi 3 did the numbers and the took the opening but due to the closure of cinemas, its run was minimalised. But the film itself was bashed – by the public and the press. Tiger, we could say was lucky this time around; as the film just about cashed in a profit just before facing the bullet but other than that – the film isn’t anything to be spoken about.

Street Dancer 3D was big on numbers but a dud. The film will be spoke on more in the second section.

What didn’t work in 2020 & The Duds

This section in a smaller context that can define the year 2020 as a wholesome. A huge blow to the industry of course was the closure of cinemas in March, where we saw a huge flow of films being sold to digital streaming platforms, the viewership over the entire year changed from the bigger to the smaller domestic screen. But this year, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the content of films has mostly been meagre. There wasn’t any shortage of bad, terrible and lacklustre films this year. For the betterment of most of these films were placed on digital platforms but that doesn’t mean all on the digital platforms were bad, and neither all that released in cinemas were at all better.

To start with, here are the worst films of the year 2020:

To begin with the year, we had Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, which was shocking to see such an established director making a lazy attempt of a film especially when the same director was responsible for one of the best films of last decade. Madam Gulzar made a film out of a plot which could have easily been wrapped up in 30 minutes. For the icing on the cake, Deepika’s ways of promoting the film ended up actually going against it all – her involvement with anti-CAA protest led to a political mess and her exploitation of the real-life acid survivor for her PR means went down in bad taste. The promotions activities lead the film to minimal viewership. Many of the media felt Deepika trying to play this ‘character of a fighter’ put her in the wrong direction and fell straight on her face. Her ideal move should have been keeping away from the political agenda to favour the promotion of her film. Her best interest ideally lies in healthier PR and her mind to making better films than Chhapaak.

Possibly not only the one of the worst but even the most unintentional comics of the year – with a script and direction almost non-existent, that award has to go to Remo D’souza’s Street Dancer 3D. A film which isn’t something anyone would take serious as the franchise is of such; but the events in this film are absolutely bizarre. From being a simple dance film, it goes into the strange political agenda of nations, exposes the lives of homeless immigrants in London and just to hurt your eyes even more – we get a sighting of a floor-humping dancer. It had one job to do – and it couldn’t do that properly.

Where we had thought that Imitaz Ali would have learned from his past mistake of completely screwing up a 100 plus crore film with one of the biggest stars in the country – he came to torture us even more. He remakes his 2009 hit film with everything pretty much the same but Mr Ali must have thought, why don’t we just ruin it? The hammy performers, the disengaging screenplay and the ruining of the soundtrack of the original 2009 film – just to make it worse, the main leads deliver possibly their worst performances of their career with an over-the-top Kartik Aaryan and a melodramatic Sara Ali Khan. Imitaz Ali, take the public advice – you may need a self-assessment. 

Mahesh Bhatt returned back to direction only to ruin his legacy. A film-less and more of a time machine back to the 90s where birds play saviours and one-handed men were frightening came back to haunt us. Depression-surviving or god-men-fighting, no one had a clue what Sadak 2 was actually about – all one remembers is Dutt breaking his ceiling fan which still could have been a fault of the art director.

But we have to give to Mr Kumar for making us all sit through the experience of Laxmii – this section is incomplete without discussing the torturing experience we had this Diwali. A film that almost ruined Diwali in most households this year. The remake which was supposed to happen several years ago came too late in the day and what we are left with an aged Mr Kumar with Kiara Advani looking like his daughter, becomes possessed by a transgender – with gags not even remotely funny and an unpleasant and total 80s backstory to convince us of the injustice of the spirit. Not only are we unconvinced, we are sat bored and hating ourselves with the idea of why we even bothered to finish the film. The audience is pretty done with this formula of a commercial film, which could have worked in 2011. Outdated yet mundane. Let’s just say – the Burj Khalifa is currently safe.

Just when we thought the year could not get any worse – David Dhawan felt some stones were unturned. The Dhawan family returned to remake the 1995 film Coolie No.1 in 2020 with barely any changes being made – only to make it offensive, sexist, racist and play on sadistic stereotypes. Hammy performances by Varun Dhawan, who earlier mimicked Salman and Govinda, now mimics Mithun, just shows how unfunny and annoying his potentials can be. Coolie No.1 is actually how not to make a 90s film in totality. 

Here are a few more honourable mentions of films which we didn’t bother to write about and you shouldn’t bother to watch – because we took the torture in seeing them to warn you!

The Underdogs

It’s not all doom and gloom but there have been a handful films this year that have made a certain impact. Despite the big share of bad times, a limited number of them stuck out as being decent fares. Many of these films did not come along with a lot of baggage, which is the best part, but the job of what they came to set out to be.

Two films which did stick out for immensely was Bejoy Nambiar’s Taish and Anurag Basu’s Ludo.

