Bollywood's New Act
the saris, cleavage, item numbers, superstars, love triangles and
glamour, Bollywood is undergoing something of a renaissance.
as long as anyone can remember, this has been the success mantra of
'masala' Hindi films, but India’s film industry is transforming into
‘big ideas’, not ‘big budgets.’
usual mega bucks ‘make or bust’ films are being usurped by the low- and
medium-investment flicks that were at one time labeled 'parallel/art
house' cinema. The difference is that now they are also raking in the
money at the box office.
recent hit list is growing. Despite lacking an identifiable
all-star-cast, small-budget films (made for under 100 million rupees)
such as Aamir, A Wednesday, 1920, Rock On and Phoonk have not only won accolades from the critics, but also drawn the crowds to make hefty profits.
The return on investment (RoI) for Ugly Aur Pagli starring Mallika Sherawat produced by Pritish Nandy is reported to be good. Hulla, made on a meager budget, is a realistic comedy, directed by Jaideep Varma.
These movies follow the successes of others in the genre such as Bheja Fry (budget 5 million rupees, grossed over 120 million rupees), Jhankar Beats, Jogger’s Park and Khosla Ka Ghosla. In the medium budget category (usually 100-200 million rupees), those that have done well include Chak De India, featuring super star Shahrukh Khan, Jannat starring Emran Hashmi, super hit college love story Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and the mega blockbuster Taare Jameen Par, with a young boy as the main actor.
was directed by serious actor Aamir Khan and has been selected as
India’s entry for the Oscars in the foreign language category. It was
actually made for much less than 100 million rupees, but Khan spent
lavishly in promoting it. The dividends have been huge, with the film
winning both critical acclaim and big profits.
Taran Adarsh, a trade analyst, says of A Wednesday,
a 35 million rupees film on terrorism and staring critically-acclaimed
actors like Anupam Kher, that its strength is the 'newness' of the
content. “A Wednesday, may not be a king-size entertainer, like the recent release, Singh is King (budget 500 million rupees) that attracted humongous audiences, but it did pack in a king-sized punch.'
Rock On is going strong a month after its release while Ram Gopal Varma’s black magic movie Phoonk is a scare thriller that has drawn audiences.
nearly 15 million Indian viewers spend about US$1-3 on movies daily.
According to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and
Industries’ (FICCI) annual report on the Indian entertainment sector,
close to 1,150 films were made in India in 2007.
the sheer numbers beat what even Hollywood makes, the movies are worth
considerably lower at US$2 billion. According to FICCI, new techniques
in production, marketing, and growing audiences will increase this to
US$4bn, by 2011.
big production houses may find the going difficult. Big banner Yash Raj
films reportedly earned a return of just 10 per cent from five big
projects last year. In 2004, Yash Raj earned a 150 per cent RoI from Hum Tum, Dhoom and Veer Zaara. And recent release, Love Story 2050, made for over 500 million rupees sank without any impact on the box-office.
to say producers and financiers are closely studying the low budget,
low risk and high returns category of movie making and selling.
Pictures drive audiences, success stories drive scripts and the box office numbers drive the funds.
RoI is attractive if the strategy is sound budget management for a
bouquet of films. Since big stars have limited dates one has to look at
other ways to keep the camera rolling,' Rahul Puri, executive director,
Mukta Arts, said.
equity firms such as ICICI-backed Cinema Capital Venture Fund have
turned their hand to financing movies, while Reliance Big Entertainment
has inked a mega deal with Steven Spielberg for movie-production and
Wafer producer Moser Baer is also tapping this new area of film production with expectations of good margin and profits.
and Mahindra's media venture company CEO Indranil Chakraborty told AFP,
'Fifteen years ago no one could predict that television and
entertainment would be such a huge business. Hence, we are entering
into films with a medium-budget flick, Mumbai Chaka Chak, a comedy caper that will appeal to the masses.'
Indeed, there is more to come: Welcome to Sajjanpur, directed by Shyam Benegal, is a satirical take on the computer illiterate and uneducated Indian village populace.
Saas Bahu Aur Sensex
marks the distribution debut of Warner Bros’ for Hindi films. Despite
its big production house backing, this is a small-budget film sans any
big stars or commercial appeal.
The USP for the film will be its unique story and novel treatment, the likes of which worked in films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Bheja Fry and Mithya.
Sidhwani, co-producer at Excel Entertainment, has said that an evolved
socially conscious audience improves the commercial viability of
different types of cinema.
analysts credit the rising numbers of multiplexes in urban locations
that offer a new platform for the new and younger lot of filmmakers to
play around with subjects, content, audiences and genres.
lack of star power is made up by word of mouth that plays a crucial
part in the first week of the release, considered the critical period
for recouping investment.
sophisticated marketing techniques have taken precedence, giving the
audience an opportunity to make an informed decision to watch a movie
at the theatre from the trailers and previews that are released.
'Multiplexes have changed the way people now think. I believe till five years ago, Rock On would not have been that much of a hit as it has been today,' Komal Nahata, another trade analyst said.
real challenge, however, for the small budget movies is in cracking the
overseas market that big budget Bollywood films have very successfully
tapped in recent years.
Movies such as Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Salaam Namaste, Krissh, have been able to re-coup their investment due to the die-hard non-resident Indian audiences spread all over the world.
Today the US
and the UK are considered big markets for Hindi movies, with a
sprinkling of foreigners too making a beeline for the song and dance
Yet, good things can come in small sizes.
by the urban multiplex culture and the corporatization of the film
industry, the new wave of cinema should stay as the show must go on.
the audiences for these movies are both the classes and the masses, who
have kept the box-office ringing. The pulp-fiction regularly dished out
in a traditional magnum opus is being challenged.
protagonists are no longer the superstars. Instead they are the 'real'
average India middle-class, and their simple daily trials and
tribulations are in for an intimate take.