Bollywood's balance sheet goes for a toss in 2008

Mumbai, Dec 30 (IANS) Only six genuine hits of 127 releases - with the ratio of success to failure at 5:100 in any given year, the Bollywood story was no different in 2008. But what made 2008 stand apart for the $2 billion film industry was that it saw staggering losses of Rs.5 billion (over $100 million).

According to trade analyst Amod Mehra, the money was lost on big budget movies like "Love Story 2050", "Drona" and "Yuvvraaj" that failed to recover even the investments.

Also, there is no chance of recovering the money because once a film flops at the box-office, it can barely shore up revenues from incidental businesses like music and DVD sales to compensate a part of the loss. At any rate, Bollywood's real money comes from the domestic box-office, which remained dry for most part of the year.

The quantum of loss is large this year because some of the hugely-mounted movies fell flat. More than the producers, distributors like Eros International and Reliance Adlabs had to bear the brunt as they had bought some of the films at unheard-of prices, ranging from Rs.500 million to Rs.600 million.

For instance, director Goldie Behl's Rs.450 million "Drona" starring Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra, which Eros reportedly bought for Rs.600 million, could recover only half the distribution costs domestically and internationally.

Reliance Adlabs met with the same fate when it lost heavily on director Harry Baweja's Rs.500 million futuristic "Love Story 2050", which it distributed worldwide. The film was the launch vehicle of Baweja's son Harman and also featured Priyanka.

According to Bollywood trade analyst V. Verma, the combined loss of these two movies, released in the later half of the year, alone could be close to Rs.500 million.

"Though producers of these two movies made their pile by selling the distribution rights at handsome prices, they too turned out to be losers in the end because the reputation of the banners got tarnished when the movies couldn't recover their costs," he said.

While "Drona" could rake in some money from the international box-office to save the reputations of Eros as well as the production banner Rose Movies, "Love Story 2050" proved to be a blot for Reliance Adlabs as its maiden acquisition was declared a universal failure.

The year had, however, begun on a promising note when Tips Films' Abbas-Mustan-directed sleek thriller "Race" that released in March and became an instant hit. The movie grossed close to Rs.700 million at the domestic box-office with additional $9.5 million coming in from the international market.

"The movie is a wholesome entertainer because it has the style as well as the substance. Hence the success," remarked trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

The film was a multi-starrer and the cast included Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif, Sameera Reddy and Anil Kapoor.

The Bhatt camp - Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt - had a lot to smile about during 2008. Not known for making big-budget movies, the Bhatt brothers gambled on "Jannat" by investing Rs.100 million. Their gamble paid off handsomely when the movie fetched revenues about five times its investment.

"Yes, 'Jannat' is a bigger success than other hits of the year because its profit share is larger than the others," said Mukesh Bhatt.

The same is the case with the new-age "Rock On!", produced jointly by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani. Though the film's budget and the collection figures are not available, it is no secret that this modestly budgeted movie went on to collect big money as it became a huge hit particularly in the metros.

Similarly, Aamir Khan and his cousin Mansoor Khan laughed all the way to the bank when their Rs.110 million risk in "Jaane Tu Ya Janne Na" to launch their nephew, Imran Khan, fetched a return of Rs.530 million.

From this standpoint, the profit shares of other two hits of the year, UTV's "Jodha Akbar" and producer Vipul Shah's "Sing is Kinng" are not as spectacular for the simple reason that both are huge-budget movies collectively costing nearly Rs.1 billion.

So the pace of recovery was slower and it took longer to bring gains to the stake-holders, including UTV Movies, which produced and distributed "Jodha Akbar", and Reliance Adlabs and Blockbuster Movie Entertainment, which distributed "Singh is Kinng".

"In terms of investments, 'Jodha Akbar' and 'Singh is Kinng' just about managed to be hits, unlike 'Race' and others that straightaway hit the bull's eye," said Vinod Mirani, another trade analyst.

Among the losers of the year, Yash Raj Films tops the list. Barring the Ranbir Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Deepika Padukone and Minissha Lamba starrer "Bachna Ae Haseeno", which did average business, none of its other five releases of the year could make the grade at the box-office. These include "Laaga Chunari Mein Daag", "Aaja Nachle", "Tashan", "Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic" and animation movie "Roadside Romeo".

The poor box-office show of these movies cost Yash Raj dearly. Though the exact figure of the loss incurred by the banner is not available, many say it could be in the region of Rs.700 million. Even its latest production "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi" has failed to bring cheer to the production house as the pace of the movie's collections, after an encouraging start, has slowed down considerably.

An industry source revealed that Yash Chopra, faced with an unprecedented crisis, has taken full control of Yash Raj Films from his eldest son Aditya Chopra in order to set the house in order.

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