Audiences lap up Barfi brand of film-making; more takers for flicks like Vicky Donor, Kahaani

With films like 'Vicky Donor' and 'Kahaani', which did well at the box office, 'Barfi' reinforces the trend that a strong narrative can make for good commercial cinema.

MUMBAI: Take various elements from the realm of the unusual, an enthusiastic cast, throw in picturesque locations, and what do you have? A new brand of cinema-and one that Indian audiences are willing to accept.

' Barfi', whose protagonists are hearing impaired ( Ranbir Kapoor) and autistic ( Priyanka Chopra), raked in close to Rs 35 crore net over the weekend (as reported by the multiplexes). Like in the recent past, with films like ' Vicky Donor' and ' Kahaani', which did well at the box office, 'Barfi' reinforces the trend that a strong narrative that is slickly packaged can make for good commercial cinema.

"Unconventional music, characters, and narrative have all worked, which means I can now bat on the front foot and make the kind of films I want. It also shows it is not always the "formula" that works with Indian audiences," says Anurag Basu, director of 'Barfi,' who is delighted by the applause from both critics and commerce.

Adds ad professional turned social commentator Santosh Desai: "There is definitely a development of audience tastes in a variety of directions and one of them is that they have come to expect something that is not routine." The fact that stars like Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra were willing to be the protagonists added to the acceptance of the film," reckons Desai.

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If Kapoor was willing to take up the role, it is because he believes Indian audiences have always been evolved. "Every audience wants their cinema moment and Chaplin did it for years in the 30s," he offers.

(All net collection figures except Barfi
are for lifetime business)
Ronnie Screwvala, managing director, MD DisneyUTV, which produced the film, says innovation has always a priority for his studio. "In our seven-year history of making movies in a now 100-year-old industry, we have broken the mould many times from 'Rang De Basanti' to 'Dev D' to 'A Wednesday.' And each time young India and our audiences have loved out innovation." He adds that DisneyUTV opted for a limited limited print release (618 of them) "for the word of mouth to swell and it has."

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Ashish Saxena, chief operating officer, Big Cinemas, points out that audiences today "are ready to accept films which, till not too long ago, were termed "risky". He agrees that word of mouth has contributed to 'Barfi's success. "We were pleasantly surprised as the film opened encouragingly beyond our big city multiplexes. In fact, contrary to the trend, the morning shows on Saturday were better than the ones on Friday, which is an excellent sign that the film has found appreciation; and the collections of Saturday and Sunday were far ahead of the ones on Friday indicating that the word of mouth is very strong."

Not everybody is convinced about the film's success though. Whilst a few critics have panned it - 'The LA Times' reviewer describes the central character as "a Chaplin-infused hybrid of Mr Bean and Gumby, with a dose of early Adam Sandler" - a few in the trade aren't impressed, either. According to Vajir Singh, editor of trade magazine Box Office India, the opening fell short as Singh feels the word of mouth was strong enough for the film to have crossed the Rs 10 crore mark on day one. "The fact that according to our data it made only Rs 8.5 crore shows that the younger audiences have not really gone in big numbers and it is the older, more mature audiences that have gone to see the film."
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