Cinema for the masses is not a new phenomenon. Amitabh Bachchan did that in the ’70s. Salman Khan is only following that trend, says Taran Adarsh
Rs 150 crore for a three-day weekend collection seems difficult. Not just for Salman, but for any actor. But if it is a five or seven-day weekend, Salman can attain that figure.
That’s because if you look at his choice of films, he is catering to the masses completely. I don’t think he is working in intelligent cinema or Oscar-nominated stuff. His funda is very clear and that is, I am here to entertain. Look at his films: Be it Dabangg, Wanted, Bodyguard…they are not path-breaking cinema. But they are record-breaking cinema. So he caters to the entertainment-seeking cine-goers and that’s where he succeeds. Why? Because he gives the audience what they expect: To be entertained.
This is not something that can be carried off by all actors. Salman is in a different zone right now. When he hits something and there are 10 people flying in the air, Salman makes it look very believable. Any other actor does it and it does not look very convincing. And that movie falls flat. That’s because Salman has the physique and the look on his face with which he can carry it off. What also helps is the larger-than-life personality and Salman fits that bill completely.
When something like this works, you have to repeat that; which Salman is doing. Cinema for the masses is not a new phenomenon. Amitabh Bachchan did that in the ’70s, Vinod Khanna did that, and if you recall, the ’70s and ’80s were dominated by masala movies. These movies did well at the box office. So, Salman is only following that trend. Of course, updating it and giving the audience what Vidya Balan says in The Dirty Picture: “Entertainment, entertainment and entertainment”.
This dialogue echoes through the corridors of the film industry today. You go to any office or studio and you will hear this. Let’s look at actors…who is not working in a masala film? Aamir Khan is doing Dhoom 3, Salman of course, Shahrukh Khan is doing Chennai Express with Rohit Shetty, Ajay Devgn of course, Akshay Kumar always, Ranbir is doing Besharam…every actor wants to play to the gallery. Everybody has to prove that I am a superstar, right? And for that your film has to work and get the numbers.
Let’s get this right. There is only a very tiny minority which says it wants intelligent cinema or, for that matter, arthouse cinema. The remaining Indian audiences—and one should stand outside theatres to see that—want entertainment. Logic be damned but that’s what people want. And Salman is giving it to them.
Today the box office has gained much more importance because the numbers are out there and the system has become very transparent. Even a common man says this movie has raked in Rs 100 crore. And even actors have no qualms about admitting the fact that the box office is of paramount importance. Awards are important, there’s no denying that; but box office rewards are more important.
Today, every film counts. And every actor gets involved in his movies. For instance, Salman has got a fantastic sense of music. He literally chooses the music and it is surprising that 90 percent of the time, his tracks have worked well. Since he understands the popular taste well, he can make it work. Till about a few years ago, Rs 100 crore weekend for a movie used to be a dream. But now, even Rs 200 crore looks achievable.
(As told to Ashish K Mishra)
Taran Adarsh is a film critic and trade analyst. He is also a former producer and screenwriter