After months of frustration and procrastination, actor Akshay Kumar has finally taken a gamble, which Bollywood would like to pay off at the box office in a big way.
Hindi cinema’s reigning hit machine is back on the big screen, this time with another thriller, ‘Bell Bottom’, which has released on August 19, putting an end to all the suspense and speculations.
It has understandably caused jubilation in the film industry, which is yet to recover from the sledgehammer of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is believed to have incurred a loss of more than Rs 10,000 crore in this period, according to trade experts.
Bollywood has not returned to normal yet, with theatres in Maharashtra, the mainstay of box office, still under lockdown. A majority of other states have reopened theatres but only with half of their capacity. And yet, Akshay has chosen to take the plunge by releasing his film in theatres.
‘Bell Bottom’, by Akshay’s admission, does not stand a chance of doing more than 35 per cent of business than what it might have done in the pre-pandemic times. After all, Mumbai alone accounts for about 30 per cent of the total business in the country. With the rest of the states allowing only 50 per cent admission into the multiplexes, ‘Bell Bottom’ can at best expect to garner a maximum of 35 per cent collections, that too if they run packed to capacity as per the Covid protocols still enforced in almost all the states.
But then, according to Akshay, somebody had to bite the bullet regardless of the prevailing situation. He was earlier hoping for Mumbai’s theatres to reopen before ‘Bell Bottom’ saw the light of the day but that was not to be.
The filmmakers had to charter a plane to take a phalanx of Mumbai’s films journalists for a special press show organised in Surat in adjoining Gujarat.
But why has Akshay taken the bait in the first place, despite being aware that the risks involved are too high? Also, many bigwigs of the industry have put on hold their films for an indefinite period.
The reasons are not too far to seek. He burnt his fingers by taking the OTT route for Lakshmi last year. The eagerly awaited film not only failed to create any buzz but was also trolled heavily. It was something nobody could have anticipated given the way his previous films had been received in theatres in the pre-Covid times.
It, of course, diluted the brand value of Akshay Kumar to some extent. Other big stars such as Salman Khan, who dared to release their films directly on OTT, also faced similar setbacks. Salman’s ‘Radhe’ was as good (or as bad) as his previous films but his swag and swagger that enticed his fans to the theatres for years had no takers on the smaller screen this time.
Incidentally, Akshay’s own ‘Sooryavanshi’ remains on hold since March last year, though he is not the one to blame. Since the movie is based on the terror attack on Mumbai, Rohit Shetty wants to release it only after theatres reopen in Maharashtra.
Compared to Akshay’s other movies, stakes are higher for ‘Sooryavanshi’ because it happens to be a multistarrer with the likes of Ajay Devgn, Ranveer Singh, and Katrina Kaif in the star cast along with him.
As far as his solo movies are concerned, Akshay can afford to release them in theatres because he completes them on time and keeps their budget on a tight leash. As a result, even if his films do a business of only 35 per cent, none of the stakeholders is likely to lose money.
While a fellow superstar such as Aamir Khan takes three years on average to make a film, Akshay churns out at least a dozen in the same period. He, therefore, remains the best bet for Bollywood under the present circumstances to ascertain whether the audiences are ready to flock back to the theatre.
No big star can save a bad movie now but Akshay, for one, still has the star value to draw the crowds. To him, the risk is worth taking for the film industry at large, if not for himself.
‘Bell Bottom’s’ failure may not make a dent in Akshay’s career, but its success will surely lift the sagging morale and spirits of the entire film industry and, needless to say, pave the way for the return of Bollywood’s good times.