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Number Game

Tracking collections is a reliable guide to an actor’s career– it’s the only real truth in this trade

There are actors who tell the media that they don’t track box office numbers. How is that possible in an industry where collections matter most? How can one not keep track of collections?

I am often asked if I look at box office numbers and I don’t hesitate to admit that I do. Not just my movies; I try and check the numbers of every release. The aim is not to know how well other actors are doing but to know which genre is doing well in each territory. The objective is to know what is working at the ticket window, what the audience’s taste. Trends change overnight and it’s the same with audience tastes. It is therefore very important to know what is working ‘now’ and to move ahead by keeping ‘the now working’ factor in mind.

It is important that everyone down the value chain – producers, distributors and exhibitors – recover the money they invest in a film. No one should lose money. There are many filmmakers who offer you three times your remuneration simply because they want to do a film with you. And the price then escalates.

I would rather do a film that has a much wider appeal, goes to many more cities and has a large audience. I like to keep the cost of production in mind, I do not want to burden anyone with my remuneration. The bottomline is that the film should make money. Numbers do matter. Every film – a film with a great script, a big film or a small film or even a film that aspired to break new ground – is backed by good intentions.

When my film releases, I track its performance starting with the morning shows. Tracking, of course, doesn’t end with the first couple of shows and goes on till the end of the first day. The second day indicates whether the film is being appreciated and the third day whether the collections are dipping. If the numbers drop, you find out what didn’t work.

In the case of Jannat 2, when we were analysing its performance at the box office we realised that we should not have included so many cuss words in the film. That was a big loss. But we did that keeping in mind the Delhi lingo.  When you look back, you find out what worked and what didn’t. Generally, I watch most of my films sitting in the last row of Gaiety cinema. That gives me an idea of whether the audience liked a certain punchline or not.

When filmmakers were shying away from me, assuming that I belonged to a particular production house and that I was suited only for a certain kind of genre (erotic thriller), the numbers came to my rescue. The business my movies were doing at the ticket counter kept the trade on my side. Sooner, not later, everyone changed their perception of me.

I didn’t conventionally look like a hero. I didn’t dance, I underplayed my character and didn’t overact like the rest of the industry. Soon enough, filmmakers realised my worth once the numbers started coming in.

When it comes to selecting a film, I don’t read a script keeping the film’s viability in mind. That’s why, when I did Jannat 2, I also did Shanghai. Shanghai was the kind of cinema I wanted to be associated with even though I knew that  the film would have a limited reach. It was not a commercial film. And I didn’t charge my market price.

For me, it’s always the story which matters the most. Even the newness of the character comes second. Only then do I evaluate the project’s commercial viability. Everybody likes to see emotion, drama and conflict in a film because that’s what makes a film interesting. That’s exactly what I like too. The audience has certain expectations from me. If I feel aise scene mein aise mere se expect karne wale hain… Then I do it.



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