Nambiar’s Taish at first came with this confusion – which should be cleared – is its format of release. Taish was released as a six-part webseries and a feature film, where many asked which format should be seen, well – go for the film. The story is that that studio had cut the film into make into a six-part webseries in which it was never set out to be. Nambiar, the director, fighting for it to be released as a film – somewhere got lost in transition. Many, including myself, confused of which to watch – saw and understood that this was Nambiar’s vision as a full-fledged film going by the flow of the feature and its essence in storytelling. Both formats have different timelines and narratives, so would recommend watching the film to understand the director’s narrative and not the studios. Onto the film, we would have to say is kudos to the director, for making a slick enjoyable thriller and kudos the shining performances of Harshvardhan Rane and Pulkit Samrat. Well casted, well presented and well made.

Similarly, to Taish, another film with this year that was told in a multi narrative is Anurag Basu’s Ludo. The multi narrative territory, in the Hindi film sense, usually doesn’t work and not many directors can get it right. Taish we can say comes more of semi-multi narrative which adds the proportional later – Ludo is a complete multi narrative.

Ludo, this year’s possibly only Diwali release that made some impact in being an enjoyable fare. Anurag Basu designs and packages this venture out so well that it overshines on the factors we have issues with – for example the length and its stretch. Basu is forgiven is many departments thanks to the smooth direction – not only does the film work but so do the performances. Abhishek, Aditya Roy, Fatima Sana all leading in that department. Basu handles the storytelling here in the film correctly – giving each characterisation and story the heaviness it requires to move a film like this forward in totality.

Another underdog this year which did give us a smile this year is Kunal Khemu – after the praise from Malang in the earlier fraction of the year – Khemu won hearts with Lootcase. The fun, down-to-earth and witty comedy about a man’s companion becoming a suitcase of cash becomes this joyful ride. The beauty in Lootcase lies in its subtly – being as basic as it can yet being larger than life in the detail. Lootcase, proves that being on the backbench doesn’t mean it won’t be noticed – the less noise yet strong content is way it won its merits.

The last two films are films that we generally enjoyed watching and felt those films served its purpose – neither being preachy but true in its value of entertaining.  Earlier in the year, on seeing Jawani Jaaneman, it came across a decent, entertaining fair which wasn’t nothing to rant on about but for the time of viewing and over the months it had something that expanded in our minds. This breezy, wacky yet mature comedy is one recommended.

Class of 83 will be remembered for Bobby Deol’s actual comeback. His second innings as an actor and made us realise that he suits a certain calibre of roles. The film itself isn’t a bad fare but not a great one but yes, an entertaining one. Lead by a decent cast, this Netflix original is worth a shot.

The ones who shined

The ones who shined this year from the actors are Ajay Devgan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Harshvardhan Rane and Kunal Khemu. Devgan, without doubt as well know carried out the biggest film on his shoulders and a special credit to him for backing a film like Tanhaji as a producer – to envision a project with a director who is one film old, that too on such a lavish scale. The film got of course what is deserved.

Aditya Roy Kapoor, excluding Sadak 2, has impressed with first Malang and then Ludo. Not so long ago, many had written off Aditya Roy an ‘unsaleable and wooden actor’ – his two films this year proved that not only is saleable but moulded himself into a commendable performer too. He has potential, just needs to brush on his script choosing skills and to work with the right makers. Otherwise, we can see him shining better in the near future.

Sad cases when actors do not get the right projects to shine. A small number of people saw Sanam Teri Kasam and Paltan and Harshvardhan Rane’s work in both films was commendable despite being surrounded with seasoned actors. In Taish, Harsh has worked on everything. A new language to him, his body language, the look of Pali etc. A big misconception of the actor this year has been thrown out of the window. The perception of him has now become right – he is star material but shouldn’t fall into the trap of falling prey to his image, just hope he continuously gives us more Palis.

Kunal Khemu, as mentioned earlier has shined with his two performances. Khemu is an actor that possibly we haven’t taken seriously in the past due to a line of duds we have seen from the actor, but as a performer not necessary as a male lead – he is finding his slot of belonging.  

Out of the actresses, Fatima Sana Sheikh with both Ludo and Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari has made her presence felt in two roles which were vast apart and different shades. Disha Patani even proved that she can perform and isn’t there on-screen for her image of eye-candy. Her role in Malang, was a statement of saying she is capable of doing for more and better.

Nushrat Bharucha indeed now getting the recognition as an actress, gave a very likeable and devoted performance in Chhalaang, although the film wasn’t highly spoke about but performance did win praise it deserved. Sanya Malhotra, in both Ludo and Shakuntala Devi proved that she is here to stay. Goes to prove that her Dangal co-star isn’t also the talent running the block but, this one too is going to give her the run for her money.

