For a long time, it has been the impression that films work when they are big-budgeted and feature A-listers, namely the Khans. However, a breed of filmmakers is proving that notion wrong with their off-track treatment of films. This year was peppered with such releases that had offbeat plots, new faces, and most importantly, small budgets.
Small budget takes the pressure off the filmmakers in a manner that they can experiment with their plots, leading to content-driven films such as Amar Kaushik's Stree, Amit Sharma's Badhaai Ho, Meghna Gulzar's Raazi, and Sriram Raghavan's Andhadhun. Additionally, most of these films were made on a budget of less than Rs 40 crore but yielded at least thrice the amount in the box office. In cases like Raazi, it actually made almost Rs 200 crore.
There is another silver lining to small-budget movies - they fish out some of the brightest talents in the film industry like Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Vicky Kaushal, Yami Gautam, Bhumi Pednekar, Rajkummar Rao, Aparshakti Khurana, Nushrat Bharucha and Kartik Aaryan.
Take, for instance, some of the biggest Bollywood hits of the year made on a small budget - Raazi, Stree, Andhadhun, Badhaai Ho, Sharat Katariya's Sui Dhaaga, Luv Ranjan's Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Siddharth Malhotra's Hichki, Umesh Shukla's 102 Not Out, the plots of which are vastly different from the usual Bollywood fare.
If one tells the story of an Indian spy in Pakistan, one is a comedy horror. While one is a thriller, another narrates the story of a small-town couple who dared to dream big. Even when family-centric, these films chose to pick untold stories of late pregnancies and father-son relationships and reaped wholesome rewards in the box office.
To begin with, Alia Bhatt-Vicky Kaushal's Raazi was made on a budget of around Rs 30 crore but went on to earn around Rs 197 crore. Andhadhun, touted as the best Bollywood movie of the year was made around a similar budget but went on to make Rs 110 crore. Sui Dhaaga and Badhaai Ho were made on budgets of Rs 35 crore and Rs 29 crore respectively, but went on to make Rs 120 crore and Rs 220 crore. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (SKTKS) was the underdog of the year. No one betted much on this sleeper hit made on a budget of Rs 30 crore. SKTKS made Rs 150 crore in the box office. Rani Mukherji's comeback film, Hichki, which was received well in India has released in China as well. Made on a budget of Rs 12 crore, Hichki has earned Rs 240 crore so far. Then there was 102 Not Out, starring two of the biggest names in Bollywood - veterans Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. The movie was made on a small budget of Rs 35 crore but went on to make Rs 112 crore.
While there have been small-budget movies in the past that have done superlatively in the box office, one can see an uptick on the trend this year. Compared to these movies, big-budget movies like Thugs of Hindostan, Race 3 and Gold either failed to take off or saw a downward spiral due to negative word-of-mouth.
As if to capture the mood of the releases this year, India's official entry to the Academy Awards, Village Rockstars, is also a movie made by a self-taught moviemaker on a miniscule budget.