A survey of the top hit Indian films

Numero Unos A survey of the top hit films - Concluding Part It has indeed been a fascinating exercise to see which films proved the topmost box-office hits in each year from 1950 till the present. Their successes proved eye-openers not just for film buffs, industry and trade but frequently for their makers themselves, proving that hits happen and cannot be designed! In the concluding segment of this 7-part series, we look at a summation and analysis after finding out the top hits of 2010 and 2011 and the possible winners of 2012.

The Salman Khan factor
In 2010, Salman Khan's home production, the actioner Dabangg effortlessly made the top spot. A comic strip-like entertainer loaded with film-boosting music (a phenomenon seen in Hindi films after years) and wacky humour, it was released on Eid exactly a year after his hit Wanted. In 2011, Khan completed his Eid hat-trick with the year's topper Bodyguard, another action drama that was also a home production. Both films marked the debuts of their directors – Abhinav Singh Kashyap and Siddique, who had made the Southern original of the latter film and made his Hindi debut. Bodyguard also marked the 'return' of Himesh Reshammiya not just to mentor Khan (who had introduced him 13 years earlier and last worked with in 2005) but also to freelance composing in a film in which the composer was not the lead actor!
In 2012, the trade opines that Khan's Ek Tha Tiger will lead the year's bounties. The possible competitors are Son Of Sardaar, Khiladi 786, Khan's own Dabangg 2 and Yash Raj Films' (producers of Ek Tha Tiger) film with Shah Rukh Khan.

Interesting stock-taking
What is yet not clear to some readers is the fact that this series was only about the biggest box-office grosser in each year from 1950 till today. It is certainly not a reflection of the best films or even an annual round-up of every year's best films or biggest hits.
As socio-cultural and political pictures in the country kept metamorphosing, trends too changed, were broken, set and reset. Cinema, needlessly to say, underwent mammoth changes with things altering for better or worse. Stars, star filmmakers, composers, singers and banners came and went – or grew and sustained. Economics in filmmaking and in the post-release business spiraled beyond imagination, and technology hit the skies, especially after the world shrunk with the computer, globalization and open trade policies and literacy and new markets for our films (especially overseas) opened up. The multiplexes had their own impact on the trade as filmmaking patterns and technique underwent paradigm changes.

It was fascinating to watch how this influenced the choice of viewers' favourites, notwithstanding intrinsic film merits, marketing genius, quality of competition and so on. If patriotic dramas of diverse genres, Samadhi, Upkar, Ankhen (1968), Hukumat and Border, triumphed in their respective years, there were clear-cut reasons for that, like an iconic leader's memories (Netaji in Samadhi) or presence (Shastri in Upkar) or betrayal by neighbouring countries.
Numero Unos A survey of the top hit films - Concluding Part The choices in the global era were the most significant. Even as the media went to town about 'evolving tastes in cinema', the even-more smart audience decided and decreed that nothing could substitute for the classic Hindi movie that was a perfect buffet of family entertainment. Different movies, indeed, had to be completely outstanding to reach the top zone, like Baiju Bawra, Munna Bhai MBBS and 3 Idiots. Romance led overall, followed by action (some films blended both or either with other formats like patriotism, social issues and so on). South remakes did come in, and unique genres included Munna Bhai MBBS and Koi…Mil Gaya.
Myths were also shattered. Crime dramas were around since 1950 (Samadhi) and did not arrive with Amitabh Bachchan. History was created when the Salim-Anarkali sagas Anarkali and Mughal-E-Azam both made it within a decade. Love stories with debutant star-pairs were instant hits in Bobby, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Hero, Maine Pyar Kiya and Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai.

Two more facts stood out: a huge amount of new talent came in through these films on camera and behind it; either as debutant or in terms of their career or brand-defining breakthroughs, and a significant chunk of the films here were home productions of various actors. Of the 64 films that made it from 1950 to 2011, 15 films were connected with stars.

