By Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Suddenly, the tide has changed. After a victorious 2006, the first two-and-a-half months of 2007 have witnessed more and more mishaps at the domestic box-office. Yeh kya ho raha hain? Aur kyon ho raha hain? Why are films falling faster than a pack of cards? Worse, the 20%-30% opening/initial has become a regular feature. Today, a 50% start is a rarity. Aakhir kyon?
“The period isn’t right,” a prominent multiplex owner called to say. Another theatrewallah is of the opinion that World Cup is too big an opposition. Therefore, the casualties, week after week, shouldn’t come as a surprise. A leading tabloid asked a pertinent question: If World Cup is such a strong opposition as it is made out to be, why are producers hell-bent on releasing their films during this period? Isn’t it professional harakiri?
Sure, it is! But what can the producers do? For how long can they hold their films once it’s ready? Once the promotion has begun and the censor copy is out, it’s not right to sit on your film for more than two weeks. The budgets have spiraled beyond imagination and so has the interest amount over the investment.
Plus, the distributors of completed/censored films would be highly uncomfortable waiting for the World Cup to end and then time their releases. As it is, the weeks in April/May are choc-a-bloc with crucial biggies [check out the ‘Release Dates’ section of IndiaFM]. So what can a helpless producer do anyways?
That brings me to the two major releases -- HATTRICK and JUST MARRIED: MARRIAGE WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING. Let’s talk of HATTRICK first. Till a few years ago, a Nana Patekar starrer would fetch an excellent initial [90% +] in Mumbai/Maharashtra belt, but the response to HATTRICK even in Nana’s ‘home territory’ [Maharashtra] was way below expectations.
Note another aspect! Very few character/supporting actors have called the shots in the Hindi film industry. Several decades ago, a Hindi film would be incomplete without Cuckoo. Then Helen took over. Mehmood too was paid more than the main heroes in his prime. Pran had a glorious era too. The Kader Khan-Shakti Kapoor combo in the 1980s and 1990s was unbeatable, when the South brigade -- Padmalaya, D. Rama Naidu, K. Raghavendra Rao, A. Purnachandra Rao, K. Bapaiah and A. Krishnamurthy -- churned out films with great enthusiasm. Paresh Rawal is enjoying a similar innings today. Yet, Paresh’s prominent face on the posters/billboards didn’t arouse audience interest in HATTRICK.
Similarly, post RANG DE BASANTI, Kunal Kapoor is considered one of the hottest newcomers around. With interesting films in his kitty, he’s amongst the brightest kids in the film firmament today [I endorse this viewpoint completely]. Add the credibility of UTV and director Milan Luthria [post TAXI NO. 9211] to HATTRICK and one expected a 70% start at multiplexes.
I personally think HATTRICK arrived a bit too early. The World Cup has just begun and the excitement to watch the matches is optimum right now. Two additional weeks of promotion would’ve only helped. Also, the craze for staying glued to the television set would’ve declined considerably by then.
Besides, HATTRICK is not Milan Luthria at his best. I’d prefer TAXI NO. 9211 any day, any time. Sure, HATTRICK has wonderful moments, but it doesn’t satiate your appetite completely. A better second half would’ve only enhanced the film. Anyways, it’s no point crying over spilt milk.
Businesswise, HATTRICK had a shaky [25%-30%] start at most places, but the collections took a dip on Saturday because of the India-Bangladesh match. The evening and night shows were lukewarm at several screens. Sunday was alright [again, not optimum], while Monday, despite Gudi Padwa holiday, was affected again due to the cricket match between India and Bermuda.
As things stand today, the theatrical business of HATTRICK is way below expectations and with NAMASTEY LONDON arriving this Friday, don’t expect any miracles in the second weekend.
‘MARRIAGE’ DOESN’T WORK
If HATTRICK at least managed below average figures, the fate of JUST MARRIED: MARRIAGE WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING was even below that at many places. Despite P.N.C., its producers, making qualitative promos, you weren’t really attracted towards the film. So how did PYAAR KE SIDE/EFFECTS attract eyeballs and footfalls, someone asked. Well, PYAAR KE SIDE/EFFECTS worked for various reasons, one of them being the novel casting of Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose. The content was superior, so was its execution.
Fardeen Khan and Esha Deol have pitched in fine performances no doubt, but the casting isn’t novel by any standard. Also, the film lacks the power to hold your attention for the next two hours. Neither is the music exciting enough!
JUST MARRIED: MARRIAGE WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING had a weak start at most screens. And the film refused to pick up on subsequent days. However, Mumbai is better with a decent gross in its first weekend.
The third release, EIK DASTTAK, came unannounced [with minimal promotion] and though it tackles a novel theme [revolves around Income Tax officers], the lack of face-value coupled with poor promotion hit the film hard.
THIS WEEK IN 2006
[Weekend: March 17-19, 2006]
If MALAMAAL WEEKLY surprised everyone the week before, the two new releases, UMAR and BANANA BROTHERS, punctured the hopes of the industry that had begun to smile. In the 1980s, Basu Chatterjee’s SHAUKEEN, starring three character actors [Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutt, A.K. Hangal], with the conventional hero relegated to the backseat [Mithun Chakraborty], met with a rousing reception at the ticket window. But the new release, UMAR, also starring three veterans [Kader Khan, Prem Chopra, Satish Kaushik] in pivotal roles, had a disastrous fate at the box-office.
The second release, BANANA BROTHERS, came unannounced and met with an equally sad fate. Like UMAR, BANANA BROTHERS also starred three leading character actors [Anupam Kher, Gulshan Grover, Johny Lever], but the collections of this comedy were tragic everywhere.
THIS WEEK IN 2005
[Weekend: March 18-20, 2005]
No new release this week, but a few observations…
* Practically every film -- big or small -- had an ‘all India open’ status then. Translated into simple terms, it means that the films were lying unsold for practically every territory. The distributors were in no mood to acquire the rights, partly because the market conditions were awful and partly because they had burnt their fingers in the past few releases.
* A majority of producers were releasing their film themselves in practically every circuit. In the distant past, some reputed production houses had decided to expand their business empire and were distributing their films in some territories. In the present scenario, practically every producer was forced to distribute his film himself, due to a genuine dearth of buyers. Clearly, the arithmetic of film-making was in shambles!
* The Overseas territory -- which was considered the most lucrative territory till last year -- had turned ice-cold today. A majority of producers were waiting for buyers to knock on their doors, but most buyers were just not interested.
* The music territory -- a piping hot territory at a point of time -- had also turned frosty. Barring one audio company, the remaining companies had adopted the go-slow, wait-n-watch attitude. And the sole company acquiring the rights wasn’t acquiring them for astronomical prices either.
* The only segment making money, despite the cold wave in the industry, was the actors’ fraternity. Even if film announcements had reduced, several actors had their plate full thanks to the commercials [ad films], stage shows at award functions, hi-profile marriages, concerts…
THIS WEEK IN 2004
[Weekend: March 12-14, 2004]
No new release this week, but the Indo-Pak relations only got better…
The Indo-Pak relations were at an all-time high. While the two nations had decided to break the ice and curbs on sports had been lifted, there were indications that the ban on entertainment-related activities would also be lifted. A 20-member film delegation from Pakistan arrived in Mumbai to allow swift movement of film and television-related content and artists from across the LOC.
The high-level delegation comprised of Sajjad A. Gul [of Evernew Entertainment, Lahore], actor-film-maker Javed Sheikh, producers Mubasher Lucman and Shahbaz Ali, exhibitors Riyaz Malik and Muhammad Ali Tipu and Pakistani super-star Shaan, who had also directed a film GUNS