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Yeh Public Hai

There was a time not so long ago, when the regular filmgoer did not know the meaning of film trade terms like ‘initial’, ‘feeding’, ‘overflow’. All they knew was ‘hit’ and ‘flop’.  Now you hear people in the train saying things like. “Picture ko initial nahi mili.”

Earlier, either a film was a hit or a flop. Now there are wheels within wheels. Some films do well in multiplexes, some only in single screens; some do well oveseas, some in ‘B’ centres.  Which also makes it sound as if announcing that a film was a hit in Bihar is a face-saving device for producers saddled with a bomb.

Why is business suddenly so important to audiences, who should be concerned about quality, and why are trade figures filtering out of the Naaz Building, which used to be (and still is) a hub of distribution offices. That’s where there was talk of ‘coverage’, ‘commission,’ ‘overflow,’ all these mathematical permutations and combinations that still befuddle everyone but the trade pundit.

Till a few years ago, who ever heard of film banners proclaiming how many rupees they earned on press ads and hoardings? Who cared? The profits went discreetly to the producer’s or distibutor’s home to be squirrelled away into false ceilings and mattresses, away from the eyes of the Income Tax guys.  Now they tomtom the earnings all over to prove their film is such a big hit.

But the bigger the figures, the more sceptical the layperson is... why do they need to work hard to prove their success? Film producers should occasionally get feedback from people other than their own drivers and peons.

The days of silver jubilees -- which were a surefire proof of a film’s success -- are gone.  It first went down from golden to silver jubilee, then 100 day celebrations, then 50 days and now opening weekend.

If a film survives the crucial opening weekend, filmmakers throw success parties, and put up ‘Superhit’ posters everywhere. The word jubilee has been lost from the lexicon of the film industry, and the designers and makers of those garish mementoes that were proudly displayed in every producer’s office, must be out of business.

The ‘black’ walas must be out of business too. Nobody queues up outside theatres to buy tickets in advance. They either buy online, or go to the multiplex at showtime, certain in the knowledge that tickets will be available.  Those ‘housefull’ boards must also be gathering dust in storerooms.

Everything is now geared for the opening weekend, and films are designed to appeal to multiplex audiences, who spend big bucks to inflate those trade figures.

To a critic or journalist and to most moviegoers, talk of business must be just a topic for ‘timepass’ conversation.  They want to see good movies, or at least a movie that gives them value for money.

Then it is baffling to see, how a film that had four people in the hall on opening day is declared a superhit.  The man in the train says, “Arre, feeding kiya hoga.” Public sab jaanti hai.
(Deepa Gahlot is a film critic)

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