As the nation eagerly awaits the release of SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali: The Conclusion, in the hope of finally finding out why Kattappa killed Baahubali, the makers of the film have pulled off a coup of sorts. In a smart marketing feat, they re-released the first part in cinemas just a few weeks before the sequel’s release.
For fans of this war epic, this is nothing short of a treat. Business-wise, Bahubali: The Beginning raked in about Rs.3 crore in its first week, far more than any of the Hindi films that released along with it. There was the family drama Mukti Bhawan, which earned Rs.45 lakh in its first week; the musical comedy Laali Ki Shaadi Mein Laaddoo Deewana, which managed Rs.78 lakh; the erotic love story Mirza Juuliet, which clocked Rs.60 lakh; and Ranvir Shorey-starrer Blue Mountains: A Modern Day Classic, which brought in Rs.12 lakh.
This is hardly the first time a Hindi movie has been re-released, although, admittedly it hasn’t happened in recent times. Some Hindi movies that did good business during their rerun were Mere Naam Joker, Mughal-E-Azham and Sholay.
However, filmmakers keen on making some easy money, especially during dull phases for the movie industry, should be cautious as it’s not all that straightforward.
Mukta Arts founder Subhash Ghai, who is planning to re-release his 1999 film Taal, sees merit in such a move. “If Baahubali… did well in its re-release, it confirms my belief that the audience wants to see big canvas films on the big screen. I am sure it is a different experience to watch your favourites again on the big screen. Of course, the timing has to sync with other events as practice in trade,” says Ghai.
“Baahubali was an exception,” believes Apurva Mehta, CEO of Dharma Productions. “It is an epic film and a cinematic experience. With the second instalment about to release, we thought this would be an ode to the second film and there were a lot people who wanted to watch the first one. In fact, we had demands from the exhibitor to re-release the film, which is why we were not expecting any numbers from it, yet it did well.”
While the Baahubali… rerun was essentially meant to generate and sustain curiosity for the sequel, Managing Director of Mukta Arts Rahul Puri believes it’s a trend worth exploring. “I think there is an opportunity here. We will certainly be continuing our ‘Classics Are Back’ slot at New Excelsior, and might replicate it in our other cinemas.”
Puri points out that Baahubali probably sustained through the week as the sequel was up for release shortly. “So there was real interest in reliving the first part before watching the second. I have no doubt that big, popular films will always find an audience when re-released but perhaps not for an entire week,” he reasons.
BH Basha of Bahar Enterprise, a Mysore distributor, has a very different take and says, point blank, that reruns will not work. “Baahubali: The Beginning has received a very good response. I think it was a very good idea to re-release the film, which is helping hype Baahubali: The Conclusion. Re-releasing this film made sense. But I don’t think re-releasing other films will really work. Many popular films are aired on television every day, so why would people spend good money to watch them again?”
That logic could, in fact, work perfectly in times like these, when sequels, prequels and franchises are dominating the celluloid world. Thomas D’Souza, programming head of PVR Cinemas, agrees. “The bug of sequels and prequels has bitten Indian film studios in a big way, so re-releasing films that connect serially and logically makes good business sense, but only close to the release of an instalment of the series.”
D’Souza also sees merit in re-releasing films which have nostalgic value, “Films with heavy-duty nostalgia find takers, like the re-release of DDLJ to celebrate the 20th year of its release. If only we didn’t have so many regulatory hurdles, movie marathons and midnight screenings would be a good chance to offer something new to the audiences.”
Many believe that reruns provide a second opportunity for good films that did not hit their mark first time around. Director Raj Krishnan Menon says, “Sometimes, films are released when the audience is looking for something else and so many good films don’t find the audience they deserve. I think it could be a good idea to release films again. I would love to re-release my film Barah Aana as I think there is an audience for this film even today.”
According to Nagesh Kukunoor, a filmmaker who has often made films way ahead of their time, opines, “If a film has box office potential, then it must be re-released. I would be curious to see how some of my older films like Hyderabad Blues or Teen Deewarein would fare with a newer audience.”
Like distributor Basha, filmmaker Sajid Khan too believes that re-releases are restricted by their screening on television. “The truth is, re-releases in movie cinemas cannot be done on a massive scale because once a film hits the screen, whether big or small, it is out on TV within a few weeks… and on the day of its release on mobile phones via pirated sites. So why would anybody go to see a movie in the theatre again, even if it released five years ago?”
Khan says re-releases make no sense unless they are a continuing series. “So, for instance, if the latest part of the Star Wars franchise is about to release, you have a marathon run of seven parts. Fans can buy a season ticket for, say, 12 hours and sit through it all. That is for specific fans though.”
The filmmaker points out that satellite television now re-releases every film. “Every single day, there are movies which you saw and which you saw again and again and again. There are movies which play on satellite television throughout the month. Those are real re-releases because those movies have hit out numbers on TV and audiences have liked them.
“As it is, cinemas are getting fewer and fewer footfalls. People are spending less due to the high prices of multiplexes and the lack of good content in Indian films. You have insignificant films releasing week after week by the dozen, films which have no buyers in cinemas or films which do not have any rating on TV. But they still release, and they get damn good reviews, and people talk about them for a day, and the next day they have shut down because not a single ticket has been sold. So, as it is, people are wary of going to cinemas and buying tickets, so why would they buy tickets of a movie which they had paid to watch a year ago?”
Distributor Aditya Chowksey heartily agrees. “About a decade ago, the business of reruns was very important to the industry. First, they were excellent fillers during dull periods; second, they brought in revenue for producers and distributors. However, with the age of satellite channels dawning, the business of reruns has seen a downslide because of multiple telecasts on television.”
Chowksey says another reason reruns won’t work today is that the industry is not making enough mass-appeal films. “The more mass-appeal films you make, the greater the chances of a film doing good repeat business. My father, JP Chowksey literally forced Mr Raj Kapoor to re-edit Mera Naam Joker and that film went on to do roaring business. Baahubali… was a very good experiment. In that week, there were no big releases. In fact, the film saved single screens from plunging into a deficit during that week.”
He says there is a market for reruns, but only of a particular kind. “I feel films with a larger-than-life image, films that have got that kind of canvas, that kind of scale, should be re-released. Why should we look at Hindi films only? Look at the Titanic, it did good business even in India.”