What went wrong? Analyzing Yash Raj Films' flop streak
Bollywood's "House of Love," Yash Raj Films is a gigantic name in the film industry. Its foundation was laid in 1970 by Yash Chopra, and its legacy has been carried forward by his scion, filmmaker Aditya Chopra. However, the past few months have blemished the production house's otherwise towering reputation, with numerous films courting a shockingly disastrous response. But what went wrong? We analyze.
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar was directed by Dibakar Banerjee, known for his experimental, avant-garde cinema. It brought back the Ishaqzaade jodi of Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, and though it was lauded by critics for its multilayered, nuanced narrative, it couldn't woo audiences. Made on a relatively low Rs. 20cr budget, it could only earn a little over Rs. 58L in its lifetime run.
Reportedly, the 2019 films War and Mardaani 2 were the last Yash Raj Films-backed projects to have witnessed success at the box office. Its first post-pandemic film Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (distributed by YRF), which came out in 2021, followed by Bunty Aur Babli 2 (2021), Jayeshbhai Jordaar (2022), Samrat Prithviraj, and the recently released Shamshera, were all major box office failures, say reports.
Ranveer Singh's Jayeshbhai Jordaar was also a box office debacle—the second in a row after 83 for an otherwise bankable Singh. Rejected for its "dated" storyline, logical fallacies, and preachiness, it reportedly only netted about Rs. 16.6cr, against a Rs. 90cr budget! The film fell flat even on OTT, and unlike Singh's other offerings, failed to even ignite any discussion on social media.
Samrat Prithviraj probably dropped YRF's jaws since it seemed to have everything in its favor: an A-list actor, a seasoned filmmaker, and patriotic fervor. However, nothing could salvage this ship that sunk before it could even cross tides, and the film—reportedly made on nearly Rs. 200cr budget—collected Rs. 65cr (nett). Akshay Kumar was also massively blamed for his "lack of commitment" to the film.
While Shamshera's numbers might be phenomenal for a film with a lesser budget and a newer actor, the same cannot be said for a drama headlined by superstar-in-the-making—Ranbir Kapoor. His return to celluloid after four years, Shamshera received negative reviews and was thrashed for exploiting Bollywood's '80s massy formula. Executed on a Rs. 150cr budget, it made less than about Rs. 45cr so far.
When Bunty Aur Babli 2 was announced, cinephiles were dejected to note Abhishek Bachchan's absence from the cast. Although it did star the original Babli (Rani Mukerji), the film failed to spin the magic weaved by its predecessor. Made on a budget of Rs. 45cr, the Varun V Sharma directorial collapsed at about Rs. 12cr (nett), becoming one of the first post-COVID-19 theatrical failures.
However, all is not lost. YRF's dry spell at the box office might change in the coming months as the production house has placed bets on two reigning superstars of the country: Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. While SRK will be seen in Siddharth Anand's spy drama Pathaan on January 25, Salman has Maneesh Sharma's Tiger 3 in the pipeline, opposite Katrina Kaif.
Besides the poor scripts that run the risk of being called dated, YRF regularly draws ire for using the notorious yellow gradient in films. Recent examples include Shamshera, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, and Samrat Prithviraj. The reason behind failure or not, it is certainly an interesting discussion!