The answer’s simple: the audience would rather not invest hard-earned money in the fare the industry is dishing out! They are simply not interested enough!
Thirty-three films, at least 13 of which had decent face-value, have released in the first quarter and the result is clear: Badlapur and Dum Laga Ke Haisha will recover costs, with DLKH going into a slim profit, NH10 enjoyed critical appreciation and hype, and might recover its investment with help from non-theatrical avenues, while Baby, which earned the most (Rs 96 crore), stands to lose a reported Rs 20 crore because of its high budget (Rs 80 crore). The major losers are Tevar, Dolly Ki Doli, Hawaizaada, Shamitabh and Roy.
In a ‘Andho mein kaana raja’ situation, Badlapur, DLKH and NH10 all did a significant part of their theatrical business simply because there was no newer opposition worth the salt. Right now, the makers of Hunterrr are crowing about a similar ‘sustenance’. Movie-halls want films, while audiences want to go there too!
But to sum up, this is a historic negative quarter for the industry. Never has the situation been so bad. In the past, there was at least an English or a Marathi moneyspinner during any lean phase. This time, even that is missing!
The problem with any box-office analysis now (and this hurdle appeared first in 2005 when corporates came in, multiplexes spiralled and prestige and egos became huge) is that one needs to actually filter, assess and analyze reports coming out of production / distribution houses (especially the corporates), publications that take up the proffered facts and figures in good faith, and sift through lobbies even in the media and trade.
As an analyst says, “Cut the quoted collections by a minimum 10 percent to get the truth!” And as Aamir Khan declares, “The way things are, we can safely assume that in nine cases of ten, figures are not accurate. Take figures from a production house with a sack of salt. Ring up ten people to know what is real!”
Confusion between gross, nett, return of investment (the true criterion for a film’s fate) and extra-theatrical revenue sources are all additional loopholes that fool those not completely in the loop, and is employed to hype up a film’s performance. A lot of the ‘success’ parties and press releases too are a part of these shrewdly orchestrated marketing campaigns.
But to return to the prime cause: why is the audience alienated?
Instead of fancy theories, let us get to basics: What differentiates a movie watching experience from the past when seven of ten films were in the plus to super-hit range?
In their bid to strike a balance between (so-called) mass and (so-called) class, and choosing between huge revenues and national and global acclaim, our filmmakers forget that in India, Cinema Is a Family Fun Experience even in 2015. That includes offbeat content that grips the viewer.
Moving away from the basics of Indian filmmaking, thanks to global training, exposure and tastes is distancing the audience surely but steadily. While the producer of an offbeat movie assumes that the ‘masses’ will not take to it, he is shocked to know that the ‘intelligentsia’ is also indifferent, despite great reviews. So they do have the intelligence to judge the flaws of a film that, perhaps, should not have been made at all, because even the masses take to well-made offbeat movies!
At the core, then, there is no real difference between Indian audiences of all cadres. They want value-for-money. And if that is not there, well, the money isn’t coming!
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar
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