83, Sardar Udham, Pushpa, Spider-Man: No Way Home — are two-hour-plus long movies the post-pandemic normal?

'If the content is strong enough, the run time of three hours is also less, but if the content is weak, even a short film becomes unbearable,' says leading film trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Subhash K Jha January 07, 2022 15:57:05 IST
83, Sardar Udham, Pushpa, Spider-Man: No Way Home — are two-hour-plus long movies the post-pandemic normal?

Ranveer Singh in 83

Jersey, the Shahid Kapoor-starrer, which was expected to be the last film of 2021 (alas, man proposes, pandemic disposes), is almost three hours long. Kabir Khan’83, which released the previous week, was two hours and 32 minutes long while the biggest hit of the year, Spider-Man: No Way Home is 2 hours and 28 minutes long.

Pushpa: The Rise Part 1, the Telugu blockbuster, is two hours and 30 minutes long while Rohit Shetty’s hit  Sooryavanshi  was two hours and 28 minutes. Salman Khan’s Diwali release Antim: The  Final Truth was two hours and 20 minutes long.

Many of the feature films, which have been released in theatres and on OTT platforms after the lockdown, have one thing in common. They are lengthy films, way past the two-hour length perceived as acceptable by the movie business.

The Taapsee Pannu murder thriller, Haseena Dillruba, which premiered on Netflix India in July, was two hours  and 16 minutes long. Rakeysh Mehra boxing drama Toofaan on Amazon Prime Video India ran into two hours and 42 minutes. Priyadarshan comedy Hungama 2 clocked at two hours and 36 minutes (comedies are never known to exceed two hours).

Kriti Sanon’s surrogacy drama Mimi, released in August on Netflix India, was two hours 13 minutes whereas Amazon Prime Video India’s  blockbuster Shershaah clocked in at two hours 15 minutes. The Amitabh Bachchan thriller Chehre was two hours and 13 minutes long. The J Jayalalitha biopic Thailavi was two hours 32 minutes long.

Shootjit Sircar’s Sardar Udham was two hours and 42 minutes long, and the John Abraham actioner Satyamev Jayate 2 stretched into two hours and 20 minutes. Even some of big Hollywood and regional Indian films released in recent months, like Dune, The Last Duel, No Time To Die, the Tamil hit Sarpatta ParambaraiMaster, Mandela, the Malayalam films Vellam, Nayattu, One, and The Priest, and the Telugu stand-out films Love Story  and Konda Polam all are closer to three hours rather than the standard two hours.

Are we seeing the return of lengthy films the world over?

Leading film trade analyst Taran Aadrash says, “I distinctly remember, in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, most Hindi films had a run time of almost 2.45 hours or even 3 hours plus. Those days, a look at the censor certificate and noticing the number of reels, people would whistle and clap with joy and happiness, but times have changed today. Most viewers prefer shorter duration movies, to-the-point narrative, no unwanted song-and-dance routine, and more emphasis on content.”

Adarsh says the playing time of a film must be dependent on the content. “The run time could be 1.30 hours or two hours, and viewers will still appreciate it, if the content is strong enough. Even if the run time is 2.30 hours plus, and the film manages to hold your attention, great. The bottom line is content.

If the content is strong enough, the run time of three hours is also less, but if the content is weak, even a short film becomes unbearable.”

Adds producer-director Suneel Darshan, “The length of a film is often determined by various compulsions. In the pre-liberalisation era, there was additional excise imposed on a movie when its length exceeded 4,000 metres (approximately two hours 20 minutes). In the multiplex era, a movie gets lesser shows when its playtime exceeds two hours15 minutes as the advertising and cafeteria revenues earned by the exhibitors are lucrative, which gets a priority  in determining the allotment of shows.”

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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