Over the years, there have been several films which found critical acclaim, but failed to leave a mark at the Box-Office. There are ample of examples of such films like Masaan, Death In The Gunj, Mukkabaaz, Aakhon Dekhi, Trapped, Aligarh and Titli to name a few. The above-mentioned films didn’t have sellable face, and the critic reviews getting the audience on board was out of question. Then comes the second kind of films like Lootera, Blackmail, and Finding Fanny which had sellable stars in lead, got the desired critical acclaim but the same didn’t quite translate into the Box-Office collections
That get’s us to the discussing point of this article i.e. does critical acclaim ever translate into the ticket sales or is it just a myth? There are certain kind of films which are high on content, but the treatment is more in the art zone, which never excites the cinema going audience.
Take the example of recently released film, October, which is the best reviewed film of 2018 with several reviewers going ahead with 5-star rating, which is an extremely rare feat to attain. However, the trailer of the film hinted dull treatment.
It is the lack of entertainment factor in the film, which kept a major chunk of audience away and given the initial word of mouth, which is mixed, the film well might emerge the first unsuccessful film for Varun Dhawan as far as theatrical run is concerned.
The film took a slow start at the Box-Office on Friday, but the biz escalated by a considerable amount on Saturday. However, this is a common trend for films aimed at the multiplex audience and expectedly so, the film fell flat on Sunday. Considering yearly inflation and GST factor, the opening weekend biz of October (Rs 20.25 crore) was like Lootera (2013), which collected approximately Rs 17.50 crore in its 3-day run. The lifetime biz of October is now expected to end much below Badlapur (2015), i.e. the film would fall short of the Rs 50 crore mark at the Box-Office and this is not something that the trade expects of Dhawan.
The problem here isn’t with the stardom of the young-star, who is taking long strides with every passing film to become the next superstar of the industry, but it is the genre which is to be blamed here. Without second thoughts, among all the films directed by Shoojit Sircar i.e. Yahaan, Vicky Donor, Madras Café, Piku, and October, Varun Dhawan was the biggest star that the director has worked with, but still the opening day collections are lower than films like Madras Café, and Piku.
What separates October as a film from Madras Café, Piku? Just like October, even Madras Café, Piku had won a lot of critical acclaim. The major difference here lies in the fact that the other Shoojit Sircar directorial were a culmination of entertainment and content, however October lies in a space that very niche audience base would relate to and lacked the entertainment factor. Apart from critic reviews, the audience word of mouth gave the real push to Madras Café, Piku and even Pink which was written by Sircar, but over here, that is not the case and the word of mouth ranges from mixed (in metros) to negative in the mass centres.
What is content for a few (Read: High End Audience), is something that would put a major chunk of audience in India to sleep, which is where the problem lies. The Indian audience has always preferred watching “good” films that are entertaining or engaging in any form i.e. action, comedy, drama, romance, thriller, slice of life. Watching cinema in India or rather even in Hollywood, is for leisure and relieves stress and the same often reflects in the collections. More than the critical acclaim, it is the audience review that matters the most, and history is full of examples where critically panned films have went on to become blockbusters (Read Baaghi 2) and no one payed heed to critically acclaimed films. End of the day, audience is the king and will always embrace to the films that excite them and keep them hooked through-out the run-time – be it action, comedy, thriller, drama or an emotional film.
A critically acclaimed film with good word of mouth will always do well, but a critically acclaimed film with poor word of mouth will never do well at the Box-Office. Likewise, a critically panned film with good word of mouth will always strike gold at the Box-Office, and vice-versa. It is entertaining and engaging cinema, that always captures the Box-Office.
Knowing Varun Dhawan’s sensibilities, I am quite sure that even the actor didn’t expect October to set the Box-Office on fire. The film has given the young actor what he wanted i.e. tons of critical acclaim and silenced everyone who thought that he would not look convincing in an author backed avatar. His slate of films after October looks extremely promising with a prefect blend of content and entertainment starting with Sui Dhaga.