Bahubali 2 & 2.0: Indian Cinema’s New-Age Flagbearers

14 Sep,2018


By Shailesh Kapoor


The teaser promo of Shankar’s 2.0 was released last morning. The film, to be released in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu (besides other dubbed versions), is a sequel to the much-successful 2010 Tamil film Enthiran, which released in a dubbed Hindi version titled Robot.

A lot seems to have changed in these eight years. 2.0, which has been an ambitious project in the making for a while now, has been conceived and shot as a Tamil-Hindi bilingual. One of Hindi cinema’s top stars, Akshay Kumar, plays the principal antagonist in 2.0. At a rumoured budget of Rs 500+ crore, 2.0 is touted to be the most expensive Indian film till date.

And yet, 2.0 seems like a winning proposition at the outset itself. Like last year’s mega-success Bahubali 2, 2.0 will rely on its immense spectacle value, which will make it a compelling and unmissable big-screen experience. Bahubali 2 released in Hindi as a dubbed Telugu film, and had no Hindi starcast on its credentials. Yet, the Rajamouli film did nett business of more than Rs 500 crore in India from the Hindi version itself, a number higher than any regular Hindi film by a staggering Rs 130 crore.

2.0 is more inclusive, because it’s not a dubbed film but a bilingual, and because of Akshay Kumar’s significant presence, adding star value in the Hindi markets. There’s also the additional 3D factor, which leads to higher ticket prices and higher box-office as a result. There is a high chance that the Hindi version of 2.0 may get close to, if not overtake, Bahubali 2’s Hindi collections. Even if it falls 100 crore short, the top two ‘Hindi’ films in India will be from the South of India.

One way to look at this is to question whether all is right with the Hindi film industry. But that’s another topic for another day. There are two positive trends to spot here. The first one is about the rise of big-screen spectacles as the dominant form of theatrical content, and the second is about the language boundaries bridging.

Both these trends find strong evidences in the story of Hollywood’s growth in India in recent years. Hollywood has moved towards big-screen spectacles as its primary genre of success worldwide. With digital content having come in, just a good story is not reason enough for audiences to visit the theatre. Yes, the odd film can run well in theatres based on the strength of its story alone, but the Top 10 grossers in Hollywood every year, for the last five years, have been big-screen spectacles, often in the superhero genre.

In India too, it’s the superhero, fantasy and horror genre, aided by quality visual effects, and often a 3D experience, that has led to more than 20% year-on-year growth in Hollywood footfalls since 2013, even as Hindi footfalls have stagnated.

It was generally believed that the costs at which such spectacles are produced makes the genre prohibitive for Indian cinema. But with Bahubali 2 and now 2.0, that assumption has been challenged. If you have a multi-lingual revenue model, the costs that a big-screen spectacle film needs can be truly justified, especially because these genres are immensely popular on satellite television too.

Which is where the second trend becomes crucial. These films, while made by South Indian directors, are Indian films, than just South Indian films. This is especially true for 2.0, which was conceptualised as a multi-language project right from its inception. Spectacle films are not overtly dependent on nuances of language and culture, and hence, find it easier to travel across diverse markets in India, giving them unprecedented reach. After all, the collective size of audience base in India across various language is more than three times that of any single language.

Multi-lingual big-screen spectacles are set to be growth drivers of Indian cinema. The question is: Do we have more directors with the imagination and creative vision of someone like a Rajamouli and a Shankar to make this happen on a more regular basis?



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