What will drive December 2018: Technology, Content or a Mix?

The big-ticket month of 2018 is here! Leave the many dark horses and unexpected fiascos and, in fact, we have always looked at December 2018 with great rather than grated expectations. Kedarnath, Zero and Simmba are theoretically set to dominate, as projected for a long while. So, for the purpose of discussion, we can cast the relatively inconsequential Rangeela Raja and Merey Pyare Prime Minister aside, which even if they do well, can hardly fight these three biggies.

What will drive December 2018 Technology, Content or a Mix

Three, did we say? Correction: make that four. 2.0, an end-November release, will have most of its run in December. As director Shankar put it, “I made this sequel only when I got the story idea, because everyone wanted a sequel as soon as Robot (2010) became a hit. You cannot make a sequel just to do something and cash in. Then one day, 4-5 years ago, a thought came to me, of cellphones travelling on a street! I don’t know why it came. But I began to think of why they will travel, and how they will travel. From that, slowly, a beautiful story evolved.”Zero

Shankar’s track-record has proved that technology comes in only as a tool to project and enhance the core emotions, sub-layers and social message in his films. Though the extent of VFX and prosthetic work here is higher than in any Indian film ever, and Akshay Kumar declares that whatever he has done here is equal to the sum of make-up used on him in all his previous films over 28 years (!), Shankar reiterates the axiom that technology alone will always be rejected by the audience minus “A story that works”.

Here’s a considered assessment of what is set to happen in deadly December in the movies.

2.0 (Release: November 29)

Budget: This is the highest-ever budgeted Indian film— Rs. 500 crore-plus, spent predominantly on technology and VFX and the 3-D filming. Producers have already recovered Rs. 370 crore. With a breakeven figure set at an approximate Rs 270 crore worldwide nett, it seems a cakewalk, given the buzz, Rajinikanth’s fandom, Akshay Kumar’s presence and the overall dynamics of the film.

USP: A story with a social and environmental message for the whole world, as everyone uses cell-phones. A villain who is not just a villain, Akshay Kumar’s four looks and Rajinikanth’s four characters and a story idea that will connect along with a curiosity-inducing tag-line, “The world is not only for humans”. The film thus harnesses all technology needed for the theme and story, projecting it in 3-D of global standards. This is a perfect marriage indeed of content and technology.

Time to capitalize: If the pan-Indian and global audience finds it worthwhile, the sky beyond Bahubali can be the limit. In Hindi cinema, it can co-exist with an advantage over Kedarnath, releasing a week later.

Nett prospects: Blockbuster.

Kedarnath (December 7):

Budget: Commensurate with the prospects of the ambitious film.

USP: Subtle underlying messages are clearly anticipated, other than the obvious one of religious harmony. A fresh storyline, Kedarnath looks at love versus not just communal bias but also the anger of Lord Shiva, and suggests that the floods unleashed (as was the real catastrophe in 2013) showed the wrath of God. The VFX needed has been used quite well.

Buzz around the lead pair’s fresh chemistry is increasing and Sara Ali Khan is already being looked at as the next big thing. Sushant Singh Rajput, as always, has got into the skin of his character and director Abhishek Kapoor seems confident of this effort, junking memories of the many hiccups that the film faced on the way by attributing the final outcome to Lord Shiva’s blessings.

Time to capitalize: Since the film has no superstar or big-name director, it will have to make it entirely on merits. But if the audience finds it worthy of lapping up, despite 2.0, it has a free phase of a fortnight to make hay.

Nett prospects: A hit on merit—or higher.

Zero (December 21):

Budget: High, given the prostheses and VFX needed for Shah Rukh Khan, playing a vertically challenged man a full 28 years after Appu Raja and Kamal Haasan had to do it with a lot more physical effort and some trick photography.

USP: Shah Rukh Khan again. The last 12 years have been very bad for him with just four certified hitsOm Shanti Om and Chak De! India way back in 2007, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008 and Chennai Express in 2013, and everyone expects SRK to bounce back after debacles galore. This is as much due to his character of a dwarf as the perceived Aanand L. Rai touch. Also, most top stars need A-list heroines to make the difference between average performing films and hits/blockbusters and SRK has two here—Anushka Sharma as his ladylove and Katrina Kaif as a reel superstar.

Aanand L. Rai believes in telling (and backing as a producer) good stories. As a director, he has succeeded big-time with the very different Tanu Weds Manu franchise, and his fans—and SRK’s—expect and want him to go beyond this time.

Time to capitalize: There is just a week before Simmba though, notwithstanding 2.0 and Kedarnath, if they perform as well or better than expected.

Nett prospects: Hit at least.

Simmba (December 28):

Budget: On par with the cost-effective budgets of all Rohit Shetty extravaganzas.

USP: Rohit Shetty has always been a ‘content’ man—heavy on the emotional quotient of even his comic stories and ‘content’ with the box-office performance that results from them and his intelligent and entertainment-heavy execution, come action, comedy or a mix.

Simmba promises to be a heady mix, a full-on masala entertainer that we have been missing for a long while. Being Rohit, and having the irrepressible Ranveer Singh—an actor and star devoted to such movies on which he has grown up— in the title-role, the director has only aces up his sleeve, fired further by the fact that he has to prove his credentials again after Golmaal Again’s mammoth success and without Ajay Devgn in an action drama.

He has two bonus cards too: One: if Kedarnath or/and Sara Ali Khan work, she will be another magnet for the film. Two, it’s the Christmas season and week, which has given us Ghajini, 3 Idiots, PK, Dangal and Tiger Zinda Hai.

Time to capitalize: A full four weeks before the next big-ticket film.

Nett prospects: A minimum super-hit. A Rohit Shetty actioner is very, very, very unlikely to come off either as a Race 3 or Thugs Of Hindostan!

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