IT IS a Bollywood where the Khans still rule, but it is also one where, there have been welcome stirrings of a change this year that the industry is quietly celebrating—the rise of the minnows. The young brigade—led by former ‘students of the year’ Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, helped along by the likes of Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Shraddha Kapoor—has collected more than R500 crore at the box office in a year in which only Kick (starring Salman Khan), Happy New Year (starring Shah Rukh Khan) and PK (starring Aamir Khan) crossed the R200-crore mark. The industry is also taking heart from the fact that films with good content did well too, like Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kashmir-based tale Haider and women-centric films like Queen, Mardaani and Mary Kom.
“It’s been a mixed bag this year,” admits Sanjeev Bijli, joint managing director, PVR. “The first half of the year was great, with films like Queen, Highway, Mary Kom and Khoobsurat doing well at the box office. The Khans, too, worked their magic, with Kick and Happy New Year. Shah Rukh and Salman managed to reach a formidable R200 crore each and more at the box office. But in the latter half of the year, some films, which had big expectations, didn’t do well,” he adds. Think films like Saif Ali Khan’s Happy Ending, which earned less than R15 crore on the opening weekend and R21 crore in all, and compare it with Kick, which earned R83 crore on the first weekend, going on to earn R231 crore in all. Other films that disappointed with respect to earnings were Yash Raj Films’ Kill/Dil (R30 crore) starring Ranveer Singh and Parineeti Chopra, Reliance Entertainment’s Bobby Jasoos (R12 crore) starring Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut-starrer Revolver Rani (R10 crore) and Prabhu Deva’s Action Jackson (R52 crore—a high-budget film, made with a budget of over R70 crore, as per industry estimates), to name a few.
But big-ticket films like Kick (produced by Nadiadwala Grandsons Entertainment and UTV Motion Pictures), Happy New Year (produced by Red Chillies Entertainment), Singham Returns (produced by Reliance Entertainment), Bang Bang! (produced by Fox Star Studios) and PK (produced by Vinod Chopra Films, Rajkumar Hirani Films and UTV Motion Pictures) more than lived up to expectations.
The Khan phenomenon When any film of the Khans—be it Salman, Shah Rukh or Aamir—releases, fireworks are expected. And since these stars pull in a grand opening, the aim is to make it as wide a release as possible, so that the maximum revenue can be earned on the first weekend itself. Now, thanks to digitisation, this is becoming eminently doable—and cheaper. So Salman’s Kick released in July in 4,400 screens across India and in 700 screens abroad. Besides the domestic market, producers targeted 42 countries, including non-traditional Bollywood markets like France and Morocco. As a result, it earned R83 crore on the opening weekend itself.
Shah Rukh’s Diwali release Happy New Year, which released in 5,000-odd screens in India and 1,000 screens abroad, earned R105 crore on the opening weekend. With industry players now collaborating with each other to get the most out of a film, Shah Rukh’s Red Chillies handed over the worldwide distribution of the film to Yash Raj Films, which had successfully distributed Dhoom: 3 in 2013 and made it the biggest film of the year. PK, too, got the widest possible release—5,200-odd screens. The duo of Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir will like to repeat the success of their 3 Idiots (2009)—the film earned R395 crore worldwide and is one of the highest Bollywood grossers ever after Dhoom: 3 (R540 crore) and Chennai Express (R422 crore), both released in 2013.
The year so far hasn’t seen any film breach the R300-crore mark and PK has its eyes set on that, say industry experts. “All eyes are on PK. It has a clear run in the holiday season in December, with no other big movies releasing and so the expectations are huge,” says Apoorva Mehta, CEO, Dharma Productions.
The exhibitors are also going all out to give PK a wide release. This year, says Bijli, people visited multiplexes in hordes to watch a variety of films. In fact, for Singham Returns, which released on August 15, PVR registered four lakh admissions, the highest so far.
The varied mix of movies this year excites Amrita Pandey, VP and head, marketing and distribution, studios, Disney India. “The collaboration with Dharma on 2 States and with Vishal Bhardwaj on Haider has been fulfilling,” she says. While 2 States earned over R100 crore at the box office, Haider, too, earned R56 crore. “The audiences are rewarding good content, as is evident from the success of the hard-hitting and dramatic Haider,” says Pandey. A view echoed by Bijli: “Not only have marquee movies done well, but films that ended up doing R50-60-crore business are also grand successes, as they have done it mostly on the back of good content.”
A new order?
Industry insiders are ‘happy and relieved’ at the potential shown by the young Bollywood brigade at the box office this year. Balaji’s Ek Villain, directed by Mohit Suri and starring Sidharth Malhotra and Shraddha Kapoor, stunned the industry by fetching R105 crore at the box office. So did Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s 2 States. Main Tera Hero, Balaji’s film with newcomer Varun Dhawan, also grossed R50 crore at the box office. As per Tanuj Garg, CEO, motion pictures, Balaji Telefilms, the young brigade has done well commercially this year and that’s a heartening trend. “Now, we have to see whether they can sustain this performance,” he points out.
