Bollywood 2011 Thus Far
The barometers about hits and misses have changed over the years. Once upon a time the success or failure of a film was judged on the basis of how many weeks has it run, whether it celebrated a platinum, golden, or silver jubilee. In the next phase that came in with the turn in of the new century, the calculations were in terms of not weeks but days. A hundred-day run constituted a hit. Then there were commission earners, and overflow kinds that spelt return of investment and some profit for the producer. But all manners of estimates began to change with the gradual disappearance of big and small single-screen theatres that showed the movie four times a day—noon, matinee, evening and night. Some theatres ran an additional old hit on Saturday mornings. But now small capacity multiplexes with multi-screen options of different films simultaneously, together with six, eight or even ten shows per theatre have brought the calculator to the first weekend collections as the yardstick to determine a hit or a flop.
The first half of the year dot 2011 saw as many as 72 new releases. According to trade reports only 15 of these, or 20 per cent, made any sort of dent in the box office. Not as dismal, outlines a trade pundit, in comparison with the previous two years: “86 films were released in the first six months of the year 2010, and out of these only 6 films did well. 65 films were released in the year 2009 and only 4 turned out to be successes at the box office. The box office performance of films during the first six months of the year 2011 is pretty heartening. It is more so when we recall that Cricket World Cup and IPL tournaments were held in this period. The cricket matches started in February and continued till the end of April. Tanu Weds Manu and F.A.L.T.U. were released around the cricket matches period. Even then these films did well at the box office.”
Which in effect proves once again that films with a convincing story line and wholesome entertainment are the order of the day in contemporary times when it is largely the young who patronise the multiplexes in urban areas? True, the cash collections show a dramatic rise, but that is largely due to high ticket prices.
If Ready was top of the hop, costing Rs 40 but grossing Rs 179 crore in the first run globally (making Salman Khan the best crowd puller—three big blockbusters in a row: Wanted, Dabangg, Ready, and an offer of Rs 150 crore to brother-in-law Atul Agnihotri for Bodyguard) the biggest disaster was Priyanka Chopra starrer Vishal Bardwaj’s Saat Khoon Maaf which did a business of just Rs 11 crore though the making amounted to Rs 22 crore. The other big hit and the other big flop had both Punjabi and Punjab at the centre. Rs 20 crore were spent on Dharmendra-Sunny and Bobby Deol comic caper Yamla Pagala Dewaana but grossed a whooping Rs 76 crore, while Patiala House boasting the cast of Akshay Kumar, Rishi Kapoor, Anuksha Sharma and others despite great promotion activity barely covered its cost largely because the hero himself was the co-producer.
Double Dhamal hardly attracted a good opening despite director Indra Kumar’s original with the same cast had been a big hit raked in only about Rs 25 crore against a budget of Rs 35 crore. The same sort of fate awaited Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil to Bachcha Hai Ji earning Rs 26 crore against the reported production cost of Rs 28 crore. The same to a certain extent holds true of F.A.L.T.U., which the producers declared it to be a big hit—revenue 23 crore, making 20 crore. Other big hits of the first half have been Aamir Khan-Kiran Rao-directed Dhobi Ghat that made a profit of Rs 20 crore despite non-appreciation. No One Killed Jessica turned out to be the other big box office release. Costing a mere 9 crore, it collected 35 crore. Yet another hit, even if riding on the Dum maro dum controversy, and Deepika Padukone’s trailers, was Dum Maro Dum. Production costs Rs 20 crore. Gross business in the first run almost 50 crore. The big surprise hit has been the nearly starless (R Madhavan and Kangana Ranaut) Tanu Weds Manu costing Rs 17.5 crore but bringing back a whopping almost Rs 55 crore despite the ongoing cricket fever.
What is time and again forgotten in Bollywood, especially by young relative newcomers is that sitcoms work randomly and not as a rule. Buffoonery, tom-foolery, gags alone can’t make a film run unless backed by a strong screenplay, and catchy music—this holds true of all films, regardless of the genre. Similarly, remakes and sequels—Double Dhamaal, Bheja Fry 2 (a mere 6 crore recovery); nudity and sex—Ragini MMS (low cost, based on a factual incident, managed pocket money for Ektaa and Shobha Kapoor); situational rom-coms—Thank You (despite Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Irfan Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Celine Jaitely, Suniel Shetty and hit director Anees Bazmee shot on picturesque locales of Vancouver and Toronto at a cost of Rs 50 crore could recover only Rs 45 crore).
Although in the ultimate the genre does not matter, conditions are not all that bad any more for meaningful small budget films. They certainly cannot be blockbusters, even if made with a star cast, but they are sure of making reasonable profits. Stanley ka Dhaba made with a shoe-string budget of Rs 2 crore, made a net profit of Rs 6 crore a through theatrical release. Shaitan, a competently done thriller, has again proved to be a money spinner. Other recent flops include Bin Bulaye Baraati (despite Malika Sherawat’s Shalu ke Thumke) reminder once again that item songs alone cannot do the running business, and Always Kabhi Kabhi (A Shah Rukh Khan home production made by theatre director Roshan Abbas at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore but netting in a mere 3 crore in return). Recent releases like Zindagi Na Milege Dobara, and Singham have rocked the box office.
So, thus far, it hasn’t been all that bad, and with some interesting fare in store for the remaining months, 2011 may as well turn out to be a good one—box office-wise.
By Suresh Kohli