‘The Blockbuster Mentality’ – Mahesh Bhatt




Producer – director Mahesh Bhatt pens a column for Businessofcinema.com on ‘The Blockbuster Mentality’ in the film industry. Says, “If a hit merely creates a lot of noise and does not generate a lot of money then to hell with the hit!”


Read on…


We live in strange times. Tracking the performance of a film at the box-office was just a few years ago the job of few experts in the film community. The world at large including the national dailies of great repute were indifferent or apathetic about which film worked and which bombed. But in the 21st century the scene not only all over the world but also in India has changed drastically.


Tracking top seller lists has become a national obsession. The Indian culture, which boasts of being spiritual in reality, has become very materialistic. Today, if you just look around you’ll discover that our culture has become a massive popularity contest; we are consumed by ‘hits’. Every weekend is a Box-Office horse race. Every Friday, when a film opens the struggle of the fittest begins and the nation like greedy spectators in an amphitheatre watching gladiators fight, wait to watch the final outcome. Even our brothers and sisters who are connected to the television world struggle hard to get the highest TRP ratings so that they may proclaim to the world that they are market leaders. A few hit songs play on heavy rotation on the radio dials on our exploding FM channels. Nervous executives of music companies spend sleepless nights watching songs rise and fall on the charts.


The Americans say that this is the world that the Block-Buster built. The massive media and entertainment industries have grown on the back of these Block-Busters. Be it movies, music or television programs. No wonder hits have become the lens through which we observe and define our culture. We define our age by our celebrities and mass market products. A Himesh Reshammiya, a Rakhi Sawant, a ‘Partner’ becomes the connective tissue of our common experience. Our media is simply obsessed with what’s hot and what’s not. Hits in short, rule our lives.< Page Break >


“Give me a hit, Oh God, Give me a hit,” is the prayer that emanates from every lip, which is in some way connected to the performing arts.


However the paradox is that if you look closer at the so called hits, which the media projects week after week, you’ll find that the picture is not all that rosy as it initially appears to be. The hits these days succeeded in creating a lot of noise but in relation to the hits of the past, they generate much less revenue. The number one today is still a number one but if you brutally look at the sales figures, you will realize that these figures aren’t what they once used to be. Most of the Top-50 best selling albums were recorded in the 70s, 80s or the 90s. Even in Hollywood the Box-Office revenues have come down showing that though the population is growing the theatre going audience is falling. Gone are the days of the Golden Jubilees and the Silver Jubilees. A film rules the mind and the heart of its consumer for not more than two weeks no matter how massive a success it is. Even the heads of the booming television networks concede that they are losing more and more audiences to hundreds of niche cable channels.


India is a young country in which 64 per cent of its population is under 35. It’s natural therefore that the marketers aim to target this segment through their advertising on television. But what these executives are alarmed to discover today is that in urban India this segment is turning off the television all together and starting to switch to internet and video games. The internet has also devastated the newspaper business and has compelled serious newspapers to become more entertainment oriented, because if they do not provide entertainment like the internet does, they would have to close down. A top Hollywood entertainment analyst says, “Though we still obsess over hits they’re not quite the economic force they once were.”


The question I often ask myself is – “Where are these fickle consumers going these days to find entertainment?” The answer is – No single place. Today the young audience in particular consumes entertainment not through one single source but through many. They may download their favorite songs via the internet, wait for films to release on satellite, or buy the biggest hits for merely Rs 12 on DVD. I wonder in a scenario like this, what is the significance of a hit, because if a hit merely creates a lot of noise but does not generate a lot of money then to hell with the hit.