2019’s first super hit film came quickly in the calendar year. Generally early January is not the best time for releases but ‘Uri – The Surgical Strike’ released in the second week and set the box office on fire. Quickly gaining rave reviews and strong word of mouth, the film surpassed the magic INR 100 cr mark and as of writing is still going strong in theatres across the country.

The common perception is that this is the result of nationalism and jingoistic pride helping the film. Nationalism has always been a strong selling point for films and Urri certainly brings out the patriot in all Indians but to simply suggest that the film’s success is this one-dimensional would be grossly unfair to what is a technically strong movie with excellent performances. Moreover, what does the success of this film, a smaller movie with no really big names in the cast, mean for our cinema going forward?

Context is everything. The success of Urri has to be seen in the wake of a strong year for slightly more offbeat films. Now if you take offbeat as different storylines or offbeat as films with actors and not stars, 2018 and now in 2019 has been a huge year. This, coupled with the relative failure of some big budget, big star vehicles, is the context in which the success of Urri has to be viewed. Nationalistic pride apart, there is something more to the success of this film.

That something has alot in common with the success of films like Badhai Ho, Andhadhun, Mulk and others of last year. Our audience is becoming more and more content aware. Whether you believe this is driven by more content available on OTT platforms or many other factors, the fact that these films are finding strong loyal audiences, is a positive for our cinema indeed. Urri is another example. People were switched on to this movie from the word go, intrigued not by the event but by the story of the event. This was narrated wonderfully in the film. It’s showing that the audiences are keen to hear stories. The more real, the better.

A lot of publicity was given to the film. All films of this ilk will not get such a boost but it is to be remembered that this publicity was not entirely positive prior to the release. When politics and art meet, there is hardly ever something completely universal. Urri was certainly talked about but it was the movie that has worked with audiences and not the propaganda. Suggesting anything else is a real disservice to the film and to the audiences who have viewed it.

So Uri’s success should be cheered by filmmakers. It has opened up the opportunities for many kinds of films with many stories. It has allowed producers to place their faith in cast and crew that perhaps are not as well-known as the A listers and it means that sometimes, the film itself can be bigger than the sum of its parts. This is something Hollywood does particularly well and it is now happening here as well. It means differentiated films with interesting stories will now be told. Not all will be successful, maybe only a handful will be as successful as Urri, which could possibly be one of the most profitable Hindi films ever when it finishes its run, but the films will be backed and made and this is a huge boost for theatre going audiences which have got bored with the familiar and the mundane.

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