There are so many thoughts running through my mind as I begin to pen this piece. How does one describe 2021? Was it an eventful year? Or much like 2020? Come to think of it, those associated with the film industry — and every person across the globe — has lost several precious months in these two years due to the pandemic. It’s not over yet. The fear of the new variant is back to haunt us.
RELEASE CALENDAR GOES HAYWIRE
The Hindi film industry has been on tenterhooks all this while. The big ticket entertainers as well as mid-range and low cost films remain undecided vis-à-vis the way forward. JERSEY and RRR are postponed, while several prominent titles are expected to revise and reschedule the release dates. The release calendar has gone haywire at the very commencement of 2022.
Think about the mounting interest on completed films — that’s another worrying factor. The production, distribution and exhibition sectors — all correlated — were gradually limping back to normalcy, but, again, the restrictions in several states and closure of cinemas is giving us sleepless nights. Clearly, the economics of the film industry has gone for a toss.
NEED MORE HITS / SUCCESSES TO REVIVE BUSINESS
How does one look back at 2021? Let me put it very simply: Thodi khushi, zyada gham. The only time we smiled was when cinemas reopened in early 2021 and later, when the much-awaited SOORYAVANSHI hit jackpot. The super success of SPIDER-MAN and PUSHPA [Hindi version] gave us reasons to smile. But three solid hits in one year aren’t enough to bail us out, right?
REDUCED DIGITAL WINDOW HARMING THEATRICAL PROSPECTS
The Hindi film industry is fighting a war on many fronts. The digital release window of several Hindi films has shrunk from 8 weeks to 4 weeks. A section of the industry feels, why will moviegoers dig into their wallets to watch films in theatres? Let’s wait for the digital release, will watch it then, what’s the hurry, they echo. This is an alarming situation, for sure.
The lure of getting a fat amount — if a producer/Studio reduces the window — is certainly harming theatrical business.
STAR FEES, TICKET RATES NEED TO BE REVISED
That brings me to another pertinent issue: The [exorbitant] ticket pricing at several screens. Is it killing the business? A debatable question, with no solution in sight. In fact, the industry is clearly divided on this one. In my individual capacity, I have spoken to several key players to make the movie-going experience affordable for the common man. It’s time to bring moviegoers back in hordes for *all* films, not just big-ticket entertainers.
The pricing has to change for everyone, actors included. There’s a huge difference between pre-Covid and post-Covid times. We are still in the midst of the pandemic and it would be foolhardy to expect Hindi films to hit ₹ 300 cr, ₹ 400 cr and ₹ 500 cr [domestic market] in today’s times. The actors’ remuneration needs to undergo a correction, else it will reflect in the balance sheet of the film when it releases.
SOUTH INDIA AIMING FOR PAN-INDIA AUDIENCE
The super success of BAAHUBALI [first and second parts], KGF [first part] and PUSHPA [first part] has encouraged the South Indian film industry to look for PAN-India audience. There are several prominent titles lined up for release, starting with RRR, RADHE SHYAM, MAJOR, VIKRANT RONA, KGF2, LIGER and many more. Mark my words, this is just the beginning. There will be announcements galore in the coming months.
A few days ago, I made a valid observation about what gives the South film industry an edge over Hindi films. Let me reproduce the words verbatim: “Bollywood is busy focusing on metro-centric films… We [Hindi film industry] lost out on rural belt long back… Now, gradually, losing out on Tier-2, Tier-3 cities… Conversely, dubbed South Indian films are targeting metros + non-metros… #Baahubali, #KGF, #PushpaHindi won them over… Wait for #RRR.”
Should we fear the influx of South Indian films in the Hindi domain? I look at it this way: There’s tremendous talent everywhere [South included] and moviegoers across India will always embrace films as well as talent with open arms, if they measure up to their [audience] expectations.
Unfortunately, the Hindi film industry is failing to provide wholesome entertainers. Barring a few names here, most film-makers are targeting the metros — or should I say, Nariman Point to Bandra audience — to narrate stories in their films. We have already lost out on a sizeable chunk of business and if we don’t smell coffee now, the success ratio of Hindi films will evaporate in no time.
Let’s hope things take a turn for better in 2022. The new year has just begun and we can only stay optimistic, right?