The year gone by has seen Disney India (formerly UTV Motion Pictures) deliver the highest grossing Hindi film ever (probable) in Dangal and The Jungle Book which is the highest grossing Hollywood film in India ever and both films are the biggest BLOCKBUSTERS ever for Disney India but it is has shut operations in India. Not only does it have these huge grossers but there is also Baaghi which was a hit at the box office and is now running riot on television with almost 60 lakh impressions on first viewing and has hit 30 lakh plus impressions three to four times in repeat. Put into perspective these repeats are higher than the premieres of Shahrukh Khan's Fan and Akshay Kumar's Airlift and Rustom. This is no mean feat for a small film. Basically the five most popular films of the year in 2016 in India going by theatres and television are Sultan, Dangal, (this order can change in time) The Jungle Book, Housefull 3 and Baaghi and three of these of belong to Disney India. There has been a Fitoor and Mohenjo Daro but the huge popularity of the three above films more than counteract that.
It is rare to see a studio shut operations in the same year that they have delivered such hugely popular films but that is exactly what has happened to Disney India. This year the decision makers at Disney India would have seen what the audience wants as you have to be stupid not to see after such hugely successful films and on top you have also seen your content which has failed with the audience. It would give a clearer view of what Hindi cinema is all about. But this clearer view is probably too late as the American bosses have pulled the plug. The plug has been pulled because of what we call the Dil Chahta Hai syndrome which was probably there in the studio (and many others).
Dil Chahta Hai syndrome is
1. There was a film in 2001 called Dil Chahta Hai which a section (a fairly large section) of the industry for some reason followed in its story telling and its narrative style despite it being a poor film and rejected and by most of the audience at the box office and even more on television after. More about this fiasco (for the industry) on another day.
2. You make films which you want to make (Dil Chahta Hai) which is actually correct and what everyone should do but the problem is when the audience is kicking you in the teeth again and again then there has to be some rethink. It was not just Disney (then UTV) but the whole brigade which thought Dil Chahta Hai cinema was the way forward. It was okay at the time though as it was all corporate money and table profits so the audience opinion did not matter much but it had to tell as eventually someone somewhere had to cover the losses.
Disney India (formerly UTV Motion Pictures) started in 1997 with Dil Ke Jharoke Mein (Manisha Koirala, Vikas Bhalla) which was a disaster were a part of this Dil Chahta Hai brigade post the release of the 2001 film and had their first hit in 2006 with Rang De Basanti and the same year had this Khosla Ka Ghosla which no one saw but was raved about in the media and probably this brigade in the industry also. Actually even Rang De Basanti was more talked about than what it actually achieved at the box office and after on television. The company continued with this type of cinema which was never going anywhere not in India at least but there were some huge bright spots like hugely appreciated films like Rowdy Rathore and Chennai Express and well liked acquisitions like Race and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.
Then in late 2013 they hit the jackpot as Disney wanted its share in the Indian market and took over UTV Motion Pictures but Disney is a blockbuster studio, when someone like that comes to India they expect the blockbusters and biggest films but here what they got was Dil Chahta Hai cinema and duds like Haider, Katti Batti and Fitoor etc. which would have been a shock to their system. The Jungle Book despite being a foreign film is more Indian in its story telling and emotions than all these films. There were blockbuster acquisitions like Kick and PK but one was highly priced while the other on commission so returns were not huge as the success of those films warranted. This was more than counteracted by acquiring of poor films like Phantom, Tamasha and Mohenjo Daro at fancy prices where just the first named alone more than killed the profits on Kick and PK and this would not have gone down well in at Head Office in California.
The irony of it all is that just when a studio is coming out of some misconceptions (has to be after Dangal, The Jungle Book, Baaghi and there was also last years ABCD 2 it has to shut up shop which is sad. Actually the misconceptions could have come out earlier when a Rowdy Rathore and Chennai Express was there but there is a fluke like Barfi! in among them and that gives hope that this can be the correct road especially if the people making creative decisions believe in that road. But if you dig deeper into all the facts and figures of Barfi! everything is crystal clear that it can happen but rarely and post its theatrical run there is only rejection as though numbers came in theatres its through a minority and wider audience not interested.
The other sad part is that Disney India is a powerful distribution outfit today with a huge presence in all the circuits and now despite this clout it will not be releasing any Hindi films barring the pending Jagga Jasoos unless headquarters in California have a rethink. A rethink could actually mean a much better Disney India after what has happened in 2016 but if its still Dil Chahta Hai syndrome then there would not much hope for this industry.
The filmography of Disney India (formerly UTV Motion Pictures) can be seen here