The Akshay Kumar starrer Bellbottom was released on Thursday, August 19, in cinemas, as opposed to the trend nowadays of directly releasing films on OTT platforms. The announcement initially was made in June 2021 and it led to a wave of cheer and excitement amongst the exhibitors, trade and audiences. After the first wave of Covid-19 subsided, it was the small films that were released initially like Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, Indoo Ki Jawani, Shakeela, Madam Chief Minister etc. It was only after the government allowed 100% occupancy that mid-sized films like Roohi and Mumbai Saga made it to the cinemas. So it took nearly 4 months after cinemas were allowed to reopen for the first mid-sized Bollywood film to arrive in theatres.
Hence, everyone feared that even after the second wave, it would take a couple of months until some significant Bollywood film would arrive on the big screen. But everyone was in for a pleasant surprise when it came to light that the movie-watching season would commence with one of the biggest films of the year!
What’s significant to note here is that no one knew what the outcome would be and whether a film would be able to work in such times. India had seen a devastating second wave of the pandemic in April and May 2021. The horrors of those days were still alive. And no other filmmaker was in any hurry to get his or her film on the big screen. Every producer wanted the other person to release his film to understand the ground reality and whether audiences were ready to come to cinemas. As a result, it’s commendable that a superstar like Akshay Kumar decided to take this huge risk of bringing such a big, grand film to the theatres.
Akshay Kumar is known for his consistent box office performance. One doesn’t even remember when was the last time he delivered a flop. On top of that, he churns out 2-3 films a year. As a result, he’s a favourite of not just the audiences but also the exhibitors as his films always record good footfalls. 2019 was a significant year for Akshay as all his 4 films – Kesari, Mission Mangal, Housefull 4 and Good Newwz – were huge hits. Mission Mangal and Good Newwz even opened his account in the Rs. 200 crore club. When one starts giving blockbuster numbers, one becomes even more cautious. Such actors take into account several factors before getting their films in cinemas. Yet, Akshay Kumar did what no other fellow superstar or emerging actors did by getting Bellbottom on the big screen. Akshay knew he was chartering into an unknown territory and that if the film flopped, it would affect his successful box office track record.
Yet, Khiladi Kumar took the risk and okayed the theatrical release of Bellbottom. Sadly, it didn’t get a pan India release as the crucial state of Maharashtra remained shut. Even wherever it was released, its box office figures were less than expectations. Yet, Akshay Kumar has emerged as a real-life hero or should we say, a real-life Khiladi. He’ll always be remembered for taking the initiative of kick-starting the cinema-going habit and the whole eco-system!
The article won’t be complete without the mention of Bellbottom’s producers, Vashu Bhagnani and Jackky Bhagnani. They, too, deserve praise for multiple reasons. Firstly, they were the first ones to shoot their film during the pandemic. To take 200 people to the United Kingdom and shoot the film at a time when viewers were afraid to step out of their house, forget stepping out of the city or country, is commendable. Moreover, they completed the film in record time by adhering to all safety protocols and ensured that not a single person in the unit got infected. And mind you, this was a time when the vaccines were a distant reality. And then to be the first ones to release their big film and thereby putting their money at risk is nothing short of a feat. It is thanks to such filmmakers and superstars like Akshay Kumar that we are confident that Bollywood would surely bounce back and would even attain greater heights than before!
When the history of Bollywood would be written, a chapter on the Covid-19 and its effects on the film would be inevitable. But Akshay Kumar’s name would be mentioned in golden letters that at a time when everyone preferred to have a long wait or opt for OTT, here was a man who swam against the tide and brought hope to the industry. Yes, the desired result was not achieved but then a Khiladi doesn’t play to win. A Khiladi plays because it’s important to play and in the case of Bellbottom, it was necessary to jump into the arena to revive the industry and that is precisely what Akshay did – he took the bullet for the entire Bollywood.