The ones who didn’t shine

The year hasn’t been pleasant for Akshay Kumar – the flak that Laxmii had received was unanimous but it would be wrong to say it has affected Mr Kumar’s creditability. Akshay hasn’t had a dud since 2015 and neither can we say that Laxmii a financial failure of any sort, since it was sold and we wouldn’t possible to see the viewership numbers. Laxmii was blessed in the sense it released straight to a streaming platform. Akshay has bigger projects in the line and a one Laxmii doesn’t make any difference to him.

Varun Dhawan doesn’t exactly have the best choice in choosing films and this year we saw it evidently with Street Dancer 3D and Coolie No.1. Street Dancer 3D is a blow to him and apparently, Varun hasn’t been taking it well. Since the bombing of Street Dancer 3D – Varun had publicly announced he wasn’t exactly impressed of the outcome and he will be careful in the future. Varun had dropped out of Dharma’s Mr Lele over scripting issues; even rejected a script from Yashraj over the same. Seems Varun is now taking his steps a little more carefully. Varun may need to step away from his father’s remakes of his own films as he can do better. In these films he coming out as looking extremely hammy and annoying.

Ayushmann Khurana’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan was a complete disappointment. Possible playing his cards safe with the similar comfortable successful formula that Khurana is taking, maybe this time around he felt it would be the same. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan actual failure lies in its screenplay – the second half of the film seemed that neither the writer or director knew where the film was going. Khurana has a number of projects on his hand and has established his brand, he just needs to be more diverse. He needs to mix up his game with doing a Andhadhun or an Article 15 at times too.

Alia Bhatt this year fell prey to her father’s poor directorial comeback – which actually made her stick out like a sore thumb. In all fairness, Sadak 2 was a film where everyone seemed bad and out of place. But the flak Alia had got over the nepotism debate too had left her cornered, which isn’t exactly reasonable. She will bounce back.

Deepika Padukone, as spoke about earlier, needs to be doing better films if she is going solo. If her contemporaries Kangana, Priyanka or even Taapsee are doing solo and doing better films – both solo and in leads, that too quicker and more of them in numbers – she may need to go to the drawing board and analyse what is going wrong.

What to expect for the future?

We can say that the big feature film heading to the cinema will take some time and for cinemas to head back to normality is uncertain as of yet. Firstly, the on-going pandemic has the fear of the audience to head to the cinema and the financial situation of most people in parts of the country is bad, where some are even struggling for food – cinema will be their last option.

Producers and distributors are in fear of a second lockdown, hence many of the so-called big budget films have been placed on hold. If reports are true, then roughly 50-55 films are ready completed to be released, many of them wanting theatrical releases but sadly, most are scared that cinemas will head for a closure again. Secondly, many producers are in negotiations with cinema chains and distributors around the country to find a favourable deal for both sides.

Since the opening of cinemas this Diwali just gone, with the occupancy being capped at either 30% or 50%, some cinema owners and distributors are finding it hard to break even. With the recent Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari and Indoo Ki Jawani haven’t exactly scrapped any profits in cinemas, but because the producers had secured their films by selling the digital rights prior to the theatrical release, they were in a safe zone.

Its beyond our understanding how many colleagues from the trade had taken a predictivity test for some of the films that had released on digital platforms. How could one predict that a Laxmii or a Dil Bechara would have worked or not worked in cinemas during this pandemic? Predicting it would have grossed 80 Crore etc is beyond means. For starters, we wouldn’t even know the number of screens these films would have reached and in which specific area would have been accessible for the audience to reach the cinemas? The truth is there are many aspects apart from the stardom or content of these films.

So where does this leave the films being released in the new year? We can see films being released on digital platforms and cinemas or even a simultaneous release. The simultaneous release will give people the option of paying for the film online or go the cinemas. Similarly, in Hollywood for their Christmas release had something similar with Wonder Woman 1984, where it was released on HBO Max and had a selected theatrical release. Our studios in India are already in talks with doing this similar strategy with some of the big releases in the coming year.

In trade talks, barring YRF’s Pathan which has been announced for Diwali 2021, most of the bigger league actors have not announced any major film so far. Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan have announced Ram Setu, Atrangi Re etc and Devgan announcing MayDay. From the trade its heard that these films are medium budget films and possibly the stars would want to concentrate on them before even considering the bigger budget event films for this coming year, as the smaller scale films may be a safer option for now.

Salman Khan’s Radhe which was supposed to release May 2020, has now shifted to Eid 2021. Sooryavanshi and ’83 and a few more of these competed films were at some point in talks about a straight to digital release but there hasn’t been any talk of it since. The fate of some of these films are unknown.

As of now, nothing can said about what the coming year holds but we can say there were some smaller films which were waiting for a theatrical have decided to go on the digital side. There are some filmmakers like Bhansali, Ali Abbas Zafar, Raj & DK, Shoojit Sircar have decided to either produce or direct films for Netflix or Amazon Prime in the coming year. So till then we can only wait and see.

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