The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on cinema halls has been significant and well-known. While there has been a revival of the movie exhibition business in the post-Covid scenario, it has not reached the anticipated levels. According to a recent survey, conducted by Ormax Media, the Indian film industry has lost an estimated 2.4 crore moviegoers to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cinema halls are currently facing a challenging situation with dwindling footfall, as the public’s urge for consuming content has shifted towards OTT platforms. Additionally, apart from a few notable exceptions like Brahmastra, Pathaan, Pushpaa, KGF2, RRR, Avatar 2, Fast X and Dr. Bezbaruah 2 or surprise hits like Drishyam 2, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story, the recent movies have struggled to generate curiosity among the audience. The persistent lack of commercial entertainers and blockbuster films has pushed the movie exhibition business to the verge of collapse.
Movie theatres need to be saved because not only they provide a shared viewing experience of films in an immersive environment, but they also play a vital role in supporting the film industry by offering an exclusive platform for filmmakers to exhibit their creations. Moreover, theatres hold cultural significance and contribute to various employment opportunities. And this is where the role of commercial films comes in.
During the early 1970s, Hollywood experienced a significant downturn in cinema attendance, leading to a concerning state for the industry. However, the arrival of blockbuster films such as Jaws and Star Wars played a pivotal role in resuscitating its fortunes. Similarly, in the 1990s, Bollywood faced significant obstacles due to the surge in television viewership and rampant video piracy. Then it was the emergence of movies like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai that saved the day. Therefore, commercial movies are important to balance the ecosystem of filmmaking.
While a few are opposed to the idea of dividing films on the basis of art and commerce, I will divide it on the basis of the maker’s intent. The operational definition of a commercial film then would be a movie created with the intent of making money with exaggeration, larger than life possibilities anda mass appeal for all ages. It offers both entertainment and social messages in the form of well-rounded packages that include songs, dance numbers, action, thrills, emotions, and humor. Commercial films have the potential to attract a larger audience, resulting in higher profits compared to smaller films that focus on niche subjects. And the latest out and out commercial entertainer to hit the screens is Assamese movie Sri Raghupati.
According to official social media posts from the makers of the film, Sri Raghupati has already minted more than Rs. 7 crores after its fourteen day run at the box office and is currently aiming for a 10 crore lifetime gross at the box office. While it may not be the best of Assamese cinema in terms of content, Sri Raghupati’s success is a great boost to the cinema halls of the region because it is not every day that an Assamese film with such high production value, extensive scope, and exceptional treatment of its particular genre is released in Assam. Its success is crucial for the sustainability of Assamese cinema and for supporting the livelihoods of the film unit workers, including the cast and crew, who contribute to the industry. Its success will surely inspire more individuals to explore the realm of commercial cinema and create large-scale yet meaningful films. Its success will also boost the survival of movie theatres and help to create opportunities for smaller films to thrive.
Sri Raghupati narrates the compelling tale of an upright and compassionate ACS officer, whose world is shattered by the tragic demise of his sister under mysterious circumstances. The death is also related with the disappearance of two young girls under the same circumstances. Driven by a desire for justice, Raghupati Rai Baruah embarks on a personal quest to mete out punishment to the culprits, delving into issues of political corruption and the harrowing world of human trafficking. This riveting action-packed film showcases the compromises made in the pursuit of truth and justice, resonating with audiences as it unveils a full blown dramatic narrative of resilience and determination.
Sri Raghupati is an action thriller that delivers. It offers an exhilarating experience, with its powerful and expertly handled action sequences that leave a lasting impact. Ravi Sharma shines as the protagonist, effortlessly portraying both the endearing family man and the formidable action hero in the same role. His captivating presence takes centre stage in the movie, and holds the interest of the audiences with his seamless execution of action and thrilling race sequences. Notably, veteran actor Arun Nath delivers an excellent performance in an unexpected avatar, while Siddhartha Sharma as usual never fails to delight viewers.
The only regret lies in the underdeveloped roles of the heroines. While Priyam Pallabee as Ravi Sharma’s sister gets something to do and contribute towards moving forward the narrative of the film, Preety Kongana’s character lacks depth, contributing little beyond moments of the sadness and personal conflict.
While Sri Raghupati may not be flawless, especially within the permissible limits of its genre, it does encounter minor issues with pacing and the overall flow of the screenplay. Certain sections feel sluggish, while others move at a rapid pace. Furthermore, it requires a deliberate disregard for logic and rationality, in addition to the suspension of disbelief on part of the audiences. And it is precisely these elements that add to the heroism, larger-than-life, and unreal but yet still believable, aspects of such kinds of films.
And from a more critical standpoint, the film occasionally veers off thematically, venturing into a politically regressive territory with its male prerogative and misogyny at occasional display. However, when viewed within the context of action thriller films produced in the region, it holds up reasonably well. The film’s true triumph lies in its ability to create a visually stunning and impactful experience despite being constrained by a limited budget. It wisely avoids attempting to be more than what it is, embracing its style and content and delivering accordingly.
Directed by Suvrat Kakoti, Sri Raghupati puts back the hero and heroism in commercial action entertainers, marking its second significant triumph of the year for Assamese cinema, following the success of Dr. Bezbaurah 2. The film not only registers Ravi Sharma’s dedicated fan base, but also paves the way for Jatin Bora’s forthcoming action entertainer, Raghav, slated for release later this year, along with numerous other notable productions awaiting their theatrical release.
As the summer season commences, the anticipated line up of blockbuster movies such Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, The Flash, Adipurush, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning I, Oppenheimer and Barbie, will ensure that people will continue to flock to the theatres and be in awe of movies.