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Governance Deficit

Much like the proverbial underdog in the movies who ultimately emerges triumphant despite formidable odds, Padmaavat has had the last laugh over its many tormentors by notching up collections in excess of `280 crore (as of March 12) to make it the 7th highest grossing Hindi film of all time.

Remarkable as these numbers are, we all know that they could have been even better were it not for the atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by various fringe (and the silence of the supposedly not-fringe) elements.

The decision to watch a film – a totally discretionary, expensive and non-essential choice – is a difficult one for the consumer to make at the best of times, let alone when state governments discourage you from doing so. Despite the Supreme Court striking down the states’ ban in unequivocal terms, the fear psychosis unleashed by the relentless campaign against the film forced exhibitors in important states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to refrain from screening the film.

Though Padmaavat did eventually release in MP, the elements of newness and immediacy that are prime drivers in our business were undoubtedly compromised. Worse, audiences in Gujarat and Rajasthan continue to be denied the choice of watching the film.

While it may be impossible to calculate the full extent of the loss suffered by Padmaavat because of these extraneous factors, we can at least attempt to arrive at an educated estimate. 

To do so, we put the spotlight on the three major states in which the film’s release was most impacted – Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – and examined how much they typically contribute to the average film’s All-India collections. Further, since Padmaavat shares a high degree of similarity with the relatively recent Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani (director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and lead pair Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh), it is relevant to recall how these films performed in the affected states.

Check out the table below:

The way to read this table is: Based on an analysis of the domestic collections of all films during 2017, the state of Gujarat typically contributes 10 per cent of a Hindi film’s domestic collections. However, for Ram-Leela, that share rose to over 23 per cent, while in the case of Bajirao Mastani, the state contributed almost 12 per cent of the films’ lifetime takings. So on and so forth for the other states reviewed.

Now let us see how Padmaavat actually performed in these states and the degree of its divergence from expected norms:

 

The data can be interpreted as: Because of Padmaavat’s delayed release in Madhya Pradesh, it has so far collected `6.25 crore from the state, which translates to 2.23 per cent of the film’s All-India collections. In effect, based on what we saw in the previous table, there is a notional deficit ranging from 2.93 per cent to 4.12 per cent of the film’s lifetime collections, depending on which precedent you rely on: the performance of Hindi films last year, or that of Ram-Leela or Bajirao Mastani.

Of course, the shortfall is even worse in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where the film wasn’t allowed to open at all. In many ways, this was the unkindest cut as Gujarat is traditionally a lucrative territory for films in general and Bhansali films in particular, while Rajasthan is thematically the state that would most relate to the film.

In any case, using the methodology above, the combined notional loss for the three states is variously estimated at 19.27 per cent, 21.08 per cent and 32.34 per cent of the film’s lifetime collections, as per the three bases used for these calculations.

Which leads us to the final piece of the puzzle. If Padmaavat has collected `280.5 crore by effectively operating at only between 67 to 80 per cent of its actual potential, what does 100 per cent translate into?

The answer lies below:

There you have it. We estimate a loss of over `65 crore, at least, going up to almost `135 crore. Had the film been allowed an unfettered run – something that was its constitutional right – Padmaavat’s lifetime tally could have been well over `345 crore and perhaps even as high as `415 crore, making it the first film originally shot in Hindi to go past the `400 crore mark at the domestic box office.

Admittedly, this is a hypothetical study and you may have legitimate queries on the methodology used. But the fact that Padmaavat did suffer a substantial loss, for no fault of its own, is unquestionable.

The biggest question of them all, of course, is who will pay for those losses?

Byline: Nitin Tej Ahuja

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