The Great Box Office Divide
There are too many factors attributing to the final box office response and the figures. The distributors and the audience are not the only people responsible for box office successes or failures. The system is a tad more complex.
Sure, a star has a price bigger than unrecognized cast or production house. But what needs to be taken care of right away is the 'blocking' of a low-budget (but a well made) film.
Director of What the Fish Gurmeet Singh explains, ‘Promotion of the film which is a part of the post production pretty much determines the opening of the film which eventually determines the shelf-life of the film.’
Director of Filmistaan Nitin Kakkar seconds him about the changing fate of films each Friday. For instance, two movies with massive openings could alter the fate of the other depending on when each gets released. A Friday changes the game in the box office list.
Singh adds that the film makers are well aware of what other films release alongside theirs. Hence, the release date of a film needs to be a calculative decision. It is particularly essential that the audience is educated and made aware of the product - in this case - the film.
For a movie with no stars, the content is the hero. The production has to come up with cost-effective and economic ways of advertising the film. The finest example would be Ekta Kapoor’s promotion of the 2011 release Ragini MMS. They used simple messages written behind auto rickshaws.
There were films like Nishikant Kamat’s 404 and Nagesh Kukunoor’s Aashayein which did not do well because they were not promoted amply. It is the responsibility the film makers to make sure that the movie goers are made well aware of a new film well before its release.
The behaviour of the Indian consumer is unpredictable. ‘Box office is the word of god as it is based on numbers. Quality is subjective and the term Indian audience as an entity cannot be clubbed together,’ is what writer of Ram Gopal Verma’s Rakhtcharitra Prashant Pandey has to say. While the truth lies in the age old saying, jo dikhta hai woh hi bikta hai, one must not rob the film of its inherent idea.
There exists a group of frustrated audience who want to watch good films. These audience, however, are a minority. ‘If such frustration was real and backed by numbers we would have seen some earth shattering cinema movement,’ rants Pandey. The audience must demand sensible cinema by learning more about films that offer a great story rather than blindly following the age-old ritual of hero-worship which is a flawed idea of credibility.
There is another side to the alternate or parallel cinema which, more often than not, exhibits depression and disturbance. ‘No one wants to buy sadness,’ admits scriptwriter Nitin Dwivedi. Such films generally run the risk of a very limited audience and again, either a great star cast, renowned production house or outstanding promotion can only come to its rescue.
It is unfair to deny a screening when the number of audience feature in single digits because the film makers are counting on even a handful of people to watch the film and spread the word.
Theatre actor and curator Mia Maelzar says that there is a dire need of dialogue between small budget filmmakers and big budget filmmakers to come to an understanding of the latter’s support to the former. Also, the distributors must not be revenue mongers.
Distributor and producer Soumo Ganguly elaborates what all factors count for placing shows – food and beverage revenue is also a part of the total revenue shared between malls and distributors and is made affordable only for big budget films and this also leads to the clear upper hand of commercially successful films.
‘In a shop the more popular items are on display while the rest are kept inside. Same is the case with film screenings. Any business’ main idea is to cater to the audience rather than being concerned of what is good,’ explains producer with Anurag Kashyap films, Shaan Vyas.
Producers have a tendency of undermining the audience in assuming that the they will not grasp a story if it is not spoon-fed or will lose interest if the film is not ornamented with an irrelevant soundtracks. This in turn gets fed by the bulk that constitute the obsessed fans of certain Bollywood avatars who choose to blindly attend to and propagate their works. They ignore the fact that the changing minds of today’s generation and their parents’ generation praise Hansal Mehta’s Shahid as well as Citylights.
Journalist of Daily News and Analysis Pranav Joshi and associate of Tuli and Company, Saket Satapathy, both research well before going for a movie and express their disappointment at having to watch the next best alternative in case of unavailability of their desired film. But this is only a fragment of an upcoming class of educated people. For the sheer lack of availability they cannot sufficiently champion the labour of a subservient filmmaker.
Theatres are gradually shifting from only established productions’ films to ones made by freshers, unappreciated talents with high potential. PVR Director’s Rare is an example of releasing selective films from festivals and bringing them to film enthusiasts. Inox’s Signifia is another such endeavour but with exorbitant ticket prices (2013 release Ship of Thesis was priced very high) the domain remains restricted to the elite.
Dwivedi says, ‘We cannot only blame the makers but the whole system of distribution is equally responsible for any uneven screenings of films and the time slots allotted. But I think this scenario is changing with time as few good filmmakers have acquired their place in the industry and people have started accepting good low budget films.’
There should be better initiatives made by industry insiders, censor board members and distributors to make releasing good films a priority over catering to the bulk’s unsound sense of cinema. The gap of two extremes - mainstream and alternate cinema – is one that needs to be bridged. Aiming at a balanced cast of actors and new faces in a character-driven film could be a producer’s contribution to the change in the Indian film industry that is moving forward. For those of us who crave quality cinema - there is still hope.