The month of March will go down in the history as the worst month for the Hindi film industry. The darkest period ever…
Bollywood witnessed a number of biggies biting the dust this year. One look at the opening day figures of some big-budget extravaganzas released from January to March indicates that a majority of films didn't even fetch a face-saving opening.
Worse, a few films were discontinued before they could complete a one-week run, due to lack of audience. Gone are the days of films completing a 25-week run or even a 100-day run. If a film completes even a one-week run with decent collections, it is akin to an achievement of sorts.
Talking of March, thanks to the Indo - Pak cricket matches happening on Pakistani soil, the business of Hindi films is at an all-time low. So is the morale of Bollywood, thanks to the plummeting business figures printed in trade journals week after week. Simply put, the business of Hindi films has hit rock bottom.
Adding salt to the wounds is the closure of cinema halls at this critical juncture. Although the demands of the exhibitors' associations are completely justified, the timing has plunged the film trade into complete darkness.
The film industry has been facing rough weather since the beginning of 2004 and the month of March is anyways considered 'low season' in Bollywood since it marks the beginning of school and college examinations throughout India.
But the theatrical business of Hindi films in March this year has not only been affected by the examination period, but also by the live telecast of the cricket matches between India and Pakistan as also the closure of cinema halls throughout Maharashtra.
The week gone by was the bleakest period for film business. Expectedly, the 4th [on Sunday] and 5th [Wednesday] One Day International in Lahore kept the audiences away from theatres completely. In fact, Bollywood came to a standstill on Wednesday when India and Pakistan clashed on the cricket field in Lahore.
Cinema halls sported an empty look, several production offices were as good as shut, even distribution and exhibition offices weren't functioning in full steam. As for the cinegoers, the penultimate noon-to-night One Day International between India and Pakistan was far more exciting than shelling out Rs. 50 for watching a Hindi flick in a multiplex.
Ironically, a few multiplexes of Mumbai decided to 'screen' cricket matches instead of movies on Sunday and Wednesday [the tickets were priced at Rs. 200 per person - you could well imagine the cricket mania!]. Now, that brings me to a pertinent question - if the viewer is ready to shell out Rs. 200 to watch a cricket match on the big screen, why does he shy away from shelling out Rs. 50 or Rs. 75 to watch a brand new Hindi film starring impressive names?
What does this indicate? Does it indicate that cricket is a bigger draw than movies in India? Are Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh bigger heroes than our Bachchans, Khans and Roshans? Or does it indicate that the viewer is just not interested in spending his hard-earned money on movies that don't excite him?
There's no denying that the content of a majority of Hindi films has shown a vast improvement in the recent times. Unfortunately, that hasn't translated into exciting box-office figures. The film industry is still waiting for that elusive hit in 2004. But like I said earlier, we need a spate of hits to bring Bollywood out of the financial crunch that it has landed itself into.
A crucial phase begins from April onwards. A number of biggies are being readied to invade our cinema halls during the summer vacations. Will films like MAIN HOON NA, YUVA, MASTI, LAKEER, DEEWAAR, AAN, BEWAFA, LAKSHYA, GARV and MUJHSE SHAADI KAROGI turn the tide for the better?