Missing the mark
Amidist the star-studded television promos of upcoming festive releases, one can see an almost-forgotten Anushka Sharma alongside newbie actor Ranveer Singh — that is, if at all one notices the promos of Band Baaja Baaraat. This is a significant shift when one compares the buzz that used to surround any Yash Raj film until five years ago. "There was a time when every Yash Raj Films (YRF) release — be it Veer Zaara and Mohabbatein, which were directed by Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra respectively, or Saathiya and Dhoom, which only had the banner backing them — used to get a 100 per cent advance booking," recounts Kunal Singh Rawal of Kiran Cinema, Chandigarh, a key city for the production house. "But none of the recent YRF releases, with the exception of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, has evoked such interest in the audience." Rawal only reiterates what the industry has been murmuring for some time.
After making successful films such as Waqt for his brother BR Chopra's production house, Yash Chopra parted ways in 1973 to form YRF. Right from the first production Daag, the YRF brand name began to take shape as films such as Kabhi Kabhie, Doosra Aadmi, Silsila, Noorie, Chandni and Darr became iconic.
In 1995, the maverick filmmaker's son Aditya Chopra made his directorial debut with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The film earned over Rs 580 crore in India and continues to run successfully at Mumbai's popular theatre Maratha Mandir even today. "It was the first Indian movie that opened the doors to the lucrative overseas market, making YRF one of the strongest players in film production and distribution," points out trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
According to exhibitor Manoj Desai, who runs both Maratha Mandir and G-5 multiplex in Mumbai, it is the dilution of sensibilities and loss of focus four years ago that has affected the brand's image. "There was a time when watching a YRF film was considered a family outing. But YRF, over the years, mastered the art of wooing the overseas markets with beautiful international locales, song-and-dance extravaganzas and festive costumes. As they established that connect with the NRI audience, they lost the Indian public. Films such as Ta Ra Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Tashan failed to strike a chord with Indians despite the star cast," he suggests.