The IMDb page of the Hindi film Khaali Peeli is a sorry sight. The film has received a rating of 2.4 on the online entertainment database, and its trailer had garnered one million dislikes in less than 24 hours of its release.
One of the comments on the ‘User Review’ page of the website reads, “Simply waste of your time. No story no acting. This movie don’t deserve to be released. Ananya Pandey is worst actor of nepotism lot.”
Such user reviews on IMDb have not been limited to only Khaali Peeli in 2020. A number of films, including Sadak 2 and Coolie No. 1, seem to have abysmally low ratings (with 1.1 and 3.7 respectively) on the platform, often accompanied with comments on nepotism, privilege and easy opportunities, leading to the question- has the discussion around nepotism truly impacted the Hindi film industry in 2020?
How does IMDb work?
IMDb, or Internet Movie Database, is a user-generated online database platform which provides information on films, television programs, home videos, video games and online streaming content.
It has a trusted base of registered users or “regular voters”, whose ratings, out of 10, determine the final rating. To ensure the effectiveness of the voting or rating system, the platform does not disclose the criteria that makes a user a registered one. These anonymous registered users are invited to rate a film on a scale of 1 to 10. An average or weighted mean is taken of the total and is displayed alongside the title of the film.
How actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide put the Hindi film industry on the spot
The year began with the releases of Tanhaji and Baaghi 3, both of which were blockbusters. Anticipated films included Salman Khan’s Radhe, Coolie No. 1, Angrezi Medium, Gulabo Sitabo, and Laxmii. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown, films could not release between mid-March to October. Consequently, big releases like Radhe, were pushed to 2021 while others decided to take the digital route.
Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Gulabo Sitabo was the first big Hindi release on an OTT platform. However, during the same time in June, another incident hit the Hindi film industry- actor Sushant Singh Rajput‘s death by suicide case. What followed was a wave of debates over nepotism, with allegations of abetment to suicide on filmmaker Karan Johar, who faced a trial by media for allegedly “spearheading” the nepotistic brigade in the Hindi film industry.
Soon, a drug probe was initiated with the biggest names in the Hindi film industry, including Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, and Shraddha Kapoor, being interrogated by the Narcotics Control Bureau.
Netizens began using the thumb-down icon to express their dissent against “star kids”. Around the same time, Sadak 2 released and was the first film to bear the brunt of people’s dislike for “star kids”. The trailer of the Mahesh Bhatt directorial, starring Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, and Sanjay Dutt, went on to become the most disliked video on Youtube, with 13 million dislikes against 700k likes.
It was followed by Khaali Peeli, which saw 197k dislikes against 67k likes on its trailer on YouTube.
However, with Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmii, things took a different turn as the makers decided to conceal the number of likes and dislikes on the trailer which currently has 37 million views. While Kumar does not fall into the category of “products of nepotism”, his stand defending the film industry against allegations of being a drug nexus drew criticism.
More recently, Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan-starrer Coolie No. 1 followed Laxmii‘s footsteps by hiding the number of likes and dislikes on its trailer, which in November 2020 stands at 65 million views.
Among the films released in 2020 which have poor ratings, a few were exceptions- filmmaker Anurag Basu’s Ludo and Rajput’s swan song Dil Bechara. While the former was a blend of a good story and a stellar cast, the latter banked on the sentiments around the actor’s tragic demise. Currently, the films hold IMDb ratings of 7.6 and 7.9, respectively.
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl– an exception
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl was caught in a controversy for allegedly maligning the Indian Air Force by showing workplace sexism. While the film was lauded by critics for its direction and performances, especially that of Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi, its reception by the public, and the IMDb ratings told a different story.
With an IMDb rating of 5.3, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl faced flak for having a “star kid” play the lead role. One user posted, “Everything in this movie is unprepared, half baked and too much predictable. Acting of nepo kid is pathetic. Only Pankaj Tripathi can’t save the film. One of the worst movie.”
A Suitable Boy has a rating of 5.8 on IMDb and was caught up in the controversy of “love jihad” over a scene from the series which saw the characters Lata, a Hindu girl kissing Kabir, a Muslim boy, against the backdrop of a temple.
Consequently, two Netflix India officials were booked in November after a complaint was filed by the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. “Love Jihad” is a term coined by the right-wing activists to describe an alleged conspiracy wherein Muslim men convert Hindu women to Islam by marrying them.
Although the call for representation and inclusion in the film industry by the public grew louder in 2020, 2021 will see yet another crop of fresh faces with deep-rooted ties to the film industry making their debut. Actor Sunil Shetty’s son, Ahaan Shetty, and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson, Agastya Nanda, are among those set to make their debuts in 2021.
It remains to be seen whether trend-driven IMDb ratings decide the fate of the new content, which are likely to feature “star kids”.