Sunday, September 1, 2013

Business of Bollywood

Bollywood – The stuff that dreams are made of. A place where the most creative minds in the country come together and create magic. Where the most beautiful and recognisable faces of the country find employment. An industry that is larger than life and should remain that way.
It is said that every year thousands of young boys and girls come to Mumbai with stars in their eyes, to catch a glimpse of their favourites and also to replace them some day at the crown.
Lets see how Bollywood compares to Hollywood in numbers -
Hollywood (HW)                                    Bollywood (BW)
Started                                                  1910                                                          1913
Movies/yr (2012)                               200+                                                           100+ (only Hindi)
Revenues                                              USD 10.7 BN (1 BN = 6,500 cr)              2,500 cr
Some Interesting trends –
Remakes of old hits – Don, Himmatwala, Sholay (more than a couple of times), now Zaanjeer. We seem to be quickly running out of ideas.
No Villains – Rich men used to be villains earlier, now mostly policemen and politicians (both heros and villains, if heros they are mostly seen battling people from their own department). Society has changed, wealth is now celebrated. Heros and heroines in movies are generally well off.
Videshi Heroines – Ladies who can’t speak or understand our mother tongue become leading ladies so easily – is talent so short here or is fair skin the only calling card to success? But then, a foreign lady married an Indian prince 43 years ago, has been living in India since then, ruling the country by remote control for the last 10 years also can’t speak our mother tongue!! We really are very tolerant lot.
Everyone believes in over the top promotion now – Before every major release all the stars/directors/body guards HAVE to be present on maximum possible shows to promote a movie. Totally unnecessary – enough expectancy builds up before a good movie and word of mouth takes care of the rest – look at the recent hits will prove the same – A Wednesday, Vicky Donor, Kahaani, Aashiqui – no over the top promotions but very good collections. If this was a sure shot way, no big budget movie would fail – ask the Himmatwala/Lootera/Once Upon A Time In Mumbai/ Dobara producers.
2 big movies can’t release together – If they do, one of them is doomed – When I was in college, two cult movies released on the same day – 15 June 2001 – Lagaan and Gadar. Both of them went on to do roaring business and broke many records. Not because they catered to different audiences – the cinema going public is necessarily the same. Most people watched both the movies – when one doesn’t get ticket of one movie, they prefer to watch an alternate instead o going home. Of late that alternate has been a Hollywood movie.
100 cr is THE figure to achieve – (reproducing from last week’s blog) the 100 cr club is serious underachievement – at a population of 125 cr and the govt figures of middle class + population of 30 cr, even if 2 cr people watch a movie the collections should be 100 cr at Rs 50/- per ticket. I think more than 2 cr people do watch a movie, especially over extended weekends with holidays. If BW is serious about its business, they should be targeting a 1,000 cr business per movie – it will happen soon after the mindset of producers change. This year 4 HW movies have already done 1 billion USD collections – and we think BW is having a great year!! The fact of the matter is that more and more people across the globe are looking forward to watch good content, we Indians included.
Stars are pulling the industry down – Budget of the movie – 80 cr. Cost of a star – 30 cr. No industry can sustain this. Because you spend so much on a movie, you definitely want to to stick to a “workable” formula. So the same crappy stuff keeps getting dished out, where “success” is guaranteed – only the measure of success is all wrong. If this is continued, many will just stop going to a BW movie altogether. When only 10% of the movies produced make money, you have to make sure that even if your movie dosen’t work, you lose small money. That can’t happen if the stars keep charging the fee that they currently do.
We need to move to studios – soon – We go out and watch an Excel Entertainment (Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidwani) movie irrespective of the starcast (loved Fukrey as well). We also don’t watch a Sajid Khan production irrespective of the starcast. Studios matter in HW, they should also start mattering here. The good studios will start recognising that the trust in their content will take them much longer than the few hundred crores that a studio might earn by promising a movie that fails to deliver.
Movies reflect society – they are no longer about struggle and triumph (Bhaag Milkha was a notable exception). The lead players are usually rich and happy go lucky. Villains are absent. Characters are grey instead of black and white. Item numbers are seriously in (some movies even have 2). Most characters are uni dimensional. Movies reflect society. They should also lead society by showing desirable virtues – after all good always triumphs evil.
Where is the fresh blood – SRK and Akshay Kumar were the last rank “outsiders”  who made it big. That was 20 years ago. Heroines have been more lucky – some non Godfather backed names do get launched every year. The industry should encourage diversity.
We are going South, in a hurry – lot of ideas and successful movies are being re made successfully in BW.
 Like any industry in India, BW has not only to be world class, but world beating.
As an industry, BW is also very exploitative in nature. And the rewards are disproportionately stacked in favour of the big stars. For people who complain that the payout ratio of a CEO to a manager is too high – the same for a star to a technician is staggering.
And yes, how could I not mention the “inspiration” that BW derives from HW – songs, stories, characters, posters and what not. Not they should not be complaining, after all the name Bollywood was also inspired by Hollywood.
AM happy to note yesterdays Economic Times front page story that RBI is talking to large temple trusts to lease/sell their gold holdings. For those who read my second blog “Is Gold the problem or the solution” will know that it was one of the solutions offered. There are 5 more for those who might be interested in knowing what else can be done. Although I should not take credit, I am happy being a part of the “solution”
Next week, I go back to economics – Senior Citizen Rupee – can it become young again.
I would be happy to know your thought and feedback.

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