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Badly Burnt In Year Gone By, Industry Looks To Strong Content

Bharati Dubey | TNN (THE TIMES OF INDIA; January 3, 2010)


Pursue excellence and success will pursue you,’’ was what Aamir Khan’s character philosophised in 3 Idiots. But when the lights dimmed and audiences sat down after the National Anthem, what greeted them on screens for most part of the year was average, even poor fare, making 2009 the annus horribilis of the first decade of the 21st century. More than 200 films, with Rs 1500 crore at stake, released last year but almost Rs 1000 crore sank in the sea of mediocrity without a bubble, the sharks-andsexy bikini Blue leading the pack.
Added to it was the multiplex strike which cost around Rs 350 crore, upset release dates forcing films to share Fridays and dent each others’ collections. A multiplex source said, “Cannibalisation caused by big films’ release dates clashing could have been avoided.’’


The year began with Chandni Chowk To China that lost 50% of its Rs 65-crore budget. And marketing blitzkreigs couldn’t save a Blue and Kambakkht Ishq and the audience clearly showed content was king with surprise hits like DevD, New York, WaKe Up Sid and Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani. DevD made Rs 6 crore, collected Rs 25 crore at the box office while its ancillary rights made another Rs 5 crore and there are still more satellite runs to be sold. Trade experts also put films like Love Aaj Kal, Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani, Wanted among the certified hits, followed by profitable films like Paa, All The Best, De Dana Dan and Raaz 2.


But Bollywood’s loss was Hollywood’s gain, with films like 2012 and Avatar (that collected a whopping Rs 50 crore so far) filling the void for good entertainment.


It was left to And Aamir Khan to play Santa Claus third year in a row, with 3 Idiots the biggest hit of the year. It grossed a phenomenal Rs 100 crore in India in the first four days, and Rs 175 crore worldwide till December 31, even denting into collections of Avatar. Trade analyst Amod Mehra said, “What Ghajini collected in a week, this film has done in three days.


Corporates didn’t really have a great year in 2009 and after the bloodbath in the first half of the year, most of them avoided buying films outright, with even 3 Idiots being released on commission.


Thus 2010 dawns to vastly altered realities — purse strings have tightened by cautious corporates; big banners are no guarantee for success and may dish out big turkeys instead; marketing and stars don’t sell, a good story does; and the days of astronomical fees are over.


“Audiences are very smart, the content ultimately will guide their choices and approval. Marketing and hype will only work if content supports that hype. We may not have a Blue this year but projects like Veer and Prince are costly and prima facie look difficult in terms of recoveries,’’ says a trade expert.


So when Akshay Kumar, blamed for soaring star prices, announced towards the end of 2009 that he would not charge any fee for Farah Khan’s Tees Maar Khaan, it was a lifeline for the industry that had almost gone into the ICU.


Says Amod Mehra, “It is not that people did not come to watch Akshay Kumar films in 2009, it is just that the budgets of the films were so high and his remuneration was almost 40% of those budgets, so recoveries were not possible despite a good opening. But now that the actors are looking at sharing profit with the producer after the cost of the film has been recovered like in the case of Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots then it will be fair enough. Cutting down of star prices will definitely reduce the budget of films and they will become viable and that is definitely going to be the trend in 2010.”


The year thankfully doesnt have a Rs 100-crore Blue in its line-up. Last year most production houses scrapped films as star prices were not viable. In fact, it is learnt Saif Ali Khan is reworking the budget of his next film Agent Vinod starring Kareena and himself. In fact, 2010 is short on mega projects as budget constraints ensured very few got on the floors in 2009.


The first biggie of 2010 will be Veer,
followed by Rann, My Name is Khan, Action Replay, Kites and House Full in the first half of the year. The second half of the year would have Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzarish and Patiala House.


The action in 2010 seems definitely more in mid-size and multiplex projects that would have strong and clutterbreaking content. “There are a lot of films this year that may not topline the Khans or Hrithik Roshan but still have a decent line-up of names and would be thematically different. Tight budgets and good content seem to be the mantra in the decision making corridors of Bollywood. Each company is carefully evaluating its options and are not getting carried away,’’ says Priti Shahni of Indian Films. Corporates, for instance, have decided to take films only on commission, and not buy them outright.


Shahid Kapoor’s Chance Pe Dance, Striker starring Rang De Basanti’s Siddharth, Aamir Khan Productions’ Peepli Live, Vishal Bharadwaj’s Ishqiya would release in the first half of 2010.


Generation-next too would be making its presence felt with Ranbir Kapoor in Anjana Anjani and Rajneeti, Imran Khan in I Hate Love Stories, Sonam Kapoor in Ayesha, and Deepika Padukone in House Full.


