For Bollywood, The Outlook Is Dismal
BY VINOD MIRANI
The first quarter of 2023 has come to an end and the Hindi film industry has little to show for itself. The scene has been dismal, not because of the first quarter, but also because of the second quarter, which holds no promise of box-office boosters.
A lot of producers seem to think it is easier to create content for OTT platforms, which is why many makers have opted to produce for that medium. When you make OTT content, it’s an all-in-one deal. You complete the project, hand it over to the platform and cash out. No hassles such as marketing or complying with the terms of cinema chains.
What is more, on OTT, you can bring to life the stories that are long embedded in the minds of the masses, but still, the details are not known. An example is the Harshad Mehta case, which was the subject of ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’.
Or take the instance of ‘Rocket Boys’. You may have heard about Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai but knew little about them and did not dare to ask for fear of looking ignorant. If you made something similar for theatrical release, the cinema management wouldn’t have touched your product with a bargepole.
Besides the OTT platforms, one must also consider television channels. There are now hundreds of them for national viewers as well as the ones who are more comfortable with regional languages. All have been dishing out interesting content with great production values.
Filmmakers, sadly, can’t think beyond the formula.
As things stand now, a normal film with a big star would cost on average, Rs 200 crore. Because these big stars charge Rs 100 crore or more. That limits the budget for the actual making of the film. Add to that the cost of special effects to make these aged stars look younger. And then, in most cases, add the cost of acquiring the remake rights paid to a South Indian producer (almost all Hindi films are remakes of South Indian productions when they are not inspired by Hollywood movies).
With this kind of input cost, a film with a major star needs to do business of at least Rs 500 crore to show some profit. If one observes closely, there are no big stars in OTT programming. Most feature those who played character roles in films or those who were not getting films anymore. It seems, what sells is content and performances.
So, what does the industry have to show for the first three months? Two films stood their ground to a varied extent namely ‘Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar’ and ‘Pathaan’. Between them, they have collected approximately Rs 700 crore.
Out of these, ‘Pathaan’ claims a take of Rs 500 crore; ‘Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar’ collected Rs 120 crore. Films such as ‘Kuttey’, ‘Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh’, ‘Shehzaada’, ‘Selfiee’, ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’, ‘Zwigato’ and ‘Bheed’ contributed the rest. Other small films contributed around Rs 100 crore.
‘Bhola’ released at the far end of March and its business will reflect only later. Compare this with the first quarter of 2019 when there were quite a few films that hovered around Rs 100 crore or more. These films included ‘Uri’, ‘Manikarnika’, ‘Total Dhamaal’, ‘Gully Boy’, ‘Luka Chuppi’, ‘Badla’, ‘Kesari’, along with ‘Junglee’, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To’ and ‘Thackeray’ contributing another Rs 100 crore, all adding up to Rs 1,100 crore for the first quarter.
So, were it not for ‘Pathaan’, this quarter would have been a total disaster.
The next quarter promises nothing material in the offing. This is because in the quarter that just closed, there has been no big announcement. Filmmakers such as Sajid Nadiadwala, Karan Johar or other big-time producers have not been hasty in announcing new projects — the circumstances being so uncertain.
Also, there are no corporate houses to bankroll huge projects. It has always been the norm: you earn from this industry, but never reinvest your earnings. Movies have always been made on borrowed or with outside monies. One announcement that made it to the media in the first quarter was about ‘Pathaan vs Tiger’ from Yash Raj Films.