Negativity sells. Staying positive is routine. No wonder, when the industry was kicked and bruised with blood all around, there were panic calls galore. ‘Recession has struck’, ‘High price is the culprit’, Content sucks’, ‘Down with the stars’, ‘Loss of hundreds of crores with every passing year’, ‘No resurgence round the corner’ – quotes likes these and more were making headlines all over, especially since 2008, when the world economy
in general was going through a low. Print media, the world of web, news channels, and radio stations – just about anyone and everyone was busy writing obituaries around how Bollywood was pretty much looking at a dead end.
However, now even as 2010 is showing a great resurgence, surprisingly there is no word about the impetus that is being evidenced in Bollywood. While the strike rate of successful films this year has been far better than the last couple of years at the least, the second half has seen – believe it or not – close to 10 films succeeding in a row! In this week’s ‘Reflections’, let’s look at how Bollywood has pretty much got off from the
death bed that it had found itself in and is now not just on the road to recovery but has pretty much taken a few steps in the right direction.
Happy days are there again
Is this announcement being made too quickly, too soon? Not really. The sheer box office outcome of movies released since the beginning of July shows that there is a definite upswing in business. No, it isn’t as if the content has gone through a major upheaval. This is certainly not the case but then smart selling is something that has played a major role in ensuring that films are making money for everybody involved.
A film like Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai has been liked (in fact loved) in a major way, is clearly the most watched film in last few months and hence has turned out to be a clean hit. Same holds good for I Hate LUV Storys which may have seen mixed reactions coming its way but did enough in its opening week to become safe soon after. Selling of both these films at a reasonable price ensured that no one complained.
Another film that did gain decent moolah to make it a coverage affair at the least was Khatta Meetha. Though the film was largely panned by critics, the right selling ensured that none of the investors got a heart attack! Meanwhile the mother of all surprises came in the form of Peepli Live which made enough moolah in the very first weekend itself to become a success. Anything more only elevated its status from hit to super-hit, hence adding further green on Bollywood’s box office report card.
Pre-selling of rights
In the meanwhile, the term that has become as common as ‘recession’ is ‘pre-selling’. While every filmmaker blamed recession for the poor show of his films till a year back, today he is taking refuge (rightly so!) in ‘pre-selling’. Satellite market has grown tremendously again, home video rights are seeing decent moolah coming in as well while ring tones and others rights are ensuring that music is fetching a decent price as well even
though physical sales are continuing to go down.
For any decent biggie worth its salt, an average of Rs. 20 crores is coming just from these avenues, hence ensuring that more than half the cost of making a film is covered in advance. Balance is coming quite comfortably from the theatrical collections in India and overseas and unless the film is really-really bad, chances are high that the film would eventually find itself as a plus venture.
This is the reason why no one really complains when Aisha doesn’t stay on much beyond its first week or Lafangey Parindey just about manages to hold on reasonably well for its weekend. The factors as stated above are good enough to guarantee a safe status for these films, hence helping the industry continue to breathe easily.
In fact it is this very combination of low selling price for theatrical distribution and pre-selling of other rights that has made number of others films a success this year. Tere Bin Laden, Udaan and Milenge Milenge are perfect examples where this strategy has worked.
Earlier this year
While the hit record in last couple of months has indeed been heartening, the resurgence had pretty much begun from the very start of 2010. Ajay Devgn, who is known for keeping price of his films down, had a reasonable success in the form of Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge? – one of the firsts in year 2010. Ishqiya had managed to sail through as well while Love Sex Aur Dhokha was the Tere Bin Laden of the first half of 2010. In fact even a film like Paathshaala, which was criticized by many, didn’t have to worry much from the investment perspective because it did eventually manage to do face saving business at the least. Also medium budgeted Badmaash Company was another decent success this year.
Still, the fact remains that these were the films that did business in the range of Rs. 10 crore-30 crores. The need of the situation was to get those multi crore extravaganzas and thankfully Bollywood didn’t disappoint with biggies like Raajneeti, Housefull and My Name Is Khan hitting the bull’s eye. Of course these were again the films that were carrying a high price tag but they did manage to justify the investors’ faith in them. Between the three of them, they collectively managed to net close to Rs. 250 crores just
from India, hence adding on to the right side of the balance sheet.
