Half yearly Box Office review (2006)

Mumbai: Bollywood is smiling. It has a good reason to. The year 2006 is turning out to be a very good one. The dream run that had begun in January with Rang De Basanti followed by major blockbusters such as Fanna and Krrish resulted in Bollywood going in for a clean profit of Rs 3 billion.

It has been a fantastic first half for the industry from the box office point of view. The first six months have witnessed five big hits, an unknown phenomenon for the past few years. Released in late May, Fanaa broke many records grossing Rs. 500 million till date. Fanaa’s success was soon followed by Phir Hera Pheri and Krrish . The other two big hits were Rang De Basanti and Malamaal Weekly. Rang De Basanti did amazing business especially at the urban centres, grossing Rs 200 million while Malamaal Weekly qualified for superhit status due to its moderate budget. Krrish is looking all set to become the biggest blockbuster for the first half of 2006. In its first 2 weeks it has amassed a total gross of Rs 1.2 billion world wide.

The first half witnessed a trend of comedy films hitting the jackpot. First Malamaal Weekly, followed by Tom, Dick and Harry and then finally Phir Hera Pheri. Malamaal Weekly broke the myth that in Bollywood one cannot make a successful film with character actors in lead roles. Amongst other decent success, Anurag Basu’s Gangster earned critical as well as box office success earning Rs. 220 million. 36 China Town, Taxi No.9211, Aksar and Chup Chup Ke also did reasonably well. A dark comedy, Being Cyrus made by first time filmmaker Homi Adjania at a budget of Rs 30 million earned double its cost in just two weeks.

The dream run also experienced some hiccups. Along with the successes there were also major disappointments such as Ankahee, Darna Zaroori Hai, Family – Ties Of Blood, Fight Club, Humko Deewana Kar Gaye, Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Pyare Mohan, Saawan – The Love Season, Tathastu, Teesri Aankh – The Hidden Camera & Zinda.

Sequel Success –

A sequel to the hit Hera Pheri, Phir Hera Pheri was the top grosser among comedies earning Rs 330 million worldwide. It even debuted at the UK Box Office at No.8 in its opening weekend. Attributing the reasons for its success, Phir Hera Pheri producer Firoz Nadiadwala says, “The reason being everone involved with my film right from the actors to the technicians gave their best shot. It was a good team effort.” When quizzed whether he would follow the trend of comedies becoming huge hits and make one more sequel ahead, he says, “I don’t believe in trends but yes I shall be making its sequel and it will be coming up more quickly than the time it took for the Hera Pheri sequel to come up.”

Like Phir Hera Pheri another sequel that emerged as a clear winner was Krrish. A sequel to the superduper hit Koi Mil Gaya (2003), Krrish released on June 23 is achieving path breaking success. With this film, the father son duo of Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan has achieved a hat trick of sorts. Rakesh Roshan feels his film has played a path breaking role in contributing to Bollywood’s profitable run in the first half of 2006. Speaking about his film’s super success the prolific filmmaker says, “The major factors attributing to my desi superhero Krrish’s success were the record breaking 950 prints released world wide and the Hollywood pattern of working we implemented while making the film. Also the marketing strategies and the hype that was created for the film helped. My film has earned Rs 1.2 Billion in just 2 weeks. Now I want to wait and watch which other film can break my record.”

Welcome change –

Noted film critic Deepa Gahlot feels there is a distinct welcome change happening all around. She says, “If we look back at the films released in the first half of this year we see filmmakers attempting diverse subjects. Big film producers are also seen taking the risk of trying out different unusual subjects. I attribute this change to the multiplexes. Earlier a whole lot of audience was avoiding going to the single screen halls citing shabbiness. A major chunk of them was exposed more to the hollywood films. Now, because they have started going back to the cinema halls, filmmakers have started targeting them with varied subjects. They feel this audience is more open to assorted subjects. This is a good trend and if it successfully continues then in the next two years we shall get to see more revolutionary changes in hindi cinema.”

The Corporate effect –

One most important sea change that is being visible within the hindi film industry is that, the corporatisation of the film industry has starting yielding results. With corporate money rolling in more rapidly, accountability is becoming more viable. Major media players such as UTV are offering producers one-stop distribution deals with national and international footprints, as well as giving new directors funds and creative freedom to ideate and make movies. This whole shift is bringing in favourable changes for the film industry. Costing is coming under tight control, films are being targeted very sharply, and marketing has become very fine-tuned and focused.

The days of hit and trial are over. Producers have started realising the value of spending time on planning and pre-production as a result of which cost spillovers are being eliminated, resulting in distributors getting movies at a rational price. All of which is resulting in the most important thing, costs being recouped faster. Adlabs, Applause, IDreams, and K Sera Sera all major hardcore corporate entities are offering opportunities for co-productions and funds. They are driven by bottom-lines while fulfilling the primary need of the market which is to create the kind of product which will impel people to come to theatres.

Are we there yet?

The first half of year 2006 has witnessed filmmakers resorting to aggressive marketing techniques via all possible medias to promote their films. On one side, such marketing helped films like Rang De Basanti, which spent Rs. 80 million on its marketing. However, on the other side aggressively marketed films like Zinda, Humko Deewana Kar Gaye, Darna Zaroori Hai, Chup Chup Ke and Alag fell flat at the box office. Thus, once again proving that story of a film remains the fundamental factor for the success of any film . But, looking at the success run in the first half of 2006 can one conclude that bollywood has finally learnt to play its cards right? Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt disagrees, He opines, “When there is a quest for survival, you are pushed to the edge and you reach the brink of extinction you have to put in your best to acquire attention. If you see my film Gangster it was rich in content, coherent and original but all other films resorted to big starcast, publicity and marketing gimmicks. I haven’t seen Fanaa but I have heard from sources that it lacked good content whereas Krrish relied totally on the special effects. Bollywood is still far from scaling content. So there is still a long way to go before we draw such a conclusion.”

Filmmaker Rakesh Roshan feels, “In Hollywood the producers release 4000-5000 prints of their films but something like this is not possible in Bollywood simply because our film’s market is limited and is confined only to India, UK and USA. Hollywood films have got a more universal reach. We still have a long way to go.”

The two really big deterrents for Bollywood that still remain are the nuisance called piracy, which stems from individuals in its underbelly, and the excessive entertainment tax, which comes from the government. But despite these dampeners, the show is going on, and the money’s started rolling in .

What lies ahead?

If in the first half of this year, theatrical business of Bollywood was Rs 3 Billion across the world then the second half of 2006 holds lots of promise as well. There are a good number of big budget films lined up such as a Omkara, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Dhoom 2, Don, Babul, Vivah, Apne, Eklavya, Guru and Jaaneman. Now if these films hit the bulls’eye then bollywood definitely shall cross the Rs. 4 billion mark in the second half of 2006. If this prediction stands true then by the end of this year Bollywood shall be having a whopping Rs. 7 billion in its kitty, setting a benchmark for the future.

Abhijit Mhamunkar & Rohini Bhandari

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