The Bollywood film year has had an established rhythm that has remained more or less unchanged for several years. Industry experts say that, traditionally, the year would start slow, punctuated by short bursts of big-ticket films that would release usually around holidays such as Republic Day and Holi.
“The first half of the year, until a couple of years ago, used to be extremely lean,” says Prakhar Joshi, head of programming for PVR Cinemas, who has been in the business for the past eight years. “In the last five years, with the advent of Indian Premier League, the lull got worse. Theatres would usually be empty during that time.”
To see serious money, distributors and theatre owners would often have to wait for the latter half of the year, usually after the month of Ramadan (around September), which is when most big-budget commercial money-spinners are released (a well-worn industry joke goes like this: ‘Eid belongs to Salman Khan, Diwali to Shah Rukh Khan and Christmas to Aamir Khan’).
However, the picture has changed. Last year’s critically acclaimed No One Killed Jessica was released during the so-called lean first half and went on to make R29 crore. This year, Kahaani released around the same time and made nearly thrice that amount. Moreover, Vicky Donor, which was released slap-bang in the middle of IPL season, went on to become this year’s fourth biggest hit. “This was the first year that we found that even IPL wasn’t affecting the box office as it used to,” says Joshi. “Audience tastes and expectations are changing, and films with good content are being watched by more people.”
The remainder of this year has a slew of commercial releases coming up. Trade pundits are looking keenly at Ek Tha Tiger (Salman’s Eid release), Aamir Khan-starrer Talaash (releasing in November) and Yash Chopra’s as-yet-untitled film, a sweeping romance featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif (to be released during Diwali).
Many, if not all, of these films are likely to make big profits. However, with audience tastes dashing established industry norms in the first half of the year, it will be interesting to see whether the rhythm of the box-office remains intact.