Wrong pricing played spoilsport
While Bollywood was on the road to recovery, the ones that almost threatened to negate the good work were Kites, Raavan and to an extent Veer. These were the films which were commissioned almost two years back, were sold at unheard of prices, were panned by critics, disliked by audience (Veer still managed decent business in single screens) and soon saw an exit from theatres. Even though Kites managed a huge opening, poor content meant that there was no sympathy from any corners. Raavan didn’t manage even that and saw a sudden death.
However, the fact that needs to be stated here is that the industry was aware about the high price tag attached to these films. As it happens with the biggest of the films, one wrong step and daggers are out soon enough to term the film as a failure. Now if only, say for example Kites, would have been sold at a reasonable price, a Rs. 30 crores first weekend would have ensured that trade would have acknowledged the moolah that had come in. Write-ups would have been more around how the film had managed to be safe in the first three days itself, the word ‘flop’ would have gone missing, audience – which is clued on to business much more than before – would have taken a note of that as well and word of mouth wouldn’t have been as negative.
Of course, one can’t deny the fact that content plays a major role in word of mouth but media reports matter as well. When the term ‘flop’ stares at you from Twitter and Facebook with every passing hour, one does tend to get carried away which further affects an already diminishing audience! Same happened for Raavan as well and results were there to be seen by one and all.
Past wasn’t perfect…
If there was scepticism in Bollywood till a few months, it did come with the right reasoning. The fact is that majority of films were in fact failing left, right and centre. Average to poor content notwithstanding, one couldn’t deny that pay checks of stars had gone over the roof, producers were selling films at unheard of prices, corporate houses were actually paying as per the demands as well, music rights were no more fetching prices as before while satellite market were more or less down if not totally out. The last
straw was average to poor theatrical business and it was time to announce doomsday.
No wonder, in 2009, films like Delhi 6 and Chandni Chowk To China had to suffer a flop status despite doing in excess of Rs. 30 crores just from India. Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year – despite being well made – failed too due to heavy price attached to it. London Dreams tried hard but couldn’t help itself from falling. Also, a film like Kaminey, which did in excess of Rs. 40 crores, couldn’t find a ‘hit’ status against its name for the same reason.
As for Luck and Kidnap, both of which did do business in the vicinity of Rs. 20 crores (not bad really), Imran Khan is the first to admit that wrong pricing did his two films in. It’s a different matter though that content wasn’t too flattering either but then, as mentioned earlier, the word of mouth around ‘trade flop’ spread fast too, hence diminishing whatever chances that these films had.
…. though the future looks bright
In the pre-recovery days, after a film like Wanted, a Salman Khan starrer like Dabangg could have asked for whatever price and it would have got that. However, the makers of Dabangg as well as the investors have smartened up. While pre-selling has already ensured that a great portion of investment is already covered, the theatrical rights too are said to have been sold for a reasonable price, hence ensuring a win-win situation for all.
No wonder, terms like ‘super-hit’ and ‘blockbuster’ are already being spoken around in the same breath for the film.
Many other biggies in months to come are also looking much more than just safe due to the same reasons. The virgin pair of Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra notwithstanding, Anjaana Anjaani is already carrying good reports. Pricing of No Problem, with the name Anees Bazmee attached to it, hasn’t gone over the roof either while Vipul Shah is also expected to have smartened up with Action Replayy after the experience of London Dreams.
2011 should be interesting as numerous biggies would be arriving one after another. Since industry is expected to have recovered in a major way by then, one just hopes that price tag doesn’t play a spoilsport there. In the recent past there were rumours about Shah Rukh starrer Ra.One being sold for Rs.175 crores. One just hopes that this is untrue. Shah Rukh also has Don 2 coming in the same year and while the franchise does ensure good
audience footfall, one dreads the debate of high pricing playing spoilsport again.
As for Hrithik, he can be expected to be the first one to raise an alarm if the makers of Guzaarish and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara ask for the moon. Same holds true for Abhishek Bachchan who would be doubly conscious about his Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, Game and Dum Maro Dum. Saif Ali Khan is expected to play safe with Agent Vinod while Salman Khan should keep things in control for Ready. Akshay Kumar is already working in partnerships and hence is pretty much safe with films like Patiala House and Thank You on the anvil.
After an Om Shanti Om and Main Hoon Naa, Farah Khan – with the USP of her first ever pairing with Akshay Kumar – could have asked for a moon. She willingly settled for something which was far closer to earth. Result? An elated team which is already smiling at a blockbuster in Tees Maar Khan that should round up the first decade of the new Millennium.
A decade – which saw numerous ups and downs but is now pretty much resurgent, happy and smiling!