The Big-Motion-Picture Vibe

16 Sep,2022



By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorThe long-in-the-making Brahmastra: Part 1 released last Friday. The film opened to packed houses, clocking occupancies of 70%+ in major city multiplexes through the weekend. The big-budget fantasy adventure film may eventually have to rely on non-theatrical revenue sources to recover its costs. But its solid opening weekend performance has infused fresh energy into the Hindi film industry, which has been struggling in recent times to get any major audience attention at all.


I watched the film at a suburban Mumbai multiplex, where the start of the show had to be delayed by about 15 minutes, because some patrons did not take their assigned seats. The theatre staff had to intervene, and people had to be moved through a 100% packed auditorium, to their correct seats. One could sense that even the staff was enjoying this thankless job. When did they last see a packed auditorium for an original Hindi language film, after all?


We would have to go back to Oct 2, 2019, when the Hrithik-Tiger starrer War released to an overwhelming audience response. But that was a holiday, unlike September 9. Search for a non-holiday opening of this stature for an original Hindi language film took me back to June 29, 2018, when Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju, also starring Ranbir Kapoor, released.


There’s something magical about being at a theatre on a weekend such as that of Brahmastra’s release. There’s a communal bond between the hundreds of audiences, in the lobby, and then inside the auditorium. They are connected by their love for going to the movies, if not by their love for cinema itself. The atmosphere brims with excitement and anticipation. No home viewing, on the biggest TV screen and the best sound system, can match that.


Brahmastra has its share of flaws. But lack of imagination is not one of them. The franchise charters into territories erstwhile reserved for Hollywood films, where visual effects and scale front-end a film, leading to a viewing experience that’s immersive and big-screen worthy. Brahmastra wears its ambition on its sleeve. And the audience could feel that vibe over the last three months of the film’s campaign, resulting in a whole-hearted endorsement on the opening weekend, despite boycott calls and mixed reviews.


Less than a month before Brahmastra’s release, another film that one may have been tempted to call a major motion picture (Laal Singh Chadha) failed on open, despite releasing on a holiday. The contrast between the opening-weekend performance of the two films sums up what theatre-going audiences are trying to tell the film industry: Convince us that your film is worthy of my money, by justifying why it needs to be watched on the big screen.


It’s now for the filmmakers to listen up and act.


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