One of the biggest surprises of Bollywood in recent times was the blockbuster success of Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files. The way this small-budget film managed to cross the Rs. 250 crore mark has shocked the trade and industry. The release strategy by Zee Studios also helped and was talked about. Bhumika Tewari, Head of Revenues and Distribution (India & Overseas), Zee Studios, in an exclusive interview with Bollywood Hungama, spoke about this topic among several other things.
EXCLUSIVE: The Kashmir Files is probably the ONLY film which made a 250% profit on ROI; Distribution Head of Zee Studios shares INTERESTING details
Was The Kashmir Files acquired on MG, revenue share or commission basis?
We are the co-producers of the film. So, there was no question of releasing the film on MG, revenue share or commission basis. It’s our film and we ourselves released it in India and overseas.
Unlike The Tashkent Files (2019), Vivek Agnihotri’s earlier film…
Yes, there we were just the release partners. With The Kashmir Files, we were on board right from the word ‘Go’.
How much profit the film has made, in terms of theatrical share?
It’s a case study in itself as I think it’s the only film which has made a 250% profit on ROI!
It is said that The Kashmir Files is a bigger hit than Jai Santoshi Maa (1975)…
We really don’t know as Jai Santoshi Maa is a 1975 film. We don’t know its cost of production, the ticket prices, data etc. But I am assuming that in the last two decades, The Kashmir Files must be (one of the biggest hits in terms of ROI). After all, can anyone recollect any film doing such business vis-a-vis its cost in the last two decades? So Jai Santoshi Maa I guess is the closest example.
The Kashmir Files is a proper sleeper hit and it has made it clear that a film like this can also work big time, despite not having the mainstream star cast and not being the usual Bollywood fare. People were not aware of the Kashmir issue. There was enough curiosity among people to know what happened. Moreover, people also liked the style of narrative.
Did Zee intentionally release the film in lesser screens? What was the strategy like?
Absolutely. This was an ‘A’ rated, hard-hitting film. The Tashkent Files were released with around 250-275 prints. It came a week before Kalank and it was a dry, political subject. How many such films have done so well at the box office before The Tashkent Files? Also, college students would not throng the cinemas in the morning to watch such a film. So, we decided that we want limited shows of The Tashkent Files and that too after 4:00 pm. This was done so that the film records a healthy occupancy.
We had initially intended to open The Kashmir Files in 250 to 450 prints. The campaign however worked big time. The trailer got a good response. Hence, we opened on day 1 with 650 screens. We were present in every city in the country. So if a city has 30 screens, we chose the top 2 theatres out of it. However, when we opened to some phenomenal numbers, we scaled ourselves to 4000 screens by the end of the week! Everyday, we added screens and shows. The team was in the office 24x7 to ensure the content is reaching cinemas on time and that the contracts are being signed.
It was heartening to see that the producers chose to bring The Kashmir Files in cinemas and not directly on OTT…
When we saw The Kashmir Files, we realixed that it is more hard-hitting and appealing than The Tashkent Files. Not to forget, we were struggling with theatrical performance post-COVID.
We all sat down last September to figure a way out. And yes, there was a lure of releasing it directly on OTT. Had The Kashmir Files been released directly on digital; we would not have earned the same kind of profits which we did in its theatrical release. A film with a bigger star cast gets Rs. 100 or 150 crores for a direct digital release. If The Kashmir Files was given double the amount for an OTT release than what it would have got, even then, it wouldn’t have matched the profits we ultimately made thanks to the superb theatrical run.
The Kashmir Files released amid some big-budget films…
Yes, our film released with Radhe Shyam. A week later, Bachchhan Paandey released. So, if you take up too many shows and the occupancy is not encouraging, toh aap phas jaate ho do filmon ke beech mein. However, if your film performs exceptionally well vis-a-vis the screen count, then even the cinemas support you. Hence, this is a model we adopted for The Tashkent Files, Article 15 and now The Kashmir Files. Although it’s a challenge to explain this to the stars who want us to go as wide as possible (laughs)!
So, it was not as if Radhe Shyam’s makers didn’t allow enough shows to The Kashmir Files…
Absolutely not. Also, after watching Radhe Shyam’s trailer, we got an idea as to how it’ll perform at the box office. We had an inkling that maybe, we can take advantage. I mean, it’s business at the end of the day. However, we expected Bachchhan Paandey to excel.
Akshay Kumar said that he feels that Bachchhan Paandey didn’t work due to The Kashmir Files. I believe even that film’s shows got reduced due to The Kashmir Files’ unbelievable run in the second week…
This is because we were sustaining at the box office. In Week 2, we went all out. Single screens started playing our film. Initially, we had consciously not played The Kashmir Files in the single screens as such theatres usually have a capacity of a thousand people. How many would purchase a ticket in such huge theatres for a political thriller and non-star cast film? However, the film’s content touched the people, whatever may be the reason for it though.
How many screens did the film released in Overseas?
We started with 200 screens. We didn’t leave a single country and our film was playing everywhere in the world. By the end of it, the film played in around 700 screens overseas.
Recently, there were reports that the Singapore Censor Board has banned The Kashmir Files. What’s the latest update?
A couple of rounds are going on with regards to the censor process in Singapore. Their point of view is that the film has a couple of hard-hitting scenes to which they have an objection. It’s not like the Singapore Censor Board has banned it. The film has not been cleared yet.
Is the Zee Studios team still trying to release The Kashmir Files in Singapore?
Well now, it has premiered on Zee5, after following the traditional eight-week window between theatrical and digital release. So, we are letting it go.
More Pages: The Kashmir Files Box Office Collection
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