Why 'Laal Singh Chaddha' may not work at the box office

Similarities are in plenty, but is a faithful Hindi remake of a modern-day Hollywood classic bound to succeed at the box office? There is no such guarantee

Why 'Laal Singh Chaddha' may not work at the box office

Biswadeep Ghosh

Director Advait Chandan's Laal Singh Chaddha, the official remake of the Tom Hanks film Forrest Gump starring Aamir Khan, is making headlines everywhere. The film’s trailer was released during the Indian Premier League finale at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. The inevitable happened not much later. Heated discussions on the trailer started trending on social media.

A few among those who did not like the trailer pointed out that Aamir’s character of the clean-shaven Laal reminded them of the humanoid alien that he had essayed in the Rajkumar Hirani-helmed PK in 2014. The actor's fans ignored the criticism and insisted that the upcoming film would offer a great cinematic experience.

Every actor has limitations. Aamir, too, does. Within its running time of two minutes and 45 seconds, the trailer shows that while he is brilliant as the bearded man, his expressions with the clean-shaven look do bring to mind PK’s alien, which had become instantly popular. The visible fact of repetitiveness will become the highlight of discussions once Laal Singh Chaddha comes to town.

Laal Singh Chaddha will be what it should be: a faithful remake since it is an official adaptation. Consider the dialogues. The famous line “Run Forrest, run” becomes “Bhaag Laal, bhaag.” Elsewhere, Forrest says, “My mama always said, life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.” In Laal Singh Chaddha, those sentences have been smartly modified: "Meri mummy kehti thhi zindagi golgappe jaisi hondi hai. Pet bhale hi bhar jaave, mann nahi bharta.”

A young Forrest has a curved spine. A young Laal does, too. Both Forrest and Laal join the army. Similarities are in plenty, but is a faithful Hindi remake of a modern-day Hollywood classic bound to succeed at the box office? There is no such guarantee.

Laal Singh Chaddha promises to be an emotional film in which the eponymous protagonist dominates the plot without being a larger-than-life hero. It has a story in which several subplots have links with historical events. A film with such a market-unfriendly subject is hitting the marquee when most Bollywood films have been collapsing at the box office.

The first five months of 2022 have come to an end. Three Hindi films have worked at the box office so far. The Kashmir Files clicked because it was a propaganda film that incited hatred against a particular community. Gangubai Kathiawadi, a drama centring around prostitution and the underworld, found viewers. So did Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, a horror-comedy and a spiritual sequel to Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Other Hindi films tanked, bringing a lot of bad news for Bollywood.

The spectacular success of two South Indian films in 2022 shows that viewers of Bollywood films are voting for such big-budget action dramas. That is happening at the cost of Hindi films. In 2022, two South Indian films, which were dubbed in Hindi, reportedly earned more than Rs 675 crore. One is RRR which stars Telugu actors Ram Charan and NT Rama Rao Jr. and the other KGF: Chapter 2 starring Kannada actor Yash. Viewers are enjoying big-budget escapist fare the most, even though watching a dubbed film is not as enjoyable as watching the original in a language one can understand.

Will Laal Singh Chaddha, therefore, be commercially successful? The film will need a lot of luck to break even – and make some more. It won’t tank as badly as Thugs of Hindostan did, yet, every well-made film does not have universal appeal.

Laal Singh Chaddha could be one of them.

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