MUMBAI — The top three hits, “Airlift,” “Kapoor and Sons” (which is doing better than “Neerja” did, considering the time elapsed since their releases) and “Neerja,” have together made over Rs. 270 crore in India, with "Kapoor and Sons" leading the other two overseas.

The first quarter of 2016 thus had no reason for gloom, even if it was not exactly a cheerful scenario. And why do we say this? Simply because no other film, not even in English, which is the nearest pan-Indian language to Hindi in India, had anything extraordinary.

The fact is that “Airlift” is the only film that crossed Rs. 100 crore, a goal that seems a tad difficult as of now for even the other two hits, or the April 1 release, “Ki and Ka.” Incidentally, “Airlift” was the only film that started strong, while the other two had a slow start. In sharp contrast, “Rocky Handsome” started strong, but ended with a whimper, with its first Sunday collections amounting to even less than those of its opening Friday!

The biggest flop of the quarter was “Fitoor,” while “Teraa Surroor” broke even “on the table” (that is, though deals) even before releasing in movie halls. “Fitoor” cost Rs. 75 crore, but like “Bombay Velvet” last year, could barely collect Rs. 25 crore overall!

The trade is still divided on how they feel “Ghayal Once Again” and “Jai Gangaajal” have fared, whereas “Wazir” is a media-hit (only the media says it is one!) despite a collection of over Rs. 40 crore — after all, it is investment that matters. By that criterion, “Mastizaade” might have broken even.

Films that bit the dust were “Chalk n’ Duster,” “Sanam Re,” “Saala Khadoos,” “Sanam Teri Kasam,” “Tere Bin Laden Dead Or Alive,” “Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3” and “Aligarh” (whose first weekend (3-day) collections were an abysmal Rs. 1 crore!). 

Last year, the first quarter had seen “Baby” chalk up Rs. 90 crore plus, with “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” as a surprise hit and “Badlapur” also doing well. By those standards, 2016’s first quarter is better, and yet trade analysts place losses this year at between Rs. 200 to 225 crore, which seems to be a rather conservative estimate, all things considered.

Buoyed up by the success of “Kapoor and Sons” and the other hits, Rishi Kapoor declared, “How long can you give the audience the same old stuff?” and Kareena Kapoor Khan adds that now only good stories will work.

Anil Kapoor even advises the media to note only what films collect in theaters and not their costs to decide which success category they fall in.

“What do you want to do with the budgets? If a producer wants to overspend, let him!” he said, after “Dil Dhadakne Do.”

But this is a very narrow way of looking at things. There was a phase in these last three months when multiplexes even stopped functioning in some of the screens, as (viable) films were simply not there! Single-screen theaters are having a tougher time, as none of this year’s hits are really meant for their clientele.

So why do we forget than a “clean hit” (which poor John Abraham dreamt of for “Rocky Handsome”!) is that which earns profits for the entire chain (producer, distributor and exhibitor) and is liked by every segment of the audience. And we must know that theaters can survive only when the two meet — as they did last year with “Bajrangi Bhaijaan, “Babubali - The Beginning” and “Tanu Weds Manu Returns.”

Let us hope that sense prevails, and, while budgets remain sane for multiplex films like “Kapoor and Sons” and “Neerja,” we also get more movies that are true-blue theatrical cinematic experiences in the forthcoming quarters of 2016. After all, that is how cinema will survive and so will the nation’s craving for “Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment.”

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