Music, obviously, remained a star for most of the journey. It was only in the late '80s, '90s and millennium, to an extent, that one saw one-hit albums. Lip-synched songs were sought to be demolished by a certain confused brigade from the mid-millennium, but even in this deviant phase, Farah Khan, A.R.Murugadoss, Rajkumar Hirani and the two Khan blockbusters ensured the trend came back in a big way. While no film without songs saw entry into this elite list, Laxmikant-Pyarelal's Hukumat in 1987 has the dubious distinction of being the only film without a single popular song!

The scoreboard
However, Laxmikant-Pyarelal did end up leading the tally among composers with 12 films, followed by Naushad, Kalyanji-Anandji and Anu Malik with five films each and Shankar-Jaikishan and Ravi with 4 each. Lyricist Anand Bakshi took the clear lead with 14 films. Lata Mangeshkar had 36 films, but none in the millennium. Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar led among the males.

Contrary to expectations from Amitabh Bachchan, it is Salman Khan who takes the lead with eight films, from which four are solo leads. Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Aamir Khan, Rishi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor followed with four films. Madhuri Dixit with 5 films reigned over Vyjayanthimala and Hema Malini with four films each. Interestingly, Shammi Kapoor's three films were all as character artistes!

Numero Unos A survey of the top hit films - Concluding Part Having a unique distinction of films in all the four decades till he was alive was director Raj Kapoor under his RK Films banner (Awara, Shree 420, Sangam, Bobby, Ram Teri Ganga Maili). He also took the lead among all filmmakers and banners. Other than the Filmistan banner with three films in the '50s, no other filmmaking company came close. Yash Chopra directed Waqt and Deewaar and produced DDLJ, also presenting son Aditya Chopra's Dhoom 2. Among directors who had two films in this list are Nandlal Jaswantlal, Raj Khosla, Manoj Kumar, Ramesh Sippy, Subhash Ghai, Indra Kumar, Anil Sharma, Sooraj R.Barjatya, Rakesh Roshan and Rajkumar Hirani. Eminent banners that made an entry more than once here were BR Films, Trimurti Films of Gulshan Rai (Johny Mera Naam, Vidhaata), Vinod Chopra Productions, Vishesh Films of the Bhatts (Raaz, Murder), Filmkraft Productions of Rakesh Roshan, and Tips, as co-producers of Raja Hindustani and Raaz.

Trendsetters and trend-breakers
Clear pioneers in their respective genres were Baiju Bawra (commercial acceptance of classical music), Nagin (supernatural dramas with snakes in human forms), Madhumati (reincarnated lovers), Ganga Jamuna (popularizing the Bhojpuri dialect), Mother India and Waqt (multi-star trends, the latter also consolidating the lost-and-found family genre), Sangam (first film shot abroad), Upkar (Pran in a positive role and singing special songs), Bobby (teenage musical romance), Roti Kapada Aur Makaan and Sholay (multi-star films), Amar Akbar Anthony (item-based entertainment), DDLJ (Punjabi overdrive in Hindi films and shooting overseas as a trend), Raaz (resurgence of horror as a genre), Koi…Mil Gaya (sci-fi film), Murder (erotic thriller), No Entry (naughty comedy) and Dabangg (resurgence of lip-synched songs and an all-popular music score that boosted the opening of a film).

Needless to add, a huge number of these films were dark horses that no one expected to top the grade. This was especially true of Baiju Bawra, Phool Aur Patthar, Aradhana, Do Raaste, Haathi Mere Saathi, Bobby, Sholay (the biggest hit in the history of Indian cinema), Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Hero, Maine Pyar Kiya, Raaz, Munna Bhai MBBS, Murder and No Entry. Distributors were actually treating some of these films as pariahs and no buyers were forthcoming!

Yes, super-hits happen and – even in this age of sequels and remakes – cannot be designed!
Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6

Article written by staff at Bollywood Hungama. Read more

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