What makes a box office disaster? At the lowest level, you can look at the absolute loss to the company making the movie — but that would be a fairly dry list suitable only for accounting students. More important perhaps is the loss on expectation that the moviegoer or fan feels when he sees the movie. Kidnap, for example, lost wads of money at the box office — but you won’t find it on this list — because early indications before release were that Sanju was on auto-pilot for his role and the plot lacked imagination — expectations were lowered. There’s also a feeling that young stars make mistakes and shouldn’t be pilloried for that — it’s part of the learning process, but more experienced stars such as Salman, more experienced directors such as Harry, and more entrenched production houses such as Yash Raj really should be more careful in the products they back. So here is my list of the Top Ten Disasters of 2008 — yours will be different, so let us know what you think.
10. Halla Bol
Life isn’t fair! Sometimes, things in life that deserve to be a big success end up being a big failure. The movie Halla Bol is one of these. Starring Ajay Devgan and an in-form Vidya Balan, the movie is a fascinating exploration about identity, pulled off with great aplomb by Ajay who called on his own experience of 20 years as a film actor and — equally importantly — referencing 20 years of Bollywood movie-making and Indian cinema in general. The movie is almost a ‘spot-the-scandal’ game, as it obliquely takes issue with a number of events that have emerged from the dark side of Bollywood in recent years. Even Ajay’s character — Sameer Khan — is a bit of a giveaway. It reminded me in some ways of Megan Abbott’s book ‘ The Song is You and even the movie Hollywoodland. But it did remarkably bad at the box office — perhaps it just tried to be too clever — so it deserves its place on our list of box-office disasters. But Ajay survived the year of course, turning in the big hit Golmaal Returns towards the end. Some you win, some you lose.
Though relatively modestly budgeted, the box office receipts of just 15cr make Halla Bol a borderline financial flop.