As the record breaking run of 3 Idiots that has spilled over to 2010 has shown, great content along with great pre-release buzz make the perfect mix.


2010: Coming Soon
RAJNEETI (Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgn, Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor) BUDGET: 50 cr


DHOBI GHAT (Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar) BUDGET: 15 cr


RAAVANA (Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) BUDGET: 50 cr


TEEN PATTI (Amitabh Bachchan, Sir Ben Kingsley) BUDGET: 35 cr


VEER (Salman Khan, Zarine Khan) BUDGET: 50 cr


RANN (Amitabh Bachchan) BUDGET: 25 cr


ISHQIYA (Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi) BUDGET: 20 cr


MY NAME IS KHAN (Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol) BUDGET: 50 cr


KITES (Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori) BUDGET: 50 cr


ACTION REPLAY (Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai) | BUDGET: 35 cr


GUZAARISH (Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) BUDGET: 50 cr


ANJAANA ANJAANI (Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra) BUDGET: 40 cr


AGENT VINOD (Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor) BUDGET: 40 cr

Figures are an approximate estimation

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Stills from movies (from top) Love Aaj Kal, Paa, New York, Wanted, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and All The Best

…only 4 hits in 2009’s 240-plus films!

MEENA IYER Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; December 23, 2009)

Christmas is round the corner. And Bollywood is sincerely hoping Santa Claus will come to its rescue. Around 240 odd films (including the dubbed titles) have released so far in 2009. But barely four are certified hits. For the No. 1 slot, it is a photofinish between Saif Ali Khan’s Love Aaj Kal and Ramesh Taurani’s Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. A trade source said, “Love Aaj Kal collected around Rs 60 crore but it was also sold at a higher price. While APKGK was sold at Rs 44 crore with print and publicity and will make a neat profit of at least Rs 10 crore for its producers. So, in a way, it is hard to tell which is the clear No.1.’’ Aditya Chopra’s New York is the second biggest hit, followed closely by Boney Kapoor’s Wanted. There is a mixed view on Amitabh Bachchan’s Paa and Ajay Devgn’s All the Best being in the fourth place. Trade analyst Taran Adarsh feels because AB Corp has curtailed the film’s budget to Rs. 16 crore and Paa is still running in multiplexes, it is a profitable film.
According to reliable market sources, lead actors Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan, and director R Balki, didn’t charge their market price. “It is reported that the Bachchans will get to keep the satellite rights of the film (valued at around Rs 10 crore) against their remuneration,’’ said a trade source. While film editor Komal Nahta feels All the Best has also romped home.
Taran said, “This has been the most unfortunate year for Bollywood. The box-office was crippled by the multiplex strike, swine flu and three four big movies clashing each week after that.’’ Distributor Amod Mehra added, “Many films were liked by the audience… but their price failed them. Raaz, Wake Up Sid and De Dana Dan got a fair share of audience — but the price at which they sold was astronomical, ensuring these films were a loss-making proposition for the main buyer.’’
As far as the critics are concerned, they have had to carry the carcass of the films they praised. Whether it was Kurbaan or Rocket Singh. Filmmaker N R Pachisia said, “Ranbir Kapoor is the future of this industry, Saif Ali Khan did himself a good turn with LAK, but the only man who deserves true praise this year is Amitabh Bachchan who with Paa raised the bar of our cinema to an international level.’’
P.S. The one film that everyone is unanimous about is the dubbed version of 2012 that has done as good business as the biggest Bollywood hit this year.

Box Office hits this year!
Love Aaj Kal
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani
New York
Wanted
All the Best
Paa

MUMBAI: If this were a Hindi film, one would say imtihaan ki ghadi aa gayi hai-testing times are here. After a tumultuous year at the box office, the health of the Hindi film industry will be tested from December 4 to February 12. About Rs 500 crore is at stake and many a big brand of the industry will try its luck at the box office.
While Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots is arguably one of the biggest films of 2009, Shah Rukh’s My Name is Khan may give 2010 a headstart at the box office. Brand Bachchan isbanking on Paa and Ranbir Kapoor will try and consolidate his new found viability as a solo star with Rocket Singh. And after his success with Wanted, Salman Khan will hope to emerge victorious once again with Veer.

 

“The film industry tries to avoid releases in the first two weeks of January and also in March (exam season),” says an industry source. “The movie business really picks up during summer vacation time and the festive season. Big releases are reserved for Diwali, Eid or Christmas.”

