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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Crucial summer ahead for big-ticket Bollywood
Apr 22, 2007 - 6:14:19 PM
With millions at stake, films are no longer just creative pieces, but products, with in branding, merchandising and web franchise, which promise profitable returns.

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[RxPG] New Delhi, Apr 22 - With the hype and hoopla surrounding the matrimonial alliance between two of India's biggest names in entertainment behind us, it is time to turn our attention to the not-so-rosy economics of film trade.

Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai's marriage has spelled a boon for media houses and advertisers but it has done little to ease worries in trade circles. If anything, film folks are more concerned as they are not sure how the marriage will affect the business of moviemaking.

The industry has been reeling under the impact of some mega-budget films failing to set the cash registers ringing. After raking in nearly Rs.6.5 billion, according to conservative estimates, in 2006, the industry seems to have hit a lean patch this year arising out of poor box-office performances of exorbitantly budgeted Bollywood flicks.

Even India's first-round exit from the cricket World Cup has not helped bring much cheer. Trade analysts say January-March 2007 saw films posting losses to the tune of Rs.600 to 700 million. Mega star cast films opened to a measly 30-40 percent occupancy, with only Mani Ratnam's 'Guru' emerging as universal hit in the first quarter. 'Namastey London' brought some relief in April.

Amitabh Bachchan's much-hyped 'Eklavya' and much-talked about 'Nishabd' turned out to be huge flops. The biggest disappointment was the drubbing big ticket offering 'Salaam-e-Ishq' got at the turnstiles.

The list of commercial letdowns from January to mid-April is long: Nikhil Advani's 'Salaam-e-Ishq', Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 'Eklavya', Ram Gopal Varma's 'Nishabd', Vikram Bhatt's 'Red', Amrit Sagar's '1971', Milan Luthria's 'Hattrick', Anurag Kashyap's 'Black Friday', Deepa Mehta's 'Water', Meghna Gulzar's 'Just Married', Suneel Darshan's 'Shakalaka Boom Boom' and the latest Sunny Doel starrer 'Big Brother'.

The industry cannot be accused of not trying. Variety has been clearly the buzzword this year. Alongside tried-and-tested formulas comedies like 'Hattrick', 'Nehle Pe Dehla' were episodic films like 'Honeymoon Travels', 'Just Married', 'Red', war sagas -, deliberately different 'Nishabd', 'Traffic Signal' and 'Eklavya'.

Indian distributors took on the task of marketing art house Indian-English films - Deepa Mehta's Oscar-nominated 'Water', Nair's 'The Namesake', Jagmohan Mundhra's 'Provoked' - with much fervour.

The latest release - 'Bheja Fry' - is likely to be the biggest small-budget hit so far. The box-office collections of the situational comedy have showed steady increase over the weekend. Mumbai and Delhi multiplexes performed the best, but what's surprising is that even at a centre like Indore, where multiplexe films do not have a large market, the film has shown an upward trend in collections, says trade observer Taran Adarsh.

Big-ticket Bollywood releases need to click in the summer of 2007 to restore the industry's faith in them. News reports say the lacklustre performances of big-budget releases made Adlabs rethink its Rs.350 million deal with Hrithik Roshan and the Rs.150 million deal with Akshay Kumar.

Film exhibitor Atul Goel is quoted as saying that the multiplexes are likely to have suffered as much as a 40 percent drop in collections in the first quarter, as compared to the first quarter of 2006 -.

'The first quarter of 2006 offered better films. But that doesn't mean there's cause for worry - the next nine months have plenty of promise,' feels Siddharth Roy Kapoor, senior vice president, UTV Motion Pictures. All eyes are on the next string of biggies that include 'Tara Rum Pum', 'Partner', 'Cash' and 'Metro'.


'Ta Ra Rum Pum' by filmmaker Siddharth Anand, starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji, slated for Friday release, is the first film coming out of Yash Raj Films' impressive line up for year 2007.

The illustrious banner's Shaad Ali's 'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom', Shimit Amin's 'Chak De India', Pradeep Sarkar's 'Laga Chunari Mein Daag' and Anil Mehta's 'Aaja Nachley' will all be out before the end of the year.

Yash Chopra, chairman of Yash Raj Films, is ever hopeful when he says: 'We are extremely excited about our offerings for 2007, not because of the cast, but because of the unique subject matter of each of our films, and the youthful talent at the helm of these films.'

Yash Raj Films is going full blast with its business model that relies on studio-system.

'Our commitment to the studio style of functioning enables us to make each of these offerings a very special experience for the filmgoer-even though we are releasing six titles at close intervals,' said Chopra.


Attempting to pacify ruffled feathers within film circles, trade weekly 'Screen', says a slow start and a solo hit until March is not really cause for concern. Bollywood's biggest and best will come towards the second half of the year; August and Diwali promise plenty of action.

'Saawariya' and 'Om Shanti Om' are two big Diwali films, while Karan Johar's animation film based on 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' and his production directed by Tarun Mansukhani are slated for release in November.

It will be a star-studded second half and there will be a 25 percent growth in domestic and overseas box-office, 'Screen' predicts.

More screens are going to be added as multiplexes move in to tier II cities, so there will be a major growth there. Top-notch multiplex player like PVR Cinemas is investing Rs.2 billion for expansion in small towns. Adlabs Films, Inox Leisures, Shringar Cinemas, Fun Multiplex and Cinemax India have also ventured to small towns across the country.

Ashutosh Gowarikar's 'Jodha Abkar', Firoz Nadiadwala's 'Fool-n-Final', Abbas-Mustan's 'Mr. Fraud' and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Saawariya' - films for which a sum of Rs.4 billions is tied up - the platter seems full.

Ram Gopal Varma's production house, The Factory, might have tasted failure in the experimental 'Nishabd', but in the second half of the year, his much-awaited 'Sholay' hits the screens.

The box-office battle continues to oscillate between the Bachchans - father Amitabh has six releases and son Abhishek three and superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who has one full-fledged film, together have Rs.1.5 billion riding on them.

Thanks to the mushrooming of multiplexes countrywide, offbeat, mavericks' films - Gautam Ghosh's 'Yatra', Rituparno Ghosh's 'Sunglass', Anurag Basu's 'Metro' -have aroused enough curiosity. Also, Mira Nair's 'The Namesake' and Jagmohan Mundhra's 'Provoked' generated good amount of pre-release curiosity.

With millions at stake, films are no longer just creative pieces, but products, with in branding, merchandising and web franchise, which promise profitable returns.

Pritish Nandy, CEO, Pritish Nandy Communications, put it best when he said: 'The number of disasters are decreasing over the years. The wide exposure films get across multiplexes on the opening weekend help them to substantially recoup costs these days unless they are as bad as 'Shakalaka Boom Boom' or 'Red'. I am sure there will be many big hits in the coming months.'

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