Is Hindi cinema's claim of 2023 being its 'best-ever year' in jeopardy?
Is Hindi cinema's claim of 2023 being its 'best-ever year' in jeopardy?

As we step into 2024, doubts loom large in the minds of filmmakers, distributors, and exhibitors. The recent box office letdowns of 'Merry Christmas,' 'Fighter,' and 'Teri Baaton Mein Mera Uljha Jiya' have raised concerns. However, what's truly worrying is the absence of big-ticket releases from Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, or Hrithik Roshan for the rest of the year.

"These stars, along with Aamir Khan and to some extent Ajay Devgn, are crucial today," says veteran distributor Raj Bansal. He emphasizes their ability to draw crowds to theaters, especially during initial releases, and sustain box office earnings, provided the content resonates with audiences.

Trade analyst Komal Nahata acknowledges Aamir Khan's upcoming film 'Sitaren Zameen Par,' but describes it as a smaller, realistic project. Bansal paints a gloomy picture for 2024, foreseeing cinemas facing financial strain without significant surprises. He laments the missed opportunity with 'Fighter.'

Nahata concurs, expressing concern for exhibitors and the industry at large. While acknowledging the potential for unexpected hits like 'The Kashmir Files,' he notes the absence of major releases from A-listers. Although Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar have projects lined up, the overall outlook appears lackluster.

Emraan Hashmi suggests that filmmakers should take more creative risks, albeit with limitations. Despite this, larger-than-life films like 'Pathaan' and 'Animal' continue to rake in profits, while smaller productions like 'The Kashmir Files' find success for different reasons. Nahata emphasizes the unpredictability of small films' success but underscores the rareness of their impact on theaters' sustainability.

Bansal criticizes the unnecessary clash of big releases, citing clashes between 'Bade Miyan Chote Miyan' and 'Maidaan' in April, and 'Singham Again' and 'Pushpa 2: The Rule' in August. He also notes a slowdown in big-budget productions from major studios like T-Series Films and Jio Studios.

Looking southward, prospects for pan-Indian films like 'Kalki 2898 AD' and 'Operation Valentine' remain uncertain, hinging solely on their individual merits.

In 2024, the mantle falls on stars like Ranveer Singh, Kartik Aaryan, and Varun Dhawan to carry the industry forward. Bansal highlights Alia Bhatt's star power among actresses, while established franchises like 'Stree 2' and 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3' may provide some respite.

Director Nitesh Tiwari stresses the importance of both star power and content in attracting audiences, underscoring the magic that happens when the two align.

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