“This year, youngsters have shown that they are economically viable. Tomorrow, a big director like Raju Hirani can think of casting a Varun (Dhawan) or a Sidharth (Malhotra). Audiences, too, have started accepting the younger brigade… they are willing to pay for them,” says Prabhat Choudhary, head of a leading communication agency.
“Good content has been appreciated tremendously this year. The stars, though, still pull a grand opening and it has been no different this year,” says Mehta of Dharma Productions. Audiences are lapping up good content with or without stars, points out Pandey.
As per Mehta, several films by debutant directors fared well, another welcome trend in the industry. Abhishek Varman, who had assisted Karan Johar in My Name is Khan and Student of the Year, and Ashutosh Gowariker on Jodhaa Akbar, made 2 States on a budget of R36 crore, as per industry sources, and collected more than R100 crore at the box office. Sajid Nadiadwala, till now a producer, made his directorial debut with Kick, which clicked with the audience. UTV, too, liked working with Nadiadwala, the director, says Pandey. He also produced films like 2 States, Heropanti and Highway this year, which met with success at the box office.
Another debutant whose work attracted attention was ad-filmmaker-turned-director Vinil Mathew, with Hasee Toh Phasee starring Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra. Though the Madhuri Dixit-Juhi Chawla film Gulaab Gang didn’t do well at the box office, director Soumik Sen’s effort was appreciated. Says one industry expert, who didn’t want to be named: “It’s a wonderful thing that we now have a wide choice in both directors and actors. The Khans do a wonderful job, they always get a grand opening, but we now have a wider crop to pick from and that’s always a welcome change.” What’s more, the younger brigade is not averse to taking risks and is already picking on a wide variety of roles. For instance, Sidharth Malhotra played the anti-hero in Ek Villain. With women-centric films doing well, the focus is also on Omung Kumar, the art director of films like Black and Saawariya, who directed a gritty biopic on Mary Kom.
Hits and misses
If Bollywood has had less hits and more flops this year, it doesn’t worry the industry too much, as the average film revenue continues to go up. One reason for this healthy trend, as per Smita Jha, leader, entertainment and media practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is that the number of prints released has gone up dramatically from 700-800 some years ago to 4,000-odd prints today for any big-to-medium film. Thus, the overall collection goes up and, thanks to digitisation, the prints are distributed at one-fourth the cost. The big-ticket releases of 2014—PK, Kick, Happy New Year and Bang Bang!—released in over 4,000 screens.
As per a CII-PwC report, the film industry is slated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% to touch R21,700 crore by 2018.
The sector grew by 12.5% in 2013 to finish the year at R12,600 crore. While domestic box-office revenues contributed 73.8% to the kitty, ancillary revenues, comprising music, cable and satellite rights, are also growing at 17.4%.
Going forward, Mehta says Bollywood will have to keep an eye on budgets—“a film never fails, the budget fails”. Costs are increasing and the audience is getting demanding. Hence filmmakers will now have to be mindful of the audience they are making the film for, says Mehta.
Bijli says a point of concern for the industry is the fact that satellite rights for films are too steep. “Films are being sold to TV too soon and at very high prices,” he says. In March, Star Gold announced that it had acquired nine films, including Kick and Jai Ho, for R180 crore. As per industry sources, the satellite rights of Bang Bang! were bought by Star for R25-30 crore. The buzz is that PK has been sold to Sony for more than R80 crore. “The films are being monetised much better,” says Jha.
PK released in 890 screens overseas and about 3,700 screens across India on Friday, making it the widest possible for a Hindi film. The build-up to the release was huge, with the story kept under wraps.
A spokesperson for the film says since the team of 3 Idiots was coming back with this film, “we did special screenings of 3 Idiots for fans in multiple cities where the entire team interacted with them. The multi-city tour (eight to nine cities) included tier II and III towns like Patna, Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Raipur, Indore, etc”.
Says Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, and chief, business planning and strategy, PVR: “The opening is very good. Word from the audience is extremely positive. It will be very big.”
PK’s box-office collections crossed R30 crore on the first day, as per initial reports. The film, which opened on a high note with high occupancy rate, did excellent business, considering it was released on a working day.
The opening day box-office collections augur very well for the film, and if a similar pace is maintained, PK box-office collections could be more than R40 crore during Saturday, as well as Sunday, though Aamir’s much-awaited film failed to beat the day one record set by Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year (R44.97 crore).
As per reports, PK performed its best in multiplexes, especially in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, which received huge footfalls. One of the reasons for an expected big opening number was the high ticket rates in multiplexes and so a collection in the R30 crore range was not difficult.
By Sudipta Datta
Sudipta Datta is a freelancer.