Prabhas & Shraddha Kapoor starrer Saaho released on Aug 30 and faced bad feedback from critics as well as on social media. While it was expected to drop at the Box Office, the film remained steady on lower levels and fetched close to 140 crores in two weeks.
While the film hasn’t done the kind of business everyone expected from it before release, it has surely surpassed many 100 crore grossers in Bollywood and has managed a Hit verdict for itself. Though the business in South India has been dismal.
I got into touch with Vishek Chauhan (film exhibitor from Bihar) to discuss the big question, “What made Saaho a Hit in the Hindi market despite getting backlash from all over?”
“I think the most amazing thing is that Saaho in the northern side has been much better than its own market then its domestic Tamil, Telugu version. The Hindi version is the out-performer as compared to other versions, in terms of pricing, in terms of expectations, in terms of everything. Telugu was supposed to lead, Tamil was supposed to lead but Hindi has outperformed despite the severest of criticism that any film has received in recent memory.”
“So the point was very simple that north audience is completely starved. Completely starved as in starved with capital S of big-screen entertainment. We Bollywood don’t make big-screen entertainers often enough and big enough to fulfill this demand. So the northern audience is outsourcing their big film from Hollywood and South now. “
He further adds, “You’ll see a 2.0. Personally, I thought even 2.0 was a very average film. I didn’t think it was a great or outstanding film but the level of response we got with 2.0 was also phenomenal. Now, Baahubali 2 in all respects was a very good film. It had the emotional depth to it, it had the action, it had the drama and everything going for it in term of commercial aspects. Critically, you could’ve thrashed Baahubali 2. But point is, that audiences in the North are starved. We don’t get such films and especially tier 2, tier 3, tier 4 (small cities) and the core audience, you have stopped giving food to them. You make intellectual cinema, you make every film as emotional dramas about some message. You made cinema an education. No!! Masses go to the cinema to have a blast. They need to enjoy. They don’t go to get the intellectual stimulation as the elites do. So Bollywood to an extent has become very most elite.”
Speaking about the feedback he got from the local audience about Saaho, he said, “I was getting very negative feedback for Saaho from Mumbai. And people here were going gaga about the action, music and scale of the film. For them, it was a very rare experience.
Further going into details of how Bollywood is totally opening up doors for South & Hollywood and leaving its market for them, he says that while no one stops Bollywood from making offbeat and sensible cinema, filmmakers have to come up with big screen entertainers because audience is anyway getting it from other industries and the benefit is going towards them. He also talks about how Prabhas has got pan-India stardom with Baahubali and now Saaho and now more stars like Mahesh Babu will be willing to take exploit the northern territory. He also talks about how Yash’s KGF made it big in the North and now KGF 2 is carrying massive expectations. Also, there is no fear of big Bollywood films in other territories as Chiranjeevi’s Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is clashing with War.
He comes back to Saaho’s success and takes reference of Baaghi 2. “You remember when Baaghi 2 had come? The kind of backlash that was thrown at Tiger Shroff, that “Tiger Shroff is a piece of wood”. “Even a wood acts better than Tiger Shroff”. And that film went on to do 160 crores and everyone was shocked.
He also talked about Satyameva Jayate which did well despite bad feedback and clash with Gold. “So there is a huge audience for cinema that you don’t make. Where will this audience go? They show their power with Saaho. ” he concludes.
I suddenly remind a famous Punjabi saying – “Bhukkh vich chole vi badaam” that is so relevant here and I’ll translate it for you (Bhookh mein chane bhi badaam [When you are starving, even pulses taste like almonds). That’s the case with Saaho it seems.