The good news is that the second half of 2010 has kicked off well with I Hate Luv Storys (Review) taking a good initial. But the bad news is that the first half saw the industry suffering losses to the tune of Rs. 3000 million. Raavan, Kites, Veer, Prince, Teen Patti and Rann were some of the notable flops and disasters which contributed generously to the losses of the first half of the year.
A total of 125 films were released from January to June this year. Of these, 81 were Hindi films, three were English, one was Bengali-English, two were animation films (in Hindi) and 38 were dubbed in Hindi from different languages.
Out of the 125 films, barely 10 films managed to make profits. Of course, the major winners were Housefull, Raajneeti and Badmaash Company. Although the India theatrical business of Raajneeti was much more than that of Housefull, the profits of the latter film were bigger than those of the former because of the high cost of acquisition of the former. Love Sex Aur Dhokha was another small film which managed to make small profits.
The two main reasons for such a large number of failures were: weak content and high pricing. Producers, directors and writers seemed to have forgotten to concentrate on the script and, instead, ran after star names, paying them undeservedly high fees, thereby increasing the cost of production of their films. Not just that, some corporates also paid through their nose to acquire the distribution rights of star-cast films, ensuring thereby that they would never even recover their investment, leave alone make profits. Almost all corporates seem to be living in an illusionary world as far as the business of films is concerned. After 3 Idiots did a theatrical business of Rs. 100 crore in India, corporates have probably made that their benchmark. But the fact is, no film has reached anywhere close to 3 Idiots – and it is not easy to break the record of that film!
It is not easy to break the record of ‘3 Idiots’!
Another area in which production houses need to show restraint is marketing and promotion. Corporates, especially, seem to be under the mistaken belief that the more they yell, the more they sell. It doesn’t always work like that. Every rupee spent on publicising a film does not necessarily result in increasing revenues of that film. Foreign travels by stars to attend premiere shows of films, road shows in different cities of India prior to release, indiscriminate spending on street publicity and electronic media – all these are proving to be wasteful rather than tasteful expenditure!
Another disease that seems to have afflicted the creative people in the film industry is that of targeting the non-traditional markets abroad. While trying to expand their horizons, filmmakers and actors are making films which they feel would appeal to the audience in hitherto unexploited markets. Consequently, they are losing out on the audience in India because their films attempt to cater to an altogether different world. It is no secret that the public in the non-traditional markets has so far given Hindi films the cold shoulder even when those films have been made specially to appeal to them. In other words, some of our over-ambitious filmmakers and stars have been trying to push the envelope but have not met with much success; rather they have had to face failure on home turf in a failed bid to conquer newer grounds abroad.
So how does the industry survive such huge losses? And what is the way out?
So how does the industry survive such huge losses? And what is the way out? Corporates have deep pockets and, therefore, they have the ability to absorb the shocks provided by otherwise unbearable losses. For instance, of the big-budget debacles released in the first half of the year, two of the biggest – Raavan and Kites – were distributed worldwide by one corporate house, Reliance Big Pictures. Had they been distributed by an independent or individual distributor, the obituary of his firm would’ve been written by now because it may have been impossible for an individual to bear the losses of the two films under reference. Secondly, the film industry is constantly being fed by new money flowing inside. Call it the glamour of the film industry or whatever, but there is always a steady stream of outsiders entering Bollywood. Obviously, they come with new money which then becomes part of the industry’s capital.
But this cannot be the solution. The way out has to come from within the industry because if new capital introduced into the industry is the only way to correct matters, it is not a very happy industry to be in. The correction lies with our producers who have to opt for more honest scripts which, first and foremost, would appeal to the audience traditionally known to watch Hindi films and then, perhaps, additionally attempt to interest the non-traditional audience. It also lies with our writers and directors who can’t ignore the ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ class centres of India simply for the lure of a market which they want to capture. And, of course, our stars need to under- stand that if they continue to only push the envelope in a bid to either make more money (by charging fancy prices) or conquer new markets, they themselves might be pushed out of the industry.
By Komal Nahta