Why Success Of Drishyam 2 Is No Good News For Crisis-Hit Bollywood
The success of Drishyam 2 shows that the regional cinema can now hope to attract a Hindi-speaking audience without requiring support from the Bollywood brigade.
Bollywood is in a crisis.
That there is a crisis has been by filmmakers and leading actors, their allies in the media, trade analysts and critics alike.
The back-to-back failure of big-ticket films such as 83, Jersey, Bachchan Pandey, Heropanti 2, Shamshera, Samrat Prithviraj, Raksha Bandhan, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Laal Singh Chaddha, Thank God, Goodbye, Vikram Vedha, Liger and Brahmastra, not to forget the dismal performance of smaller films such as Dobaaraa, Dhaakad, Code Name: Tiranga and Doctor G, have raised alarm bells.
Bollywood films are bombing at the box office one after the other, and no formula that has guaranteed success in the past seems to be working.
On the other hand, some films from the south of India have done spectacular business in the Bollywood-dominated north such as Pushpa: The Rise, RRR and KGF Chapter 2.
While these were big-budget, big-star offerings, even much smaller films from the south such as Kartikeya and Kantara have far surpassed any big Bollywood film of late.
Amid this, Drishyam 2 has come as a ray of hope. Released on 18 November, the film is claimed to have earned over Rs 175 crore [as on 4 December].
The film’s performance is being described by analysts as “extraordinary”, and Bollywood associates have begun to use the film’s success to give back to “doomsayers”.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta recently tweeted, “Our industry is having a great time at the movies…ALL IZ WELL.”
But should Bollywood be really celebrating the success Drishyam 2 as its own?
Before we come to our point, let us try defining Bollywood for the purpose of this article. The term ‘Bollywood’ imitates a term that originated in the West and makes no pretence about lacking in originality. Though it is based in Mumbai, not all Mumbai-based producers associate with it.
For instance, Vivek Agnihotri, undoubtedly the most commercially successful filmmaker of the year 2022, does not identify himself as being part of Bollywood anymore. Returning the resentment, he wasn’t invited for the recent Filmfare awards.
His film, The Kashmir Files, featuring well-known Bollywood faces such as Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty and Pallavi Joshi, has done a business of more than Rs 340 crore against its modest budget of Rs 15 crore.
So, let us define Bollywood as the Urdu-Hindi film industry based out of Mumbai helmed by about a dozen producers-distributors and dominated by the ‘masala’ genre of entertainment, which roughly means a mix of a little bit of several elements such as romance, songs-and-dances, action and tragedy.
In recent times, the only Bollywood films that have worked are Bhool Bhulaiya 2 and now Drishyam 2, if we see The Kashmir Files as independent of Bollywood as per the wishes of its maker, Agnihotri.
We make four observations regarding this:
1. None of these were sold on the strength of its lead actors, called ‘superstars’ in Bollywood lingo.
2. Films from the south that worked did not do so because of their ‘star cast’ as is evident by the massive failure of Liger featuring Telugu superstar Vijay Deverakonda. They were simply Hindi-Urdu dubbing of the original film.
3. Bhool Bhulaiya 2 was a sequel of an earlier hit film. It released at the prime of the ‘Bollywood boycott movement’ but dodged it as the so-called ‘right-leaning’ organisations and individuals said to be behind the movement were engrossed in the emotive Gyanwapi issue. The film has otherwise been called out for objectionable scenes by the boycott movement even though some disagree with the impact of this movement altogether.
4. Almost every big production-distribution house has bitten the dust. Some films by these houses could not earn even a crore despite their lead cast actively promoting the film such as Double XL and Tara Vs Bilal (T-Series).
Let’s now return to Drishyam 2, the subject of this article. Well, its success is no good news for Bollywood. And here’s why:
1. The film is quite different from the typical Bollywood fare. It has no songs or item numbers or action scenes or flowery dialogues. It is a well-made thriller where the plot takes precedence over everything.
2. It was successful even though it doesn’t have a crowd-puller cast. Ajay Devgn recently came in his usual stylish form in Thank God – a more expensive and well-marketed film. It fell in the masala genre with all the glitz, grandeur, skin show and titillating dialogues that have defined Bollywood for the past several decades. However, that film was a massive flop.
Tabu and Akshay Khanna have never been crowd-pullers, and have been relegated to supporting roles even in the prime of their careers. Shriya Saran who has reprised her role from Drishyam 1, is a virtually unknown name among Bollywood audience.
In short, people went to watch Drishyam 2 were least bothered about who featured in it.
3. The film is a scene-by-scene remake of Malayalam Drishyam 2, which received widespread critical acclaim. There is no contribution of Bollywood to the original movie.
4. The film has been made on a small budget, with no significant expenses apart from the actors’ fees.
5. Unlike other Bollywood films, there are no attempts to give sermons to the majority population or make jibes on Hindus or overtly market Urdu culture. It is a straightforward film that sticks to its plot.
In a nutshell, it is easy for any independent filmmaker to replicate the success formula of this film at a low budget – by just focusing on the plot.
The film’s success shows that the audience no more cares about star power, expensive sets, songs or item numbers. They are also getting increasingly sensitive to jokes about their religion.
As per most estimates, actors’ fees form the most significant chunk of film expenses in Bollywood, followed by sets, VFX and public relations. Drishyam 2 has rendered them non-essential.
The success of Drishyam 2 shows that the regional cinema can now hope to attract a Hindi-speaking audience without requiring support from the Bollywood brigade. If this trend continues, we will soon see the old guard in Bollywood making way for fresh storytelling talent from all corners of the country, reclaiming the art of making cinema.
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