Why this deviation from plan then? Trade analyst Amod Mehra blames it on the backlog. “The multiplex strike changed many a plan,” Mehra says. “Rann was meant to be a Diwali release but could not manage a clearance from the producers. Shah Rukh’s Dulha Mil Gaya was also marked for 2009 and My Name is Khan was rumoured to be a Christmas release. Veer is the only film that was planned for January 2010 and is on schedule,” he adds.

Producer Mukesh Bhatt has no reservations about time of release. “I released Raaz 2, The Mystery Continues in January and it was a hit. Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, another January release, was a superhit.”

Film trade analyst Taran Adarsh explains that there has always been apprehension in the industry about releasing films in the first two months of the year. “They believe the audience doesn’t really want to start the new year watching films. Also, up north its too cold to get out and go to a cinema hall,” he says. Having said that, Adarsh thinks any month that provides the viewer with good content will be conducive for Bollywood. “Maybe early 2010 will break the jinx.”

About 25 films are releasing between December 4 and February 12. These which include many small-budget films such as the Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah-starrer Ishqiya, Chandan Arora’s Striker and MAMI-award winning Road to Sangam. Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan may clash at the BO with My Name Is Khan and Teen Patti likely to release on the same date. While some exhibitors feel that the release of big films are evenly placed, Mehra believes, “The audience will choose the film they want to watch. They cannot afford to make holes in their pockets and this will affect the fortune of some films.”

Of course, the fact that so many big names have releases within weeks of each other is another issue to contend with. Previously, producers have thrashed out their release dates in an informal manner to avoid overlap of big ticket films. But with the multiplex strike hitting the initial months of 2009 so hard, nobody is in the mood to wait anymore. Ranjan Singh, the marketing head of PVR Pictures is concerned that big releases may cannibalise smaller players. “But if this trend of back-to-back releases in a non-conventional period hits the high notes, all conventional jinxes will be broken and a new trend will be set.”

The most-awaited film this year, Kurbaan has turned out to be a turkey. We speak to trade analysts and industry insiders to gauge what went wrong with the film
By Vickey Lalwani (MUMBAI MIRROR; November 24, 2009)


2009 has been a very bad year for UTV. After three films — What’s Your Rashee?, Main Aur Mrs Khanna and Kaminey — failed to set the cash registers ringing, they were heavily banking on Karan Johar’s Kurbaan, directed by Rensil D’Silva.

But their hopes of having a hit were dashed with Kurbaan proving to be a turkey at the box-office.UTV had bought the film from Karan for about Rs 50 crore and released it across 1,700 screens.

One could understand if the audience gave it a thumbs down after watching it. However, the shocker is that the film didn’t even get a good opening when it released on November 20. Despite being a solo release, it barely managed 35 per cent occupancy on the first day. The box-office collections thereafter have been far from encouraging, flattering reviews from film critics notwithstanding.

Endorsing the fact that the film did not register more than 40 per cent collections in its first three days, trade analyst Amod Mehra says, “Shockingly, the collections on Sunday were even less than that on Friday and Saturday. The film is a big blow to Dharma Productions and UTV. “

Mehra adds, “People are not interested in seeing terrorism any longer. New York did fairly well but that’s because it wasn’t publicised as a film based on terrorism. It looked like a very youthful film with fun elements by John and Katrina. The entire publicity of Kurbaan was wrong. If the heroine of Kurbaan doesn’t want her mother to see her steamy scenes with her boyfriend, how can one go with family members to see such a film?”

Distributor Ramesh Sippy says cautiously, “I don’t want to make any assessment. But yes, Kurbaan has not lived up to its expectations.”

We also spoke to some of the theatre officials. Manoj Desai (of Maratha Mandir, Gaiety-Galaxy) says, “I registered 80 per cent collections on the first three days whereas it did not go beyond 40 per cent in other theatres. However, the collections have nosedived since yesterday. Koi picture dekhne ke liye tayyar hi nahin hai. The overall feeling is that it’s a very serious and cruel film.”

An official from Cinemax, Andheri, says, “We had expected that this film would rake in around 85-90 per cent collections. But from day one, we knew that it wouldn’t be a hit. First day, we registered only 40-45 per cent collections. People have not related to the film, it has no repeat value. On Saturday and Sunday, we recorded only 50 per cent ticket sales.”

Vikram Varma, Fun Republic, communications manager, says, “We recorded 35 per cent in the first three days. But today (Monday), we only have 15-20 per cent occupancy. I think that too many films were released in the past few weeks and this has adversely affected Kurbaan.”

We then spoke to the public to find out why they haven’t gone kurbaan over Kurbaan. 23-year old Eka Lakhani from Lokhandwala says, “I was dying to see Kurbaan as I had heard a lot about it. The film started very well, but soon I realised that there was neither any love story nor any terrorism track. Kareena and Saif got lost in the second half and I had to look for their scenes together. The terrorism part wasn’t explained well either.”

