The domestic box-office continues to play hide and seek. If MALAMAAL WEEKLY surprised everyone the week before, the two new releases, UMAR and BANANA BROTHERS, punctured the hopes of the industry that had begun to smile.
While participating in a discussion on a reputed news-channel on Monday morning, the topic veered towards the likes and dislikes of moviegoers. And it once again dawned upon us that the business is getting very speculative, very unpredictable.
In the 1980s, Basu Chatterjee's SHAUKEEN, starring three character actors [Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutt, A.K. Hangal], with the conventional hero relegated to the backseat [Mithun Chakraborty], met with a rousing reception as days progressed. But the new release, UMAR, also starring three veterans [Kader Khan, Prem Chopra, Satish Kaushik] in pivotal roles, met with a disastrous fate at the ticket window.
Actually, director Karan Razdan and those associated with UMAR knew all along that it's not a Friday film, but a Monday film. Meaning, they expected the film to start slow, but gather momentum as days progressed with strong word of mouth. But nothing of the sort happened. UMAR started with 5-8% collections and by Monday, it was struggling hard to breathe.
Although BAGHBAN and UMAR threw light at the atrocities committed on the senior citizens by their kith and kin, the problem with UMAR was that it became an archetypal murder mystery in the post-interval portions, which was just not required. Expecting the family audience to patronize a film that wasn't a complete tearjerker was ruled out for this very reason.
The second release, BANANA BROTHERS, came unannounced and met with an equally disastrous fate. Like UMAR, BANANA BROTHERS also starred three leading character actors [Anupam Kher, Gulshan Grover, Johny Lever], but the collections of this comedy were tragic everywhere.
Strange, isn't it? One week the moviegoers patronize a film starring character actors [MALAMAAL WEEKLY; Paresh Rawal, Om Puri, Asrani], but shun the two films [UMAR, BANANA BROTHERS] the very next week. That's movie business for you!
THIS WEEK, LAST YEAR
[Week: March 18-20, 2005]
No new release this week, but a few observations…
- Practically every film -- big or small -- has an 'all India open' status today. Translated into simple terms, it means that the films are lying unsold for practically every territory. The distributors are in no mood to acquire the rights, partly because the market conditions are awful and partly because they've burnt their fingers in the past few releases.
- A majority of producers are releasing their film themselves in practically every circuit. In the distant past, some reputed production houses decided to expand their business empire and started distributing their films in some territories. In the present scenario, practically every producer has been forced to distribute his film himself, due to a genuine dearth of buyers. Clearly, the arithmetic of film-making is in shambles!
- The Overseas territory -- which was considered the most lucrative territory till last year -- has turned ice-cold today. A majority of producers are waiting for buyers to knock on their doors, but most buyers are just not interested.
- If the producer dealt with one [Overseas] distributor till recently, the situation has reversed today. Of late, several producers have been meeting individual distributors from each country and selling the exploitation rights of their films on a one-on-one basis. Translated into simple terms, it means that the producer may not be successful in clinching the deal in some parts of the Overseas territory if his film doesn't excite the individual buyers.
- The music territory -- a piping hot territory at a point of time -- has also turned frosty today. Barring one audio company, the remaining companies have adopted the go-slow, wait-n-watch attitude. And the sole company acquiring the rights isn't acquiring them for astronomical prices either.
- The only segment making money, despite the cold wave in the industry, is the actors' fraternity. Even if film announcements have reduced, several actors have their plate full thanks to the commercials [ad films], stage shows at award functions, hi-profile marriages, concerts… Good for them!