Recall Rajat Aroraa’s iconic words that went on Vidya Balan’s character: Filmein sirf teen cheezon ki wajah se chalti hain … entertainment, entertainment, entertainment?

So, for the zillionth time, the audience has cocked a snook at the (expected) bad/ivory-tower reviews by showing up in big numbers for Gabbar Is Back, the first big, value-for-money entertainer of the year. Not for nothing has the film crossed Rs 51 crore in five days, opened and scored high even overseas, eclipsed the lifetime collections of films like Roy (technically a flop) and Badlapur (a success) and is fast moving towards 100 crore.

The moral of the story? Well, read on…

Analyzing the three moderately successful films earlier this year (in footfalls as well as return of investment), we had the dark Badlapur, the warm Dum Lagake Haisha and the modest entertainer, Ek Paheli-Leela. The first two had fresh, riveting screenplays supported by great music, the former also starring the hot and happening Varun Dhawan. The last was a spicy, smartly-packaged and well-marketed rip-off of the 1998 flop Divine Lovers, an English film made and based in India.

Gabbar Is Back, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Fast & Furious 7 movie posters
Gabbar Is Back, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Fast & Furious 7 movie posters

But search for hits and we had just two contenders—Fast & Furious 7 and Avengers: Age Of Ultron—both Hollywood bonanzas released with Hindi versions and other language versions as well! The former crossed 100 crore, the latter stands at Rs 67 crore-plus, in India, that is.

And the (Hindi) vacuum that existed since 2015 began, has finally been filled by Gabbar Is Back. Even if it has not been able to surpass Fast & Furious 7 in opening weekend collections (Rs 48 cr.-plus), the Akshay Kumar film crossed the figure for Avengers… (Rs 35 crore-plus) and notched up Rs 39 crore-plus.

So what is that obvious great commonality between these three ‘illogical’ films? Value for money, of course!

The two Hollywood films are VFX-heavy actioners, and obviously action minus an emotional chord has always been a no-no in India. The emotional aspect is paramount in Gabbar Is Back, as the film takes on the corruption issue in a way that gratifies audiences fed up to the gills in everyday life. Though the film finally makes a case that a good man using wrong methods for the right actions deserves a legal punishment, he still emerges as a hero who is both the genesis and nemesis of prevailing ills in society.

All this, of course, could have shown in a grim, realistic, trendily (sic) dark manner. Immediately, such a film would have been exalted to the level of a great piece of cinematic art, possibly fodder for international festivals as it spotlights a rampant evil in India and won four star ratings from the ‘intelligent’ critics!

But such a film would have flopped too! And wisely, the makers of the original, Ramanaa, as well as those who remade it as Gabbar, chose the tougher way of making a commercial film. Illogical in places, impractical as a social solution, it was still a supremely entertaining movie that gratified, even if momentarily, our helpless angst against the system.

Gabbar Is Back has thus done its final but vital social service to the audiences itself, by defeating all those who made indifferent or self-indulgent movies at someone else’s expense but kept audiences starved of the prime reason why they went to a movie-hall: Entertainment, Entertainment—and not to forget, Entertainment!

Audience ka entertainment se bahut yaarana lagta hai re!

– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.

Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar

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