After 'Ghajini' (2008) broke records by crossing the Rs. 100cr mark, a new standard had entered Bollywood: the '100-crore club'.
Soon, the once-exclusive tag began to be attached to more and more films. That one factor started defining a star's career.
Now, 'success' has several other factors, and Bollywood has many more competitors.
What exactly happened in the last 10 years?
The initial rise in 100cr movies was drastic
Aamir Khan led the formation of the club with 'Ghajini' and '3 Idiots' (2009). In 2010, the number doubled: 'Dabangg' and 'Golmaal 3' earned the tag. In 2011, it increased to five and to eight in 2012.
The list of '100cr' stars also widened: the Khans led the way, then followed Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and even Varun Dhawan.
The old recipe for a blockbuster hit
Unsurprisingly, star power was the most significant predictor of a box office hit. A Khan would almost guarantee the masses. Some non-Khans like Akshay, Ajay or Hrithik are reliable commodities too.
Mix it up with a powerful leading lady - Deepika, Priyanka or Katrina.
Songs, drama, romance, a larger-than-life plot - everything else was more important than content (remember 'Ra.One', 'ABCD', 'Dilwale'…?)
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But did 'Rs. 100cr' really mean success?
Contrary to popular assumption, the high figures didn't exactly imply more sales. Several factors were at play: rising ticket prices and number of theatres, wider releases due to digitalization, and a strategized release during holiday/festival weekends, to name a few.
Then a hit to the age-old star system
By 2016, things slowed down. Seven movies made it to the 100-crore club, in contrast to the sharp rise in such movies in the beginning.
Even SRK's 'Fan' couldn't make it. Experts attributed it to various reasons: no song-and-dance routine, a disappointing second-half, etc.
Salman's 'Jai Ho', Ranbir's 'Besharam' and Ajay's 'Action Jackson' also failed to make a mark.
Was the trend changing?
Meanwhile, local and global cinema shone bright
Meanwhile, regional movies started dethroning Hindi cinema. This April, 'Baahubali 2' became the first Indian film to cross the 100-cr milestone on opening day.
Again, it signaled a move away from the star system: instead of investing in actors, focused on production.
Hollywood was also taking over: 'The Jungle Book', 'X-Me: Apocalypse' and even 'The Conjuring 2' earned more than Bollywood movies released together.
Threat of piracy and digital content on the rise too
Bollywood has to simultaneously battle piracy, an ever-growing threat that often eats away movie's profits. Meanwhile, digital content is emerging at a never-before pace. With Netflix and Amazon Prime, and TVF and AIB, an enthusiast has many other options now for on-screen entertainment.
Bollywood is trying, but is it enough?
Bollywood is trying its hands on experiments- reduced length, fewer songs, offbeat plots and subtle acting.
However, the commercially-successful ones still rely on tried-and-tested techniques. Question is, till when will the old formula bring 'success'?
It's high time for Bollywood to take charge. If nothing else, the failure of Salman's 'Tubelight', SRK's 'Jab Harry Met Sejal' and Ranbir's 'Jagga' should be a wake-up call.