‘Kitne aadmi thhe?’ This iconic dialogue of ‘Sholay’ is asked by every filmmaker to their distributors/Exhibitors every Friday when their film releases! Safe to say the last few years, the reply wasn’t one which warmed the heart! But 2018 has been a landmark year for Hindi Cinema!

At the start of the year there were whispers that the digital revolution brought in by the various platforms was going to crush cinema and the Big Screen experience as audiences would choose to watch content chilling in their own living rooms or on their phones. But the audiences proved otherwise! They flocked in blockbuster numbers to the cinemas this year and led to possibly the best year for movies that I have seen in my entire career! Starting with ‘Padmaavat’ in January, the power of cinema was proven when despite the protests and threats of violence, people thronged to the cinemas to make this labor of love by Sanjay Leela Bhansali sir into a roaring success. I still remember the presence of police at the cinema on the 1st day of release. Yes it was intimidating to see a film surrounded by such security and uncertainty but I remember telling my wife Gouri that going to see the film would be a strong stand against the ridiculous protests. Then the floodgates opened! Month after month followed successes of various degrees and genres! Padman, Hichki, Baaghi 2, Raid, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, 102 Not Out, Raazi, Parmanu, Veere Di Wedding, Sanju, Satyameva Jayate, Gold, Stree, Sui-Dhaaga, Andhadhun, Badhaai Ho!; the list is brilliant and so diverse!

‘Achhe din’ are here for the industry! And the reason for this resurgence in my humble opinion is that each and every film that hit the bulls eye this year was honest, unapologetic and focused in which audience they wanted to target. A ‘Parmanu’ never tried to be a ‘Satyameva Jayate’ and a ‘Satyameva Jayate’ never tried to be a ‘Parmaanu’. An ‘Andhadhun’ never tried to be a ‘Badhaai Ho’ and a ‘Badhaai Ho’ never tried to be an ‘Andhadhun!’ Long story short, EACH film stuck to their STORY! This was also a year of Big comebacks! Lots of talented film-makers whose earlier films had not worked, bounced back with huge successes. Siddharth P Malhotra, Amit Sharma, Abhishek Sharma, Umesh Shukla and many more! Another big lesson to be learnt from this year was how much single screen cinemas can contribute to a film’s business when we make movies for the mass audience. I was told that approx 70% of the collections made by ‘Satyameva Jayate’ came from these theatres and audiences! Similarly in the case of a mass blockbuster like ‘Baaghi 2’, the contribution of the single screens was huge! An eye opener for sure! In our pursuit of making films for a few critics and so called ‘plex’ audiences, we have been forgetting the ‘aam junta’ of India! For me the magic of sitting in a dark theatre with hundreds of fellow Indians, popcorn in hand, applauding, crying, laughing or being moved by cinema can never be replaced by watching content on your phone or in your home. Yes, digital platforms are creating great content which is also a super sign, but ‘MAA’ and ‘CineMAA’ can never be replaced! And picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!

‘Thugs of Hindostan’. ‘2.0’, ‘Zero’, ‘Simmba’ are still to come and surely look like they will set the box office on fire too! 2018 is set to be a ‘Super’ year for ‘Super’ cinema and also for our beloved trade magazine ‘Super Cinema!’ Since 20 years they have been providing us with great reporting, facts and numbers! My friends Amul and Anshul have carried the baton passed to them by their father with great dignity and sincerity! This Diwali lets all celebrate the brilliant 2018 which brought the audiences back into the cinemas and allowed so many of us to tell the stories we wanted to! Happy Diwali!

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