Shailesh Kapoor: The Art Of Mass Entertainment: Oh My Dog!

31 Oct,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


Performance of Bollywood films on television is a fascinating topic. It’s well-known that no direct correlation exists between box-office and television performance. Yet, a lot of movie-buying happens based on box-office collections. If one dig deeper, there are box-office measures that can be used to predict the ratings of a film’s premiere telecast. The single screen to multiplex box-office collections ratio is one such measure. Films that tend to get a higher percentage of their collections from single screens tend to work better on television, despite their overall collections being much lower than certain other multiplex-centric film.


It is not very difficult to see why this should happen. Television audiences, especially the film-viewing ones, are skewed towards lower SECs and the smaller towns. They represent a mindset that’s closely mirrored by the single screen theatre audience. Their entertainment choices are more escapist in nature, with comedy and action being the driving genre, though a dose of traditional family values is always desirable.


Last week, Akshay Kumar’s recent release Entertainment premiered on Zee Cinema and scored a whopping 5.5 TVR. To put it in perspective, this number is higher than the ratings of Kick and Singham Returns, the two biggest box-office grossers of this year, both in the mass action genre. It is 60% higher than the ratings of Dhoom 3, the biggest Bollywood grosser at the box-office till date. Ratings of hits like Queen and 2 States dwarf in front of Entertainment’s 5.5.


Entertainment performed miserably at the box-office. It opened below par for an Akshay Kumar film and had no takers at the end of its first week, going on to be a certified flop. If you have seen the film, you would understand why. It’s a long 140-min slapstick comedy about the relationship between a man and a dog (playing the titular role). It could have been fun, but the jokes are all heard-before, and the film takes itself too seriously and tries to tell a story around an incredulous, spoofy premise.


In one of the many nonsensical scenes, when the dog’s pulse drops to zero on the operation theatre table, Akshay Kumar magically revives him by a giving him a hard thump on the chest. It’s almost as if someone else made a good film about a man-dog relationship and this film decided to spoof it out.


Yet, on television, all this and more is, indeed, Entertainment. Akshay Kumar is a very popular star with the masses, but his better work in recent times (e.g. Special 26) does not rate too well. But a film like Entertainment doesn’t even need a star. It has this element of sheer idiocy that is not worth the price of a movie ticket, but a good freebie for a mind that perpetually feels the need to de-stress.


There has been a lot of talk in recent years, about how some films are designed for you to ‘leave your brains at home’ when you come to watch them in the theatre. I wonder where you are supposed to leave your brains when you are watching such films at home itself!


In a parallel universe, in the same industry, the infotainment genre, which was largely driven by one type of programming for a long time (survival genre shows led by Man Vs. Wild) is now espousing more intelligent (though entertaining in no less measure) content. National Geographic has been actively pursuing its ‘Entertain Your Brain’ proposition with good success, with shows like Brain Games and Science Of Stupid.


But even as television gets smarter on that side, mass numbers continue to baffle you at times. The irony is not lost on me. Neither is the dichotomy of it all.


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