Look who's killing the competition in Bollywood

  • Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 03, 2014 15:32 IST

Bollywood's love affair with all things big continues, and it just keeps getting bigger. And Hrithik Roshan's Bang Bang may just have raised the bar a trifle too high: reports suggest that the film will be released across a whopping 4,500 screens worldwide. It is a record in itself considering that no other Hindi film has ever been assigned this unheard of number of screens. There's more. The film is all set to create new records in the USA, UK and the Middle East.

Yes, size matters when it comes to the eventual Box Office collections. The flip side of the story, however, is not much of a good news for the other big release of the week: Shahid Kapoor's Vishal Bhardwaj-directed Hamlet-inspired film, Haider. Will the Bang Bang explosion be so loud that it will ruin the competition completely?

A few Hollywood studios, with big pockets to dig into, have been doing this for long. But somehow it was a trend that was yet to find takers here in India. The Western market has historically been tilted in favour of loaded film promoters, but still we could see a handful of filmmakes, such as Scorsese and others, promote their ventures. Also, the advertisement media in the West is democratised which means even a small film has a fairly good chance in the market.

The Indian scenario, however, is different. Here, it is more about getting the visibility, the first step towards getting a positive word-of-mouth publicity. We've had scores of films, with good content and rave reviews, tank on the box office only because it released with another big-budget film that monopolised the screens completely. The dismal collection numbers also neutralises the positive buzz around the film and people eventually ignore it completely. In a paranoid film market like India, this becomes a trend in no time. As a result, big producers remain the only ones in the frame.

Watch: Bang Bang trailer

Now, the smaller films are left with just one choice if they don't want to stare at disaster: Shell out more money on pre-release promo. But then, even this is not as easy it may sound, because ultimately it’s the audience who will pay for it. Another option is to postpone the release date to avoid the clash. The problem is, the market is flooded with an ever-growing number of stars.

The dynamics of the film business has changed a lot in last couple of years. These days, if a film is made at a budget of Rs 50 crore, including publicity, it has to garner at least Rs 85-90 crore to break-even. The reason behind it is a sizeable entertainment tax. So, the more is your publicity the more will be your ticket prices.

Watch: Haider trailer

One can clearly identify the aftereffects of this mindset. Salman Khan's Kick, which was recently released, was priced at Rs 160 per ticket for the morning show on weekdays in NCR, while the usual ticket rates were Rs 130. The other shows also witnessed the same kind of price hike. The catch is that producers know that inspite of the high ticket prices, people will flock the theatres because of the loud promotional drive and also because they don't have too many other options. Kick getting 3,500 screens was inversely proportional to the screens allotted to other films. If the same product is stacked in every shop then you’re, in a way, forced to buy it.

In the November of 2012, Shah Rukh Khan's Jab Tak Hai Jaan released simultaneously with Ajay Devgn's Son Of Sardaar. JBHJ was backed by Yash Raj Films and was released on many more screens than Son Of Sardaar. The buzz around it was so strong that Ajay Devgn had to file an application in the Competition Commission of India. Finally, both the films made money at the box-office but it brought to the surface the idea of ‘unfair competition’.

Also read:

Bang Bang's new benchmark, to hit over 4,500 screens on October 2

The Indian market in general is governed by neo-liberal economic policies but that shouldn’t be allowed to kill the competition. Otherwise we could soon be staring at a time when the producers will decide the ticket price for every film irrespective of the audience’s demand.

Also read:

After crooning for Haider, Tabu plans to continue singing

Let's consider the numbers. There are six big centres, and 12 or 13 tier-II cities that contribute to the major chunk of a film’s revenue. Occupying 2000 screens in these cities would mean absolutely no space for any other film. Now, when a film’s business is mostly dependent on its box-office performance on first three days of its release, it could be a fatal blow.

Some big names are associated with Haider as well but what if it could have been a film with no starcast and strong content? Haider can brave the storm at the ticket window but the same can’t be said for a small film. Can you really expect another Vicky Donor to rear its head in such a situation?

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