I am pained. First quarter of 2009 is turning out to be one of the worst seasons for Bollywood in the current decade. At least in the earlier years, there weren't too many movies releasing at the beginning of January (Bollywood jinx factor) and then late February/early March (school/college examinations). However, 2009 has been an exception with not one, not two but multiple films releasing practically every week. Not worrying at all about the Board examinations being underway and the target audience i.e. youth keeping away from the theaters, Bollywood is witnessing dozen odd releases practically every month.
I am pained because the result has been hardly heartening, as evidenced in the fate of five films that released over the weekend gone by - Firaaq, Aloo Chaat, Barah Aana, Straight and Lottery. None of the films has done well at the box office and performance of some of these films has been pathetic to say the least. Collective theater occupancy of these five films has been less than 50% if one looks at the opening and poor reviews and reports have further marred the prospects.
I am pained because Firaaq got some good critical response coming its way but collections were shocking all over. The film has hardly been seen by the audience which otherwise could have helped it grow with word of mouth. Other than Firaaq though, none of the other films could even gather any good reviews. While Straight and Aloo Chaat have been ripped apart by most, Barah Aana has seen somewhat better response from the critics but equally poor response from the audience. Frankly, there were hardly any out there who had even heard of this Naseeruddin Shah, Vijay Raaz and Arjun Mathur starrer. As for Lottery, it didn't see a decent multiplex release and worse, wasn't even reviewed by the critics.
Billu Barber I am pained because there is something really going wrong with the film releases this season. And there is one simple reason for this - 'Money saved is money gained'! Audience is looking at saving money for a film that seems promising from the very onset. On a regular weekend, at least a couple of these five films could have taken a favorable start. However, complete disinterest of audience in movies is stemming from the fact that they are just not in mood of watching small films at theaters.
I am pained because based on my conversations with 'aam junta' as well as industry insiders, I have realized that the absolute turnaround amongst audience when it comes to Bollywood flicks has stemmed from the triple failure of highly hyped films like Chandni Chowk To China, Billu Barber and Delhi 6. 'Aisa lagta hai jaise sabka Bollywood films se vishwas hi uth gaya hai' - is the sentiment amongst all. When one film is a hit, audience loves to visit theaters and watch the next one in subsequent week. And so on and so forth. This was evident in August/September last year when success of Singh Is Kinng followed by Bachna Ae Haseeno had made way for multiple small and medium budget films week after week like Rock On, Welcome To Sajjanpur, A Wednesday, Phoonk, 1920 etc. The free for all run of hits was too good to be true but that was a fact. Of course each of the films, were well made as well but the fact is that audience was 'willing' to spend money in theaters week after week even as the term 'recession' was making a loud announcement all over.
The subsequent months saw a dip with the failure of Karzzzz but 2008 end saw a grand revival with huge blockbusters like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini. Audience was willing to give Bollywood another chance but as stated earlier, the biggies in Jan/Feb 2009 spoilt the show and it was back to square one.
Chandni Chowk To China It's not the audience to be blamed, it's the films!
Junta has given its verdict loud and clear. It has to be really very high quality films that have to arrive at theaters to entice audiences back. And it won't suffice to see just one or two good films coming in; there have to be a line up of interesting projects. No wonder, the months of May/June become crucial because there is a lot riding on films like Kambakkth Ishq, Kaminey, Luck, Love Aaj Kal, Life Partner, Shortkut - The Con Is On and Kal Kissne Dekha, each of which would be arriving one after another.
Here is looking forward to a better season ahead with some quality projects that would make the audience wake up to the magic of Bollywood. Once again!