Varun Dhawan starrer ‘Badlapur’ and, of course, Ranbir Kapoor’s ‘Roy’. Bollywood box office collections have been underwhelming, to say the least, with none of them managing to get anywhere near the Rs 100-crore mark. That means, the first half of the year has been a major disaster for the Hindi film industry. With the blame game on in the industry, the first excuse to come on everyone’s mind is the ongoing cricket season (ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand). What is worse, is that the MS Dhoni-led Team India is in blazing hot form – with Virat Kohli himself setting the turf on fire with his powerful batting – and has pulverised the opposition including top teams like Pakistan and South Africa, not to mention the UAE. The lure of the TV is proving irresistible.
The already beleaguered Bollywood industry finds it has nowhere left to hide. The theatres bear a forlorn look, and those film-makers who were smart enough, have made sure that there are no big releases in the first half of the year, further accentuating the slowdown of the industry.
What is worse, in the offing is the Indian Premiere League (IPL) to be held in April, which is also casting its shadow on the box office collections prospects of Hindi cinema. In fact, even before the release of his film ‘Roy’, Arjun Rampal had joked that he would pray for rains during the India-Pakistan match, so that it does not affect the box office collections of the film!
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The year has yet to see a mega blockbuster, and the coming months will see a lot of small budget releases. Apart from Neeraj Pandey’s Baby, Dinesh Vijan’s Varun Dhawan starrer ‘Badlapur’ that released last week and Phantom Films upcoming NH 10, it’s a bleak scenario, as most of the big budget ventures are scheduled for release after the monsoons.
While, every World Cup, the drought at the BO has been credited to cricket, Screen analyses whether it is indeed the game that is creating a sad story. The reactions from the industry have been mixed, with a section voicing their grievance at the impact the World Cup has had on their fortunes.
Film distributor Anil Thadani says, “Be it ICC Cricket World Cup, or IPL, it definitely affects the business of the film industry. We cannot forget that we are a cricket loving nation. The results are there for everyone to see, especially when the match between India and Pakistan on Sunday saw a steep dip in the business of Bhushan Kumar’s Roy. This is the reason why most of the makers push the release of their film to the second half of the year. The content of cinema also plays a major role. Films with good content will do well to an extent, but nothing can work when pitted against cricket.”
Bibhar Film Distributor, Brajesh Tandon echoes Thadani’s sentiments. “There are two major problems when the ICC World Cricket Cup is being played. Major releases are pushed to the latter half of the year, while smaller films are unable to recover their money. The industry loses up to 30 to 40 per cent of business, with nearly Rs 100 crore at stake during the World Cup.
While no big ticket films released during the 2011 World Cup, small budget films like Shagird, Chillar Party, Happi, Yeh Dooriyan and Run Bhola Run that released then failed to create wonders at the BO. Last year, with no World Cup to compete with the quintessential Kangana Ranaut starrer Queen that released on March 7, had a good run. But this year, the makers of the niche, content driven film NH 10, starring Anushka Sharma are contemplating the release date of the film. Amita Naidu Vice President, Eros International says that they have yet to lock a release date for NH 10, “We have not yet come to any decision. We cannot comment on it as of now.”
The fate of the upcoming releases (Released this Friday): Yash Raj Films Dum Lagake Haisha, Vijay Gutte’s Badmashiyaan, producer Raju Chada and Gopal Dalvi’s Ab Tak Chappan 2, Ganesh Acharya’s Hey Bro, producer Vijay K Mishra’s Lucknowi Ishq, producer Harish Amin’s Coffee Bloom, and producer-director K.C. Bokadia’s Dirty Politics remain a matter of great concern for the industry at large.
Choreograher- producer- director- actor Ganesh Acharya is however, very optimistic when he opines, “My film Hey Bro releases on February 27, but I am confident about the content of my film. I believe that if the content is good, nothing can stop the audience from watching it.”
The fact that good content ultimately rules, was amply proved by the success of Badlapur. “Our film was not affected and has done well. The results are there to see,” states Vijan.
Although, the multiplexes have managed to stay afloat, it is a different scenario at the single screens. Manoj Desai owner of Maratha Mandir and the G7 cinemas in Mumbai explains, “The pressure, be it the World Cup or the IPL is always there. Films do not do good business during this period. Badlapur is the only film that has fared well, but single screens are still waiting for that one big hit.”
It is not only the independent producers who are treading a cautious path, big studios like Eros International and Disney India too have reined in the release of their projects. UTV Motion Pictures does not have any upcoming Hindi releases in the coming months except for, “Hollywood films, The Avengers and Cinderella. We have pre-poned their release because of the exams. The Avengers has a huge craze amongst children and that is why we have decided to release the film in April,” said the spokesperson of the studio.
The on-going World Cup matches, however are not the only reason why the industry is holding back. With high stakes in their projects and a possible low recovery, producerdirector K.C. Bokadia did not want to compete with big ticket star flicks like Roy and Badlapur. According to him, they shall release the film on March 6, giving them ample time to promote Dirty Politics.“A good film will run despite the odds. When I had released Kudrat Ka Kanoon in 1987, the World Cup Finals were on, but my film did 100 per cent business.
Earlier, when I released Teri Meherbaniyan in 1982, during the cricket matches, the film did well. Ultimately, it is the content that rules.”
Debutant director Aejaz Khan’s Ab Tak Chappan 2 that released on February 27 too believes that, “Nothing can affect the film if the story and screenplay is good. Like cricket lovers we also have cinema loving audience who takes time off to watch their favourite film.”
With a cricket loving nation like India, and cricketers being placed on the same pedestal as the film stars, the reluctance of the film industry to compete with the game is indeed understandable. As producer Mahendra Dhariwal who has made films like Maa Tujhe Salaam says, “We are a cricket loving nation, but at the same time if there is a good film the audience will watch it.
Producers these days are not ready to take risks and end up pushing the release to the second half of the year. This again creates a problem as three to four major films release on the same day with the result that they end up eating into each other’s box office collections. Our film, Monsoon released during the match between India and South Africa last week, but I am confident that the film will do well. No one is bothered about the IPL matches these days, but yes, World Cup will affect us to some extent. The industry has so far incurred a loss of approximately Rs 250 crore!”
– By Shama Bhagat