Collectively, superstars are enjoying a dream 2010 so far. Aamir Khan‘s 3 Idiots – a spill over from 2009’s Christmas release started it all, Shah Rukh Khan followed it up with My Name Is Khan, Akshay Kumar hit it big time too with Housefull, Ajay Devgn‘s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai proved to be a feather in his cap, Salman Khan has scored a career best with Dabangg, Ranbir Kapoor had entered into the super league with Raajneeti while Imran Khan‘s career too has shown a fillip with I Hate LUV Storys.
Really, this is one of the rare years when in a matter of nine months; as many as seven leading men have scored a huge hit at the box office.
A good news for sure? Indeed yes!
And here comes the bad news, if the worst fears indeed come true.
What if the stars decide to jack up their price all over again?
What if the producers fall into that trap all over again by signing superstars at unbelievable rates?
What if the fear of recession becomes a thing of the past and it is back to some careless spending by the makers?
What if trade starts believing that every huge film with a top superstar and aggressive marketing can lead to a 100 crores grosser?
What if the industry falls into the same trap all over again that it had willingly allowed itself pre-2008 when talks of 100 crores deals were an everyday talk and dozens of films were announced practically every month?
Let’s ponder in this week’s ‘Reflections’.
What has worked this year
Other than earlier commissioned biggies like Veer, Kites and Raavan (which failed due to their astronomically high pricing) every other major film has scored at the box office this year. While this is mainly due to the fact that they have carried good entertainment quotient, a lot also needs to be attributed to the correct pricing. In the last year and a half, budgets were renegotiated, star remuneration was brought under check, spends were controlled, right perception was created and some releases were also delayed – all in order to ensure that the market was more receptive to these films.
The joy that followed
Of course this had led to widespread joy in the industry. There is expected buoyancy all over again. Even though there have been minimal projects announced in 2010, there are expectations of floodgates to open once 2011 commences. Still, with half a dozen 50 crore earners at the box office, the going has been pretty good. The mood in the industry is that happy days are here again as majority of big films are doing terrific business.
Resultantly a reaffirmation
This has also led to reaffirmation that star system is there to stay. With all major stars bringing in money (even Hrithik Roshan‘s Kites– despite being a trade disaster – took a solid opening) for the industry, it is crystal clear that Bollywood revels in its stars. There may have been a little ‘naraazgi’ for a short while with some of the superstars failing to be consistent at the box office in some of the earlier years. However, the strain in the relation seems to have disappeared fast. Stars are being adulated all over again, chants of ‘sir ji tussi great ho’ are back in the vogue, gaga saga of ‘superstar hamesha superstar rehta hai’ is being heard all over again and champagne bottles are been uncorked practically every second week.
And this is where the risk lies…
It is a known fact that during last couple of years, quite a few superstars adjusted themselves to new business models. Most took a pay cut, many got into partnership deals, there was added emphasis on promotion and marketing, many even woke up from sleep rather than sleep walking in their films, a few even reinvented themselves. In the times of crisis, most came together. Now that they are seeing super success all over again, one really prays that once the dust settles down, the party mood is through, hangover goes off and dirty dishes have been washed away, stars don’t get into a characteristic frenzy all over again.
‘Hmmm..so the market has improved. Wonderful. So let’s start talking business all over again buddy. Show me my pay check honey!’
Human psyche may make them reassess their market durability, capacity and value all over again. Suggestions and unsolicited advice may start flowing in from all quarters all over again.
‘Sir, jitna bana sakte ho bana lo; aapke naam par producer crores mein bana raha hai. Aap bhi banao’.
It is tough to imagine that a strong coterie out there hasn’t made these statements to their most loved stars all over again.
My piece of (of course unsolicited) advice: ‘Mr. Superstar, please beware. Don’t take Bollywood back to the 2007 days. We have survived one bad phase; we don’t want to fall into the trap all over again.’
But will they listen?
Some may, most may not. How can that be expected, especially in the industry which has a severe dearth of product endorsers? You can design a good product but you need a vehicle to reach out to the masses. In Bollywood, there are hardly 12-15 saleable leading men and even lesser leading ladies. When demand is high, especially so in today’s times when market has shown its true potential with two 80 crores plus first weeks in the form of Dabangg and 3 Idiots, it is imperative that makers out there would want to harness this further.
Now we don’t have James Cameron who can make an Avatar without superstar (worse, even human beings). We don’t have our very own Twilight series which can enjoy one sequel after another and rake in millions even without a single internationally known name.
‘Hamaare paas hamaare stars hain, humne inhi stars ke saath survive kiya hai aur hamein inhi stars ke saath aage bhi rehna hai’
No wonder this leads to a free hand and a demanding capacity of the superstars that we have.
So are we ready for a kill?
Last one heard, there are already makers lining up to sign the biggest of the superstars at a supremely high compensation packages. One can’t blame them. After all if they don’t sign the star, someone else will. ‘Movies zyaada hai, stars kam.’ Figures of 20-30 crores being offered to top superstars are being thrown in all over again. This means that a film’s budget becomes 40-50 crores. Which further translates into the fact that a business in the upwards of 70 crores is required at the minimum to ensure any profits for the makers.
Which means expecting the dream run to continue without fail.
So far one hasn’t heard of a superstar biting the bait as yet. There may have been deals in the background but nothing has come out on record yet. Unlike the earlier years when stars prided on disclosing (through sources) their huge remuneration, it is a relatively much quieter situation here.
There could well be a kill taking place soon but that hasn’t happened yet. It is just calm before the storm.
Is upward movement an issue?
Ok, so the superstars have seen an exponential raise over the years. In fact even if one considers their relatively lower remuneration when compared to what it was till a couple of years back, it is still much higher than what stars were paid a decade back or even earlier. Tomorrow it is going to be more for sure and half a decade later even higher. So when we talk about stars restricting their remunerations to a fair degree, is it being insinuated that they abort any further growth? After all exchange of money only aids in keeping the wheels moving for the industry.
No, that’s not the case.
However, the point to ponder here is – ‘Wait. Hold on for a while before making any quick calls bearing out of knee jerk reactions. Thoda ruk jao. Observe the trade for a little longer. See how audience reacts to films in coming months. Let the content be really superb enough before signing on the dotted line. And if content isn’t great enough, ensure that your own superstardom and intrinsic charm is good enough to make the audience walk into your film just to see you. Ask a certain Salman Khan, he knows. And when
everything falls in place, go for that big fat pay package.’
Yup Mrs. Superstar, this was one super piece of unsolicited advice! But then you never know, it may well have good enough merits to make you ponder over it all over again!