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The scent of success

Friday, June 22, 2018

So a friend forwarded this joke... one of the many jokes and memes that have popped up after 'Race 3'.

“What's going on with the law and order situation in this city,” said the joke, “I left two tickets of 'Race 3' in my car; someone broke in and left two more.”

Some of us saw the film in a near-empty suburban theatre, and well before the film had ended, people had started walking out. This was not how a hit franchise which roped in Salman Khan, whose power at the box-office (barring an occasional 'Tubelight') is infallible should have been treated? It should have had full houses, tickets selling in 'black' at least outside single screens, and fans whooping and hooting through the film. But we watched the film in relative peace, because a handful of people cannot make the kind of racket that drowns out the next five lines.

A week earlier, we had seen 'Kaala Karikaalan' in a similarly empty hall and low-energy crowd that did not even shout 'Bharatmata Ki Jai' after the anthem. This was at a theatre where the industry goes to study the working class crowd's responses. This is where fans arrive in mobs and take over the movie-hall.

Still, both films are reportedly hits and it is clear that the gauge of measuring a film's success is too complicated for anyone outside the industry to understand. There are too many factors to take into account, and a whole complex chart of who spent how much and who made how much. The thing with a film starring superstars also is that regardless of its quality, fans will go to see it at least once; the true power of a star can be judged by the opening weekend; very few films last beyond that.

But, in this age of social media, where everybody who has an opinion has a platform to express it, 'Race 3' was mercilessly mocked. People who buy tickets to watch a film believe they have the right to say what they like about it. Only film industry people praise one another's films – even the bad ones – because they know what it's like to be in that Friday boat.

These days, every film is promoted so heavily, that the audience goes into the theatre with an idea of what to expect already formed in their minds. And they want to get what was promised. Still, it's not called show-business for nothing. If, in spite of the negative buzz, a film makes money, it keeps the wheels of the industry oiled. If making money is the true measure of success; there is also genuine appreciation, respect, and the greatest yardstick of it all – twenty years later, will anyone remember the film?

At the end of 'Race 3', the characters talk of the future, and one of them asks, “But who will be 'Sikander' of the next race?” And Salman 'Sikander' Khan looks at the audience and says, “How would I know?” Ain't that the truth?

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