And nowadays often that’s the only thing that gets written and talked about before and after a film releases. But no one cares when the box-office barometer soars unprecedentedly!

As I had been away when Bang Bang released my curious mind was eager to find out people’s reactions to the Hrithik Roshan-Katrina Kaif starrer. Everyone I turned to said the same thing in different words, Duggu and Kat looked extremely hot / gorgeous in the film. And it ended there. When I quizzed them about other aspects of the movie (story, performance, script, etc.) they laughed out loud. Yes, even producers of the Indian version of the average American spy thriller (Knight And Day) are flashing their pearly whites as they stand outside the ticket windows in cinema halls. But box-office collections shouldn’t be the only factor to judge a good or bad film, right?

Obviously when the hot Hrithik and the gorgeous Katrina are romancing in snow-clad mountains or canoodling on a shiny dance floor, one can’t take their eyes off the big screen and care for the other senses (the visual sense is evidently mesmerized by oodles of objectification and oomph on-screen). That’s the power of cinema – to absolutely overwhelm the viewer with the attractive visuals and harmonious background scores.

A few weeks earlier there were similar reactions to Anil Kapoor’s Khoobsurat, which starred his fashionista daughter Sonam Kapoor. Most young women who watched the movie felt that dishy actor Fawad Khan made up for the over-the-top, silly and annoying adaptation of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s eternal classic that goes by the same name.

So how can beauty be ALL that a film has to offer! Why should substance and sense be slayed for style and splendour? How can good-looks counterbalance a bad script? What about telling a tale that will make one laugh, cry and think? What about evoking the same emotions in the viewer as they unfold on the big screen? What about crafting romances which will make the dil go hmmm even when one is no longer sexy? What about cracking jokes that don’t make one cringe in their cushy seats? What about not judging the audience’s intellect? What about amalgamating all of the above in a truly paisa vasool movie instead of mish-mashing tried and tested formulas?

Bang Bang clearly is bearing the brunt as it is a recent entrant in the long list of bad-movies-but-box-office-wonders. These are films that mostly have star-actors, who say cheesy or dramatic dialogues in farfetched situations and perform illogical acts in incoherent plots. But these movies guarantee that the superstar actor looks his/her best. From 2014, Kick, Singham Returns and Jai Ho so far and most of last year’s top-grossers (Dhoom 3, Chennai Express, Krrish 3, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela and Race 2) are perfect examples of shoddy scripts which became blockbuster hits.

With each passing Friday the list of bad-movies-but-box-office-wonders is growing longer. And so filmmakers are rapidly replacing original stories, powerful characters, engaging plots, logical and coherent scripts with the actors’ washboard abs, bulging biceps, toned physiques, enticing décolletages and perfect smiles. After all it’s easier to get a six-pack than a flawless script that guarantees record-breaking collections.

To worsen the situation the media complements bad-movies-but-box-office-wonders. Every so often when a big film is closer to release the soft news broadsheets are splashed with the actor’s titillating photographs and shallow Q&As (invariably paid editorials) discussing his/her regime to acquire the biscuit abs or a sexy derriere or weight-loss or weight-gain. From Khan to Devgn to Kumar to Roshan to Kapoor to Chopra to Kaif, each biggie has tom-tommed about the physical preparation they underwent for their roles. It’s another story that no one ever really reveals the real secrets (read unhealthy shortcuts, steroids and supplements) to develop their assets.

Pre and post release of the movie one frequently comes across headlines that flaunt the hefty fees the star actor charged for a role, the international make-up artists engaged to beautify his/her physical features and juicy details of long discussions held to create their gorgeous outfits. Seldom is the scriptwriter’s storytelling skill or the actor’s understanding of his or her character discussed. Do we know what kind of research Priyanka Chopra did to become Mary Kom? We do know how many sets of push-ups she did, hours of running and muscle training she put in to look like the boxing champion. Do we know what was Ajay Devgn’s thinking process to get into the skin of Bajirao Singham (not that the superhero cop was a well-etched character)? Isn’t acting an art and not just an art of looking good?

For an audience who goes into a movie hall to seek respite from the humdrums of life like worrying about rising bills, dealing with a bad boss or a nagging spouse, meeting children’s endless demands or escaping plain boredom, etc. is satisfied even if the visual sense (human beings have five senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) is pleasantly engaged.

Should one blame the audience for low expectations from movies or the media for focusing on the superficial stuff or the makers for feeding inane details to the gullible press people? We’ll never know whom to blame for making a mess. But we do know that Deepika Padukone looks like a pataka in the Diwali release Happy New Year.

– Rachana Parekh 

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