As Film After Film Tanks, Bollywood's Big Party Seems To Be Over
It's the year of superstar duds and hell at the box office. Movies featuring the most bankable stars have underperformed
Published: August 14, 2017 14:34 IST
Mumbai: Akshay Kumar's Toilet: Ek Prem Katha has made Rs 51.45 crore over the weekend, and with that, the film industry is breathing a sigh of relief. This is the same industry that's seen massive collections in the past. Last year, Aamir Khan's Dangal crossed Rs 100 crore in the first three days, went on to touch Rs 150 crore on Day 5 and Rs 200 crore on Day 8. Even Salman Khan's Sultan, which released last year (2016), earned Rs 142.6 crore in just four days. 2017 has been a terrible year for Bollywood trade, with the falling theatre revenues leaving exhibitors and distributors worried. It's mid-August and the only massive hit this year was Baahubali - The Conclusion, which released in April.
It's the year of superstar duds and hell at the box office. Movies featuring the most bankable stars have underperformed. Salman Khan's Tubelight was such a disappointment that he and his father Salim Khan had to return money to the distributors for the massive losses they suffered. Shah Rukh Khan's over-hyped film Jab Harry Met Sejal, directed by Imtiaz Ali, released last month to poor ticket sales. The marketing hype didn't match up to its content. JHMS, which also starred Anushka Sharma alongside SRK, was rejected by the audiences. It didn't even collect Rs 60 crore in its first week, turning out to be SRK's lowest in recent years.
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The trailer of Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif's Jagga Jasoos looked unique but not good enough to pull the audiences to the cinemas. The film, which was produced by the actor himself, went way over budget as it was in the making for three-and-a-half years. It finally released in July with barely a whimper.
The message that the audience is sending out is that their loyalty to their money is greater than their love for any movie star. Also, digital streaming has added to Bollywood's woes as Netflix and Amazon are offering top-notch shows, which are high on entertainment value.
Another problem is the length of these films. Ask the audiences and the first thing they say is that they have run out of patience with the long running time of Bollywood offerings. The duration of Jagga Jasoos was around three hours, and SRK's Jab Harry Met Sejal was roughly two-and-a-half hours. The same audiences have patiently watched long films like Baahubali and Dangal, and they even seem to be enjoying Toilet: Ek Prem Katha at two hours and forty minutes but only when they know for sure that they will be guaranteed entertainment and value for their money and time.
Aamir Khan is someone the audience trusts for good content, but this year he has only Secret Superstar during Diwali, in which he has a special appearance. A film industry obviously cannot sustain itself and bank on one star who releases one film in a year - sometimes not even that.
Shah Rukh Khan also had Raees before JHMS, and even Hrithik Roshan's Kaabil released earlier this year. None of these films performed as per market expectations.
Though the content of the recent releases is to be blamed, that cannot be the only reason for the huge losses. The whole math of making movies has to be looked into. The budget of the film plays a vital role in the business, and top stars who walk away with the biggest piece of the pie have to take a step back and rework the game. The stars charge as much as Rs 50 crore as their fee so a film cannot be made with them at a reasonable budget. They even walk away with the satellite rights, and now they have also started demanding the digital rights of their films. Earlier, satellite rights used to be the producer's extra revenue. Though all the stars have turned producers, their films are sold to studios and distributors at a whopping cost, which is almost impossible to recover. That's the reason why, though both Hrithik Roshan's Kaabil and Shah Rukh Khan's Raees crossed 100 crores, many distributors have suffered losses with these films.
Currently, Akshay Kumar is the only top star who is working on films that are well within a safe budget and he doesn't add a huge fee to his production house and walk away with all the money that's earned. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a film that didn't require any foreign location or fancy sets, it's made on a shoestring budget of Rs 18 crore that's the reason it's already in the green.
Perhaps this will be reason enough for the superstars to stop spending crores on movies nobody wants to see.
(Rohit Khilnani is a senior entertainment journalist based in Mumbai, he is also the author of the book I Hate Bollywood. Information about box-office collections and whereabouts of films stars is at the back of his hand. He starts and ends his day by taking his dog, for walks)
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