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Top of the pops

The lowdown on the highest money-spinners of 2016

By Khalid Mohamed

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Published: Thu 24 Nov 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 2 Dec 2016, 9:07 AM

Unless there's a dramatic reversal of fortune, Salman Khan appears to have emerged as the year's winner No 1 at the cash counters - with his wrestling opus Sultan. According to trade chroniclers, it has earned approximately Rs 300.45 crore (1 crore = 10 million), way ahead of the second major hit MS Dhoni: The Untold Story which managed Rs 132.85 crore.
Aamir Khan's Dangal, scheduled to be released on December 23, is expected to figure in 2016's list of top earners. Its promos have been well-liked, and if it shares the theme of the highs and lows involved in the wrestling ring, hopefully, it won't suffer by comparison.
Clearly, though, Salman Khan rules, although controversies and long-pending cases continue to dog his private life.
A scan of the top 10 hits of 2016 thus far reveals that the Bollywood audience continues to prioritise films featuring frontline heroes, technically glossy presentation and chartbuster songs (which nowadays can be tabulated by the hits received on the Internet).
In such a scenario, there isn't one clear genre that has proved to be the preferred flavour - be it romantic or action flicks or, for that matter, biopics. Any film clicks if it has an element of emotional heft, is smartly packaged and publicised extensively on popular TV shows, social networking sites and the print media.
The third biggest hit, Airlift, abstrusely culled from real-life events about the eviction of Indians from war-torn Kuwait circa 1990, asserted that Akshay Kumar's loyal fan base is still intact. Not surprisingly, then, the fourth and the fifth highest moneyspinners - Rustom and Housefull 3, which picked up Rs 127.42 crore and Rs 107.70 crore respectively - also featured the actor.
Incidentally, Akshay Kumar has officially declared that he will now concentrate much more on 'content-driven' films, albeit not at the expense of entirely avoiding lowbrow entertainers. A clever strategy, perhaps. After all, quality-wise, Rustom - inspired by the Nanavati court case of 1959 - was a cut above the commonplace, while the comedy Housefull 3 was as hopelessly execrable as they come.
According to early trade estimates, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil garnered the No 6 position, with cash receipts of Rs 104.50 crore during a fortnight, commencing with the Diwali festive season. The Karan Johar take on relationships performed exceptionally well overseas. For sure, the fluctuating career of Ranbir Kapoor has stabilised. His performance as well as that of Anushka Sharma gathered hosannas from the mandarins as well as the masses. The year was especially upbeat for Anushka, who was Salman Khan's leading lady in Sultan, in a role which had sufficient spleen and substance.
The other Diwali release, Shivaay, figured at the No 7 slot with a tally of Rs 93.90 crore during the same span as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Reportedly, Ajay Devgn's actioner, filmed on the snowscapes of Bulgaria, found a sizeable audience at single-screen cinemas.
The only Shah Rukh Khan release of the year, Fan, was predicted to make it to the elite Rs 100 crore-plus club. It didn't. For an SRK film, it was a commercial disappointment, just about crawling into the slot of the No 8 success of the year, with estimated collections of Rs 85 crore.
At ninth place, the brawn-packed Baaghi made its presence felt with ticket sales amounting to Rs 76 crore - a leg-up for Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor.  On the other hand, Tiger's muscle power in A Flying Jatt was a no-no, both in terms of recovering its investment and in providing any semblance of good entertainment.
And last, but not at all the least, on the hit list (given its relatively low budget compared to the biggies) was Neerja, the biopic on the airhostess who was slain by terrorists in 1986; it was the unquestionable surprise package of the year. Enhanced by lifelike performances by Sonam Kapoor in the title role and by Shabana Azmi as her bereaved mother, its collections have been pegged at Rs 75.61 crore.
Fortuitously, the top 10 preceded the Indian government's demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, announced on 8 November. Immediately, the collections of Rock On 2, upon its release on 11 November, were severely impacted. Whether the health of Bollywood's box office will continue to be adversely affected - and if so, for how long? - at this point remains a matter of conjecture.

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