Writer-director Nelson’s Doctor is a super hit, the reason given being the number of laughs the film packs in its running time. Also, that the audience is now ‘divided’ into family and youth segments, is an added advantage for a film that stars a star like Sivakarthikeyan who enjoys pride of place among both age groups. I hadn’t ventured into a theatre since December 2019.
At the time, I didn’t know it would be October 2021 when I would set foot in the hall again. A key reason I went in, despite the threat of the pandemic still persisting, is the guarantee that I would be able to laugh heartily. For someone else who goes in to watch James Bond in action, it could be the larger-than-life experience. This pandemic has taught us to discern between the movies that will make us step into the theatre. It’s like travelling. We now choose where and how we travel, even if it’s for work.
Quality over quantity may now determine the flow of films into theatres. Some stories are meant for the large screen only, like superhero films internationally, or superstar movies in India. The bigger the budget and names, the more it becomes a theatre experience. But names only go that far to bring in the audience and fill alternate seats. It is the quality of the film that determines this. In Doctor, the suspension of logic is offset with not just dialogue-led humor but character-led laughs, which makes for repeat viewing, because one wants to laugh again and again. Romance and love is perhaps the other emotion with the power to draw in audiences. Of course, the narrative has to be well-told, well-made and has to make every moment count till the story ends.
2021 Deepavali certainly looks promising for film industries across India. Big releases mean bigger audience footfalls. However, for every person who takes the risk of going to the theatre, there are two who would stay away. To a large extent, Nelson and Sivakarthikeyan have broken that barrier and brought in the family audience into matinee and evening shows. However, a producer can hope to gain from this trend only when the seating capacity is 100 percent, and more importantly, when the film lives up to its promise. The promise can be to merely entertain or to engage the mind or to enliven for two odd hours. But it is definitely a promise to give a better film, and if this is not kept up, then the audience has tons of entertainment options elsewhere.
From Instagram videos to short clips on Facebook to web series and full-length feature films premiering on OTT, the option to view something in the comfort of one’s home is a challenge. Is our film industry geared up to face this? Going by the teaser and trailer of Annaatthe and Maanaadu, one tends to think that the mindset has indeed opened up avenues for filmmakers like Venkat Prabhu to think out of the box and the likes of Siva to pack a punch. If Doctor’s success has proven anything to us it is this: Stereotypes should be broken if one has to deliver a film that can entertain as well as engage the audience, which is now exposed to stories and filmmaking from various parts of the world.
Doctor doesn’t have the regular song and dance routines; it doesn’t have the regular punch-line mouthing hero, nor does it have a hero fighting all the goons by himself (there’s an ingenious metro rail fight sequence in the film). A film works only when all its characters and all departments work in sync. The onus of giving a good film is more so with our storytellers and producers now. Deepavali 2021 will see us all at the movie halls, yes. Let’s hope that the films live up to their promise.