When will the industry admit that star power can no longer ensure a good opening and focus squarely on content?
We have just slid over the first half of 2017, and the Hindi film industry is going through its usual roller-coaster of ups and downs. But this year has been particularly surprising. While so-called underdogs like Hindi Medium and Lipstick Under My Burkha left the audience stunned with their substantial content, A-lister movies have done the exact opposite. This year, we have seen many films by Bollywood biggies that were on the ‘Much-Awaited 2017’ list disappoint at the ticket counter on the very first day.
Not long ago, films of actors like Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan would assure massive openings on Fridays. But it seems times have changed as the films of these stars are opening with numbers that are much lower than expected. Tinsel Town’s Bhai aka Salman Khan’s Tubelight released on his favoured Eid weekend this year but it managed to earn only `21.15 crore, which was much less than what the industrywallahs had predicted.
Ranbir’s Jagga Jasoos went through many delays and finally released last month, to a poor opening of `7.75 crore. And the latest addition to this list is of Shah Rukh’s Jab Harry Met Sejal, which proved to be the biggest letdown for the audience this year. The much-hyped film, which could have benefitted from the collaboration of ‘the king of romance’ SRK and director Imtiaz Ali, made only `14.11 crore across India on its first Friday.
Then there’s Arjun Kapoor, who is known for getting a very good day one (look at his previous movies and their first-day collections). His film, Mubarakan, too failed to take a flying start. Surprisingly, compared to its first day, the film’s collections saw an upward trend and it did very good business on Saturday and Sunday.
Also, Tiger Shroff has a huge following among young people and his films too would take a flying start but he wasn’t able to repeat that with his latest release Munna Michael. However, the film racked up decent collections on day one but it was less than expected.
While we know that the shelf life of these films grew shorter due to the negative reviews and unfavourable word-of-mouth publicity, it makes us question why names like these were not able to pull in the audience even on opening day. Earlier, our superstars would, without fail, guarantee a great day one, at least, but going by the recent releases, NOT ANY MORE.
There was a time when movies ran in cinemas for weeks and months, sometimes even years. However, in the last decade, a new phenomenon has emerged, i.e., Highest Day 1, Highest Weekend and Highest First Week. But if our biggies can no longer guarantee, a Great Day One, never mind a Highest Day One, what can we expect from the coming Fridays? What does the future hold? Where are we headed? In times when a long run in cinemas is ruled out, how are we going to recover our investments when our films fail to take even a flying start?
Let’s take stock of this conundrum before things get worse. We talked to tradewallahs and asked them for their opinion on this predicament.
RAJESH THADANI, MULTI MEDIA COMBINES, MUMBAI, DISTRIBUTOR:
There are so many reasons a film does badly on its opening day. Tubelight, Jagga Jasoos, Munna Michael and even Jab Harry Met Sejal were expected to do well. But the trailers of some of these movies were not attractive, some just did not work, and even the songs did not make any special connection with the audience. It is very important for your first look to connect with your audience. If you fail at that stage, your film’s opening will suffer.
BRIJESH TONDON, HK TONDON & COMPANY, DELHI-UP, DISTRIBUTOR: The audience looks to trailers and teasers to get an idea of what films are all about, and if these elements do not appeal to the audience and are not appreciated, there is a good chance that your film will fail on its opening day itself. If you fail to impress the audience, why would they go and watch your film? It’s time we accept that star cast doesn’t matter to the audience any more. Filmmakers need to come up with new and more sensible concepts.
AJAY BAGDAI, RAJIV TRADE LINK, GUJARAT, DISTRIBUTOR: Weak story lines are affecting openings and that is reflected in the performance of films with a star cast like Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in Jagga Jasoos; Salman khan in Tubelight; Arjun Kapoor-Anil Kapoor in Mubarakan; and Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma in Jab Harry Met Sejal. All these films failed to take big openings at the box office. And that’s because, nowadays, the audience’s choices have changed. If a film has a tired or hackneyed story line, why would they pay good money to watch it? Movie-goers are interested only in those films whose trailers promise something new and different. Sadly, we don’t see many films based on new concepts.
