Uri: The Surgical Strike, The Tashkent Files and Kalank are examples of sharp audience intelligence

More often than not examples of movies like ‘Total Dhamaal’ are thrown at us by the high brow media to pontificate repeatedly that the audiences do not have any IQ or love garbage content, therefore reviewers who can think and drive our thinking towards quality cinema are needed. To an extent, this thinking is not in the wrong direction.

However off late, a sad reality has emerged, most reviewers have allowed their own biases and even political leanings to harm and impact the way they are supposed to provide commentary on cinema. The attitude to treat cinema as cinema has taken a backseat over individual egoistic attitudes of what audiences should watch and what they should not. Thankfully the audiences remain the last judge on this and they seem to have ruled big time against this ghetto mentality.

Just yesterday ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ completed a 100-day run in theatres across India. Something which has become unheard of in recent times because we are repeatedly told by the know alls of entertainment industry that the new age audiences are attention challenged. The big Bollywood bosses are also in sync with this thinking and therefore the mad rush to grab large number of screens and attempt to release movies on long weekends. We are also told what is not supported by the opinion influencer brigade of reviewers and social media icons will not work. ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ in that sense has once again broken that myth this movie was panned as propaganda by a lot many from the media.

The audiences rejected this venom and thank god for that because a movie which was well executed and had the best army action scenes for a Bollywood movie clocked Rs. 336 crores at the box office (worldwide gross). The fact that it has run for such an unthinkable time in cinemas proves that the audiences did not agree with those who want to set agendas in cinema.

The recent even more heart warming indicator of how the audiences remain a fair and large hearted judge is the surprise success of a movie called ‘The Tashkent Files’. Released on a modest number of 250 screens, this movie was actually boycotted by the same brigade of reviewers which had called ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ either propaganda or boring, or both. One of the reviewers went to the arrogant extent of tweeting that he did not see the movie but we could read the review of the director’s previous movie instead. Imagine any reviewer trying to do this to a Rohit Shetty or a Karan Johar movie. ‘The Tashkent Files’ has stood on its content strength against all this and how. When the biggie of the year ‘Kalank’ released, we all thought ‘The Tashkent Files’ will die a painful death. The exhibitors thought so too and the screen count was reduced to 150.

As lucky coincidences have it, ‘Kalank’ turned out to be a glorious over-rated drag and the audiences that seek content fell in love with ‘The Tashkent Files’. Note the irony that the same ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ and ‘The Tashkent Files’ hating reviewer brigade were magnanimous with the stars being offered to ‘Kalank’. As you read these lines ‘The Tashkent Files’ has ended up collecting more than its first Friday collections in the second week. Scratch your memory bank and ask yourself when did this happen last. ‘The Tashkent Files’ has covered its modest cost of making and by pure maths of return on investment this could be a great profit maker for those who put their money in this one.

‘Kalank’ is a tragedy. Like the much celebrated ‘Titanic’, it has sunk at the box office within four days of release. Audiences just did not buy the logic of the content push brigade. The absence of screenplay in a movie which had an almost three hour run time and was high on frill and visuals just could not win audiences and the movie has become at the box office what its name translates into English – ‘A Blot’!

We do not know if those who control the media and the high brow editors who control what gets printed and broadcasted will get the message or not. We know one thing for sure, the audiences will call the bluff. Everytime. All those who actually love cinema should be thankful for this bottom line. The last word remains with the audiences.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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