Monday, July 2, 2012

The 100 Crore Club: An Introduction


100 Crore Club: Introduction

Subtitle: Why the Three Khans (and Their Cohort) are Still the Only Hero Game in Town

“I keep telling some of the younger kids, I wouldn't name them, that they should also attempt the kind of cinema we're doing. This cinema, which comprises out-and-out entertainers, has mostly got 1 or 1.5 stars from critics. But, it's the audience that likes these movies. You have to show your art and talent to them.” - Ajay Devgn in the Times of India, 6/29/12.

In the old days, before multiplexes and satellite television and pirated VCDs, success was measured in weeks, not crores. Twenty-five weeks for a Silver Jubilee; fifty weeks for a Gold Jubilee; 100 weeks for a Diamond Jubilee. Film fans returned week after week to watch their favorite heroes dishoom bad guys and romance their favorite heroines. Those days have long gone. As the competition for India’s entertainment rupees grows tighter, the amount of time and attention and money that the public has to spend on repeat viewings of film has decreased significantly - which means that we needed a new benchmark for popular success. Enter the new number of popular success for a film in Bollywood: 100 crore, earned at the Indian box office, after the entertainment tax.*

As of this writing there are a mere twelve films in the 100 Crore Club. Starting in 2008, they list as follows:

Ghajini (2008) Aamir Khan, Asin

3 Idiots (2009) Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Dabangg (2010) Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha

Golmaal 3 (2010) Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor

Ready (2011) Salman Khan, Asin

Singham (2011) Ajay Devgn, Kajal Agarwal

Bodyguard (2011) Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Ra.One (2011) Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Don 2 (2011) Shahrukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra

Agneepath (2012) Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra

Housefull 2 (2012) Akshay Kumar, Asin

Rowdy Rathore (2012) Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha

Of the films listed, five are remakes of South Indian masala films; one is a remake of an older masala film; one is an original masala film; two are pure comedies; two were consciously made to appeal to as broad a family audience as possible; and one is straight action.

The Three Khans walk away with seven of the twelve titles; their age-cohort Ajay and Akshay have two apiece; and Hrithik Roshan, the baby of the bunch as the only 100 Crore Club hero under 40, has one.

Though the 100 Crore Club counts only the Indian box office, the list of highest grossing films tracks pretty closely, adding Shahrukh’s international release My Name is Khan.

“[The 100 Crore Club] are all massy films which are very basic in their understanding and high on entertainment. But if we run only to achieve those figures then we will restrict ourselves as actors. I feel that this should not be the sole agenda of making films. The idea is to discover ourselves in various spaces.” - Shahid Kapoor, who after a series of flops, just signed a project with 100 Crore Club “massy” director Prabuhdeva, IBN News

So, what does this all mean? Detractors of the 100 Crore Club tend to focus on two major points. The first is that making money is not a sign of a quality film. That much I’ll agree with. Plenty of wonderful films never catch on with the public. The second point is stickier. 100 Crore Club detractors take the first point - that not earning 100 crores doesn’t mean a film is worthless - and flips it, saying that, if therefore a film does earn 100 crores, it must be worthless. I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on that logical fallacy.

Here is what we should take away from the 100 Crore Club - these are films that a lot of people went out to see. That is what unifies them. I’ll get into the relative merits of a 3 Idiots versus a Ra.One in individual reviews but for now, I want to say that there is a reason Ajay Devgn has two movies in the 100 Crore Club and Shahid Kapoor has none - and it has nothing to do with their relative merits as actors or even their choice of meaningful projects. The difference is that Ajay comes from a generation of actors who still understand how to play hero. One could dismissively say that the 100 Crore Club films are all massy entertainers but that doesn’t explain why they all struck a chord. Plenty films aiming to be massy entertainers never make a red cent at the box office. But if one flip the lens from the genre of film and looks at the real unifying factor, the answer becomes clear - the real unifying factor of these 100 Crore Club films is that they all feature capital H Heroes.

The massive success of Aamir Khan’s Ghajini signaled not just a return to the masala filmmaking techniques but a return of the aam aadmi’s beloved Hero. And, if you ask me, the reason the younger set of actors haven’t cracked the 100 Crore Club yet is because they don’t know how. They don’t know how to pick the kinds of films that will resonate with the masses and they don’t know herogiri. As of now, Shahid, Ranbir, Ranveer, et. al. are fine actors but they are no Heroes and until they listen to their seniors in the industry and start making films that connect with the general public, they won’t inspire the kind of loyalty that Shahrukh Khan can nor will they be able to wield the power of popular opinion like Aamir Khan can.** And maybe that’s fine for Ranbir and Imran, who might be content making human-sized films for an international and multiplex-going audience, but the need for that oversized, mythic storytelling that only a Hero can deliver will remain. Mass audiences might drift even more towards regional film or we might find that South Indian Heroes will drift North. (Ram Charan Teja’s Zanjeer remake is one to keep an eye on.)

I don’t think we can dismiss films merely for being broadly popular and I really don’t think we can conflate popular with mindless. Therefore, I wanted to take a serious (or as much as I get anyway) look at the films of the 100 Crore Club to see what’s really there, how well they hold up, and where they fit in the grand scheme of things. Over the next few weeks, starting with Ghajini and working my way through to Rowdy Rathore. The speed will depend on how easy it is for me to get my hands on them and how much time I have.

