"Bodyguards" and "rockstars" helped Hindi cinema break the gloom of the past two years, with several films crossing the Rs 100 crore ($18.6 million)-mark in 2011. And, sure enough, a pot of gold lay at the end of the rainbow year thanks to the "real hero" Vidya Balan.
Bollywood rediscovered hits with "Bodyguard", "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara", "Ready", "Singham" and "Ra.One" this year.
According to Box Office India, while Salman Khan's "Bodyguard" and "Ready" collected Rs 229 crore and Rs 179 crore respectively, multi-starrer "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" raked in Rs 152 crore. Ajay Devgn's "Singham" joined the jakpot with Rs 139-crore earnings.
Made at a budget of over Rs 60 crore, Ranbir Kapoor-starrer "Rockstar" is expected to earn Rs 105 crore while Shah Rukh Khan's "Ra.One", the first of its kind in terms of technological use, pocketed Rs 240 crore.
"It has been a very positive year...this year has proved fruitful with more hits than last year," film historian S.M.M. Ausaja told IANS.
It won't be wrong to say that the Vidya Balan- and Rani Mukerji-starrer "No One Killed Jessica" - the first big release of the year - turned out to be the lucky mascot. Based on the Jessica Lall murder case, it brought the masses and classes to the theatres and the footfalls did not stop thereafter. Made at a budget of Rs 10 crore, it grossed Rs 49 crore.
2011 can also be called Vidya's year. She came dancing on "Ooh la la" as the sex symbol Silk Smitha in "The Dirty Picture" and rocked the box office. The film earned rave reviews and earned Rs 66 crore net in the first 11 days.
The joyride wasn't for biggies alone; small fry too cruised happily side by side.
The approximate earnings of "Yamla Pagla Deewana", "Tanu Weds Manu", and "Delhi Belly" were Rs 87 crore, Rs 54.50 crore and Rs 89.50 crore respectively, while their budgets were Rs 26 crore, Rs 17.5 crore and Rs 25 crore, respectively.
Also "Chalo Dilli", "7 Khoon Maaf", "Shor in the City" and "Force" walked away with critical acclaim. The content of "Stanley Ka Dabba" and "Pyaar Ka Punchnama" too got a thumbs up.
"Small budget films doing well at the box office is another good sign, as at least new producers and directors will get motivated. People used to be scared of making such films because there was no audience. But the audiences have opened up and they are largely appreciating the content," said Ausaja.
"Films like 'No One Killed Jessica' or 'Delhi Belly' are niche films and their star value has added to the saleability. It's nice to see that people are experimenting and their experiments are reaping benefits at the box office," said film critic Omar Qureshi.
In between, the box-office journey was impeded by the poor response to "Patiala House", "Game" and "Dum Maaro Dum", but only temporarily.
The industry witnessed many changes this year - extensive use of technology, the focus on weekend collections and aggressiveness in film promotion.
"The business no longer spreads across 25 weeks. It has come down to weekends and I would say that this year's movies have been able to capture the weekend very well. No movie gives you enough time. It just dazzles you. It is either good or bad," said Qureshi.
Ausaja pointed out that the revenue expanded because "marketing and promotion tactics turned aggressive. Then there are so many mediums available - whether it is the internet, mobile or television. The number of screens has increased."
Filmmakers adopted macro marketing devices like live concerts and travelling to two-tier and three-tier cities to create awareness about their films.
"Marketing plays a crucial role in telling the audience what a film stands for. The strategies have indeed changed. We have now moved away from a micro-marketing approach," said Priti Shahani, chief strategy and marketing officer, Reliance Entertainment.
"It is important to have a consistency between content and communication for the audience. Connecting with the audience is of paramount importance. We now release films on as many as 2,000 screens and it becomes important to get the audience," he added.
There were moments of sorrow and pain when luminaries like Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand bid their final adieu. Filmdom also halted to mourn the death of Jagmohan Mundhra, Jagjit Singh, Bhupen Hazarika, Manish Acharya and Gautam Rajadhyaksha.
"Don 2 - The King Is Back" will be the last big release of the year and trade analysts are optimistic that the box office will reach its zenith with it.