So far the digital platform has not been very kind to the Bollywood A-listers. Akshay Kumar floundered with Laxmii, Varun and papa David Dhawan delivered the worst film of their career in Coolie No 1. Salman Khan’s Radhe was arguably the worst film of the superstar’s career.As for Anil Kapoor’s AK Versus AK , the less said the better.
What is the “IT” factor that goes missing when Bollywood A-listers translocate their films from the big to the small screen?
It is hard to say. But the one thing that we have found to often go missing in big-budget feature films that have been transferred from their intended resting places to the digital domain, is basic respect for the audiences’ intelligence.All the big-screen crossovers since the pandemic have relied on a particular superstar’s box office clout, and nothing else. That may work in cinemas(although even that is highly doubtful any more). On the OTT platform content is indisputable king.
This is where Netflix’s Dhamaka featuring Kartik Aaryan as a news journalist negotiating with a terrorist to prevent a terror attack on the city of Mumbai, scores very high points, Although it features an A-lister in the lead it doesn’t undermine the audiences’ intelligence. There are two heroes in Dhamaka: the content and Kartik Aaryan, strictly in that order.
Dhamaka director Ram Madhvani who comes to us from the ad world knows that brevity is the soul of celluloid storytelling. Dhamaka doesn’t deviate from the plot. There are no song breaks, no romantic outings, no haranguing and no humbug. The plot is confined to a meticulously designed set representing the news room from where Kartik Aaryan playing newshound Arjun Pathak interacts with the terrorist. We only hear the terrorist’s voice. But the effect is chilling.
Don’t count on watching this feature film in parts. Once you start, you are out of it only when the cat-and-mouse game ends.
In Hollywood there have been many film on the theme of terror negotiation : Diehard , Inside Man, The Siege , Ransom, Airforce One, The Siege… the list of brilliant films on the theme is endless. In Hindi cinema I can’t recall a single worthwhile terror-negotiation films since B R Chopra’s 36 Ghante and Raj N Sippy’s Inkaar in the 1970s. And I am not counting Neeraj Pandey’s over-rated A Wednesday.
That lacuna in the genre will be filled by Dhamaka. Director Ram Madhavani already had us gripped by our balls with the series Aarya and that superb hijack drama Neerja. He knows how to keep us on tenterhooks.
While Kartik Aaryan will be the first Bollywood A-lister to break the barrier between Bollywood and the OTT, there are several A-listers like Shah Rukh Khan,Aamir Khan , Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor who have so far stayed away from the OTT platform. It is time for Bollywood’s superstars to get down from their high horses and adapt to the new home medium of entertainment.Don’t give us arrogant selfcentred I-me-myself films like Sadak 2 and Khali Peeli on the OTT.
The star system is dead. Long live the star system.