Fortunately, I already own Ghajini... and Golmaal 3. What? I like massy entertainers!

* Corrected and please see Moimeme's comment for a description of the tax. **And, ironically, even as the young set of actors has yet to click with mass audiences, Kareena and Katrina have been shoring up their popularity. Who knows? Maybe instead of the Three Khans, the 2010s will be the decade of the Two K’s.

9 comments:

Moimeme said...

I've been waiting for this post, and am glad to finally see it, and even more glad to see that it's going to be a series, not a single post. I'm looking forward to them all. Just a couple of comments for now.

First, a slight correction. You say the 100 crore club is defined by "100 crore, earned at the Indian box office, minus the entertainment tax." But it should really be "100 crore, earned at the Indian box office, after the entertainment tax." So the film has to make more than 100 crore to net this amount after taxes. Also, and I don't know if you want to get into this, but the entertainment tax rate varies between multiplex theaters and single screen theaters -- the single screen rates are much higher, as much as 80% some times -- and it also varies from state to state. Hence, a film that makes the 100 crore club by making a bulk of its money from single screen theaters, such as Wanted (though it is not a member of the 100 crore club) is seen by many, many more people than one that makes that amount from multiplexes alone. In fact, the most interesting aspect of this "100 crore club" is that it's pretty much impossible for any film to make that amount from either the multiplexes or single screens alone. Hence, the 100 crore tag really is a measure of a broad audience appeal.

The second point is one you may not like. :) It is that your thesis of all the films in this club featuring larger than life Heroes who are plying old style herogiri is contradicted by 3 Idiots - a film that is not only in the 100 crore club, but to date is the only film in the 200 crore club. It can be argued that Aamir's role in that film is also larger than life, but he is certainly not a traditional Hero with a capital H. I'm afraid you really need to watch that film to see what lessons can be drawn about audience appeal for the massive grossers. (When you do see it, I can offer my own interpretation, if you are interested. :) )

Filmi Girl said...

@moimeme Corrections = <3 I'll fix it.

Indian box office is so complicated~ I did know about the differences in tax but I never know how much detail to pile on. But, yes, for sure the 100 Crore Club is all about broad mass appeal.

Re: Three Idiots, I haven't seen it - nor Shahrukh's two films on the list but my impression was that Aamir was 100% the selling point of the film. He wasn't doing herogiri but his image from the promotions and everything was certainly larger than life... I guess I'll find out when I finally watch the film. I always figured I would hate it so I've successfully avoided it until now. XD

Moimeme said...

Actually, I think the really big selling point of 3 Idiots was that it was Raju Hirani's next film after the massive success of Lage Raho Munnabhai (which would have probably been a 100 crore film if released a couple of years later - we can't neglect inflation!), second that it was the coming together of Hirani and Aamir (again Hirani's name was a big selling point), and third, that it was the adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone, a huge best seller in India. He was majorly dissed in the adaptation process, and I think all the Bollywood types (including the 3 idiots of Aamir, Hirani, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra) were totally clueless as to how big a following Bhagat has in the country, and how passionate his fans are about his books. So the three factors together created a "perfect storm" type of conditions.

Moimeme said...

As I tweeted to you, even SRK's two films don't quite fit the "herogiri" category. Good luck suffering through what you've assiduously avoided so far. :)

Filmi Girl said...

Inflation! I know, I know... :)

But, yes, even if Don 2 and 3I don't fit the masala herogiri tropes, I do think the images of the heroes helped connect audiences with the films. Even if they took 3I to heart and left D2 at the movie theater door... and were massively disappointed with R1, that bond was enough to get them in the door. Whether it will still be the same for SRK's next films, who knows. He was smart to hook up with Kat, though.

Heroes are interesting creatures. They have that relationship with the mass audience that exists outside the movie theater and I don't think any of the younger generation has that yet. I think Ranbir, Shahid, and (especially) Ranveer certainly COULD do it if they had the drive and desire.

If nothing else, the 100 Crore Club gives them a reason to try... we can't underestimate the effects of putting a prestige tag on broad popular appeal.

Moimeme said...

As for the younger lot, as long as they're committed to the Hollywood type of navel gazing male lead roles, they can forget about 100 crores. So we have Ranbir exulting about boiling an egg (Wake Up Sid -- is it a coincidence that its acronym is WUS? ;)), Imran arguing passionately for the right to cuss on screen and drink off of it, and Ranveer -- well, I don't know anything about him, so maybe he still has a chance, especially if he really does star in the Hindi remake of Magadheera.

eliza bennet said...

I completely agree with young actors not really knowing herogiri but I also agree that being a "hero" is not the parameter for 100 crore club.

I never thought Ranbir as "hero" but I think among the three names mentioned (not going to include poor Shahid in them) I think he has the best shot at the hero game.

Filmi Girl said...

@eliza :) I don't think Ranbir has any interest in the 100 Crore Club, though. He seems content doing those smallish prestige pictures, which is a totally legitimate career path... it's just not going to win him any hearts-and-minds any time soon.

I guess I need to make a stronger case for my Hero Hypothesis. LOL! :) To be clear, I don't think a 100 Crore Film needs herogiri in it but I don't think a film can pull that many people in without at least some meta-narrative herogiri...

Jess said...

I'm nervous to read your Dabangg review, mostly because I'm ridiculously fond of that movie. Everyone should love it! lol

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