DEBASHISH DEY, AUM MOVIES, WEST BENGAL, DISTRIBUTOR: The audience keeps its finger on the pulse of a movie and that determines its outcome. For example, we recently saw director-actor jodi Kabir Khan and Salman Khan working together in Tubelight but despite this great jodi, the film failed to take a giant opening at the box office. Another factor that influences the perception of a film is its title, which is a good indicator of what the movie is all about. That’s where the game starts. If the title is amazing and the film has a good star cast, it bodes very well for the film. But titles such as Tubelight and Jab Harry Met Sejal are not attractive titles. I think it’s time Indian filmmakers pulled up their socks and worked harder to improve our cinema. Also, talking about Jab Harry Met Sejal… Shah Rukh needs to work on concepts other than romantic ones. The film didn’t even have great songs except Beech beech mein. Besides, people have seen the chemistry between Anushka and Shah Rukh Khan before, so there was nothing new to watch in this film.
ARIJIT DUTTA, PIYALI FILMS, WEST BENGAL, DISTRIBUTOR: Today the audience is much smarter than the industry gives it credit for. A film’s trailer, newspaper coverage, songs, promotions etc. give a 30-per cent idea about a film, and films like Jagga Jasoos, Tubelight and Jab Harry Met Sejal have failed to connect with the audience in terms of songs, dialogue promos, teasers, trailers etc. That could be a major reason these films failed to take a good opening.
GAURAV RUPAREL, GIRISH PICTURES, DISTRIBUTOR, SAURASHTRA: The movies we are talking about disappointed with their trailers itself. Salman Khan’s films are usually very glamorous but the trailer of Tubelight hinted that he was playing a different type of role this time. He has done movies like Wanted, Dabangg, Ek Tha Tiger, Sultan and others, which created certain expectations of him as an actor. People don’t want to see him in the kind of roles that he played in Tubelight. With Jab Harry Met Sejal, the title itself was not appealing and the trailer reveals the entire plot, leaving no intrigue or anticipation. I have watched all these three movies (Tubelight, JHMS and Jagga Jasoos) and they have neither comedy, nor entertainment, excitement, or suspense. Besides, the music of these films was not appealing. Music has the ability to considerably boost first-day collections. An example of this is the film Roy. The movie was not at all good and the audience found it very boring. The film still earned `10 crore on its first day thanks to its songs. If it were up to the content alone, the film would have made just `1-2 crore. So, with bad music and repetitive stories, how will films like Tubelight, Jagga Jasoos and JHMS get the audience excited to watch them? Why would people spend good money on bad films? They could easily spend it on another source of entertainment, like at an amusement park.
PS RAMANATHAN, DISTRIBUTOR, RAJSHRI PRODUCTIONS: Today’s audience is very discerning and has its finger on the pulse of films before they even release. Besides, Tubelight or Jab Harry Met Sejal could not pick up later thanks to a weak screenplay. Word-of-mouth publicity made sure everyone knew that the movie had a weak script and the music was not catchy. On the other hand, films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Chennai Express are good examples of strong content leading to box office success as word spreads quickly and these movies enjoyed a good first day and a good run, overall.
BHUMIKA TEWARI, HEAD – INDIA FILM DISTRIBUTION, ZEE STUDIOS: I strongly believe that content has been working at the box office like never before, especially for the last two years. Audience is now relating to a good story line as well as a tight script. Thanks to the strong digital push in India, NetFlix and Amazon Prime are feeding the Indian audience’s need for good content and movie-goers are blatantly and vehemently rejecting content that they don’t like. They no longer watch a movie because it features a star and are demanding the full package – good story-telling and a good subject. Gone are the days when a star could pull in the crowds. The cliché ‘content is king’ has finally come true. Call it unpredictable or discerning, either way, movie-goers have begun to weigh their options carefully before they buy movie tickets. They go ahead only if the word-of-mouth is good.
