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Still Trying To 'figure'

When someone talks to me about box office figures, it reminds me of my relationship with my dad during my teenage years. I was so rebellious that dad had a huge dilemma. He couldn’t keep me, he couldn’t throw me out. Well, my relationship with box office figures was almost similar. Being a film journalist I couldn’t survive without it constantly breathing down my neck, even when I most often couldn’t fathom it.

In fact, when I entered film journalism, if I had even the faintest idea that my career would largely depend upon those dry figures, I would have quietly opted to being a lawyer instead. Figures of all kinds, unless it is to do with the sudden acquisition of a plastic bust by a star, bore me to death. A friend says my left brain is more powerful than the right one. I simply think my figure brain has been dead since I entered primary school.

But thankfully after almost two decades of being right in the midst of those all powerful box office figures, I have started slightly understanding them, respecting them and even having a decent relationship with them. Just like my dad kind of managed to have a fondness for me after I grew out of my aimless teenage.

And boy, have I been witness to its changing face. In the 90s when I was a cub reporter, life was pretty simple. The box office figures had the power to make or mar careers.. I have heard numerous stars, directors, and producers saying with a sigh, ‘Friday to Friday you could be up there or down in the dumps...’  The actual box office figures would be up there in full public view after about a week after the release of the film, much to the delight or the embarrassment of the people concerned with the film.

But the filmmakers of 2000s were not the ones to stand for any embarrassment at the hands of poor box office figures. They decided to raise a somewhat dishonest but louder voice compared to their honest and meek ancestors. Result? Every film is a box office hit, even though in some extreme cases you have watched a movie only for an usher for company!

Even before a viewer is deciding if he should watch a particular movie on a relaxed weekend after it releases on Friday, he is bombarded with amazing opening figures of the film! Soon after the release, a slew of interviews are lined up to talk about how happy every one concerned is with the success of the film. I have attended numerous success parties of films, just about a day after the release and I must admit I have even congratulated the team while sipping their wine, having no idea if the said film actually had people clamouring for it or this was a desperate exercise to drag them to the theatres.

I still don’t understand box office figures as well as a lot of my smarter colleagues do. My figure brain is still happily dead. But I am glad that I am now wise enough to know that the announcements and declarations made by the producers should be taken with a pinch, no actually a bag full of salted popcorn! Happy figuring that!
(Shubha Shetty-Saha is an entertainment journalist)

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