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2023: The Year of Make-Believe Blockbusters


2023: The Year of Make-Believe Blockbusters

By Vinod Mirani

MUMBAI, (IANS) – It is the time to sum up the year 2023. Good or bad, it is a tradition followed in all kinds of media. The scene of the film industry is like all the years gone by. There are hits and there are more flops than there are hits. It is a routine.

So how was the year 2023 for the film industry? It was a year of some small films doing well against make-believe blockbusters. And a new trend has been set in the industry of claiming collection figures that your film has not grossed.

Taking advantage of the wide use of social media, as well as the gullible print and television media, which kind of endorse the box office figures that the filmmaker and the lead actors’ PR machinery circulates.

Social media has groups, usually paid for by the stars and a bunch of loyal fans, who, otherwise, have nothing credible to post. They find a cause when they forward these false, highly inflated box office figures.

The ploy used by the production houses nowadays is to issue gross figures. Now, neither the people at large nor the social media handles know the difference between gross and net collections. To make the figures more impressive the phrase ‘global box office’ is added!

Gross collections are ticket sales which include GST (18% of the ticket price) and theatre rental, which, on average, works out to over 50 percent of the ticket sales (after deducting GST) and none of these go into the filmmaker’s pocket. What, then, is the use of issuing gross collection figures and claiming what your film has not earned?

The media gets taken in because it has no source or the means to crosscheck the claims. In this case, they should avoid commenting on the figures, but they still quote them authoritatively.

A prominent English news channel did so just last week. Here are the figures the news channel flashed as against the one released in the trade by the makers, which are in brackets: ‘Jawan’ Rs 1,152 crore (Rs 644 crore); ‘Pathaan’ Rs 1,050 crore (Rs 543 crore); ‘Animal’ Rs 870 crore (Rs 537 crore); ‘Gadar 2’ Rs 687 crore (Rs 525 crore); ‘Tiger 3’ Rs 466 crore (Rs 285 crore); ‘Adipurush’ Rs 395 crore (Rs 135 crore); and ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ Rs 357 crore (Rs 153 crore).

Where did this news channel source these figures from? Looks like these were lifted from Wikipedia, which clearly mentions that the collection numbers are gross figures. The portal is also known to seek citations for its content.

Do we now continue to believe the other news and the related figures this channel throws at us on various matters? What is the public to believe? It is like a lie which is carried through not only the social media but also by responsible news channels!

Do you believe the collection figures can only be increased manifold at the behest of a star? No, they can also be customized on the star’s whim.

Take the example of the daily collections of ‘OMG2’ issued by the film’s distributors: Friday Rs 10.26 crore; Saturday Rs 15.30 crore; Sunday Rs 17.55 crore; Monday Rs 12.06 crore; Rs 17.10 crore; Wednesday Rs 7.20 crore; Thursday Rs 5.58 crore, and so on.

One may ask, where is manipulation, they look normal figures. If one looks closely, all the numbers issued daily total up to a figure of 9, that being the lucky number of the film’s star, Akshay Kumar!

How one wishes the same creativity was used while writing scripts.

But then, we live in an era when a new face or a lesser star is assigned a film role based on the number of followers, he/she enjoys on social media! Should talent not be the only benchmark?

The surprising thing is that when a film is not liked by viewers, like the recent release, ‘Dunki’, they express it, and it shows in the box office figures. In that case, another release, ‘Animal‘, was the most criticized film in recent times and was deemed to be an anti-woman film. Yet, its net collections are being pegged at Rs 513 crore!

Now, if the Indian movie market has grown to such a great extent, why did films such as Dream Girl 2 (Rs 104 crore), ‘OMG2’ (Rs 150 crore) and ‘The Kerala Story’ (Rs 242 crore), which were loved by people all around and were also successful commercially, fall short of the Rs 400-500 crore mark? Because they found their true level according to the public response.

What makes a film tick? Comparing a couple of recent films, stars don’t. If ‘Animal’ could collect Rs 537 crore, why not Ranbir Kapoor’s other hit of the year, ‘Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar’, which stopped at Rs 149 crore? And it was a film which was appreciated unlike ‘Animal’!

These tall claims about collection figures take away the credit from the smaller but successful films which people appreciate. Also, they are the kind of films that will have their repeat viewers on OTT platforms.

Actually, except for the stars of self-proclaimed hits, thanks to highly inflated box office figures, the year did not have much to celebrate.

Salman Khan’s ‘Tiger 3’ can be called a moderate success at Rs 285 crore. By earlier definitions, the film would have qualified as a blockbuster. But that was before this Rs 500-plus crore era started!

Actually, ‘Tiger 3’ can be the benchmark for the range of business a successful big-star Hindi film does in India.

Aamir Khan kept away from the limelight this year. Ajay Devgn had a mediocre solo release, ‘Bholaa’. Akshay Kumar with a minor success in ‘OMG2’, but he also delivered two damp squibs, ‘Mission Raniganj’ and ‘Selfiee’. It looks like he will probably have a year or two to hang around before hanging up his boots.

Films are called a fantasy world of spinning plausible fictional stories, but don’t stretch that fantasy so far as to fictionalize box office figures. That is not plausible. Even social media that went along with your tall tales has now stopped believing you.

Finally, if Hindi films could really deliver returns of Rs 500-600 crore, why did Hollywood and other corporate houses stop doing business in India, that too after incurring huge losses?

Southern dubbed films seem to have lost their charm, with ‘Jawan’, ‘Pathaan’ and ‘Animal’ making up for the violence and bloodshed they offer. The only reasonable dubbed film to make its presence felt this year is ‘Salar’. Coming at the end of the year, the film has collected Rs 70 crore so far with its dubbed version.

As for Hollywood films, again, their run in India this year has been dull. Even Marvel studios are reported to have realized that their heroes have outlived their utility.

The point to ponder over is this: Films now do Rs 500 crore to Rs 700 crore, so why do cinemas keep showing losses? And if such high returns were possible, why did the corporate majors who used to bankroll production projects blindly think it wise to close one shop after the other.

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