GANDHARV SHARMA, RED ROCKS MULTIPLEX, OWNER: Shah Rukh Khan has not been getting the right content for a while now. And Jab Harry Met Sejal is not a very good movie. I wouldn’t say it is even a one-time watch. Content is definitely the most important element that determines the outcome of a film, and with the Salman Khan-starrer Tubelight too, the content wasn’t good. People are not interested in watching Salman Khan with his brother Sohail Khan, on screen together. Salman Khan is a brand but people don’t think much of Sohail’s acting skills and thus gave the movie an emphatic thumbs-down.
MANISH TALWAR, IP CINEMA, OWNER: Concepts and songs matter most to the audience today and filmmakers need to pay attention to audience’s demands and preferences. None of the movies that released recently had anything to offer to the audience. There are two things that draw people to cinemas – one is the concept or story line and the other is the film’s music. Songs definitely play a major role in the box office performance of a film. When the audience is not captivated by the story, the audience shifts focus to songs. Most of the songs from the recent releases were not good enough.
JEETU KHANDELWAL, DISTRIBUTOR, ORISSA: Salman Khan changed his image with Wanted and became an action hero. He was earlier regarded as a romantic hero but now he is the Dabangg hero. And now he has come out with Tubelight, which is a brotherhood movie. If your image is not aligned with audience expectations then you will not be accepted. These superstars, who have been virtually made by the public, do not realise that they have to maintain that image. Still, hats off to Salman for making up for the losses of Tubelight with distributors. Also, Shah Rukh Khan is not himself in Jab Harry Met Sejal. As a romantic hero, he no longer has what it takes, which was the reason he was loved by so many girls. Also, you cannot watch this film with your family as it makes you very uncomfortable. Salman Khan, at least managed to rack up decent first-day collections but SRK’s numbers were extremely low, and that was a complete surprise. The movie was sold at a high price and distributors are suffering.
MANOJ DESAI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GAIETY, GALAXY, G7 GEMINI: All these films lack good content. Their stories are not good, and that keeps the audience away. Their scripts, music and execution are not up to audience expectations, so distributors and exhibitors suffer big losses as we book these star films for 3-4 weeks. I request all my ‘Khan friends’ to look into the story before doing a film. We have a strong competitor in television, which is very appealing to the audience.
BHUVANESH MENDIRATTA, MANAGER, MIRAJ CINEMAS: I believe it is a combination of good content and marketing hype. Tubelight and Jab Harry Met Sejal created enough hype but, unfortunately, the response from their trailers and other promos did not find their mark. Salman’s previous movie Sultan had a lot to offer the audience like romance, drama, family connection, emotions, etc, but Tubelight, even with its trailer, did not leave an impact. It was anticipated that Tubelight would not have enough footfalls compared to Sultan. To sum up, I think it is all about content and hype. Movies like MOM and Lipstick Under My Burkha picked up after the first weekend because of their content and people spend on movie tickets only if they believe the movie is worth it. Reviews that appear on social media timelines even an hour or two after a movie releases greatly impact films with weak content.
PREM LAKHANI, RAJ HANS MULTIPLEX, PROGRAMMER: Every star has an image and the public has expectations from that star. An actor may assess a script according to them, but the public decides whether or not to watch a movie based on its trailer. Movies like Mubarakan did not start well but the audience appreciated it and, slowly, it picked up. Ditto for MOM. Coming back to a star’s image and the expectations that carries, in Tubelight, Salman Khan played a very different role from the ones he usually plays. The audience clearly did not approve. With JHMS, people liked the first half but not the second, which misfired. And the perception of Jagga Jasoos was already negative because the film was delayed so much. Yet, despite that and word-ofmouth, the movie did decent business on its first day. Stardom does not work out on its own any more, unless it has a very good subject. People need novelty and will not watch repetitive stuff. For example, Akshay Kumar got back in the game when he mixed his comedy films with movies like Airlift and Rustom.
VISHAL SHRIVASTAV, PROGRAMMER, PVR: Reviews of films after the first day, first show are crucial to determining their fate at the box office. Big stars like Salman Khan usually have back-to-back movies that are house full but, this time, it was shocking to see that his film Tubelight and Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Harry Met Sejal did not work. One of the main reasons for this is that only good content clicks at the box office and word spreads after the first-show’s reviews are out.