34-year-old Menka Chandiramani from Seven Bungalows says, “I was quite impressed by Kareena and Vivek’s acting but the film hasn’t stayed with me. It had nothing new to offer. Moreover, I wonder why there was so much brouhaha about Kareena and Saif’s sex scenes. We have seen much more than this in Hindi films.”

The director of Kurbaan, Rensil D’Silva, put up a brave front. He says that people are trying to bring down his film. “That happens with every new film. But you know, I am getting a lot of calls and text messages from people whom I don’t even know saying that they have enjoyed my film. I am basically a creative guy. The best people to talk about this will be the distributors of Kurbaan (UTV).” However, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, CEO of UTV remained unavailable for comment.

Karan’s first film with UTV, Wake Up Sid raked in average returns but failed to be a profit-making proposition. And the audience’s thanda response to Kurbaan has only made things worse for Dharma and UTV.

 

LOL: Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor take a coffee break with Rajkumar Santoshi and Ramesh Taurani at the Radio Mirchi studios
Ramesh Taurani’s laughing all the way with his new release…

 

TIMES NEWS NETWORK (BOMBAY TIMES; November 13, 2009)

 

“Fortune favours the brave,’’ says trade consultant Amod Mehra. “Ramesh Taurani of Tips had full faith in his latest rom-com Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani that released on November 6. He, therefore, released it himself all over. Today the film looks slated to become one of the biggest hits of 2009, and if that happens, Ramesh will be laughing all the way to the bank,’’ adds the trade pundit. Taurani of course is pleased as punch. “I knew from the very start that I had a winner on hand,’’ says the producer. “Everything about the film from the story to the emotions, music and its lead actors felt right.’’ He prophesises that Katrina Kaif and Ranbir will even sweep all the awards for APKGK.
Director Raj Kumar Santoshi is more subdued in his reactions but ecstatic all the same. “I’m glad that people are seeing my film three and four times in the same week,’’ says the bespectacled director. “I’ve worked as sincerely on this film as I usually do. It is the blessings of God, my elders, my friends and my well-wishers that Ajab… took a flying start.’’ All trade quarters confirm that APKGK has come like a breath of fresh air, infusing life into the near wilting box office figures of 2009. Now, all the peppy numbers of this film can be enjoyed by tuning into Radio Mirchi.
While Katrina who is on a roll (she had another hit in New York this June) is glad that people are liking her film, leading man Ranbir who is the next big thing, equally modestly says, “Ajab… is my first super-hit. I’m really thankful to the audience and to everyone else who has helped make this film what it is. I don’t know how to react to the film being called a superhit. And I have no idea what else to say except a big thank-you.’’ Post his critical acclaim in Karan Johar’s Wake Up Sid and now APKGK, the Kapoor scion who is knocking furiously on the doors of the Bollywood reigning biggies adds, “I will continue to work hard on each of my films, but I guess now there will more money available to my filmmakers to make the films in the way they want to.’’
Of course, no success story is complete without the verdict from the grass-root level. Brijesh Tandon, a leading distributor-exhibitor from Delhi-UP says, “The Ranbir-Kat jodi is easily the best pair of the season. Their Kaise Batayein Hum Kis Tarah song shot in Turkey has a lilting quality that the audience is freaking out on on.’’ APKGK is like the unseasonal rain that hit many parts of the country. And yes, sometimes when it rains, it pours.
Meena Iyer

CROSSOVER CINEMA Bollywood films do business of crores in Pakistan
The Pakistani film industry, crippled by the flood of Hindi film releases, is agitating for new regulations

Bharati Dubey | TNN (THE TIMES OF INDIA; November 1, 2009)

This year, the Pakistani film industry produced only nine films. The reasons for this dwindle are many but most fingers point to one culprit who, they claim, has killed their industry: Bollywood.


In the recent past, almost every film released in India has simultaneously been released in Pakistan and done business of about Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore. Salman Khan starrer Wanted, reported to be a mega hit in Pak metros, has earned about Rs 5 crore till now; Wake Up Sid grossed Rs 1.5 crore; New York made Rs 3 crore while Love Aaj Kal earned Rs 2.5 crore. Most cinema halls in Pakistan are found playing only Indian movies, leading to a paucity of venues for local films: a source from the Pak film industry points out that there are four Pakistani films ready for release but no cinema halls available to screen them.

But while this swamping has angered many members of the Pakistani film and television industry, there are some who feel it is unfair to point a finger at Bollywood alone. Says Jahanzaib Baig, chairman of the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association, “Local films, which, at 15 to 20 per year, were already in scarce supply, have dropped to around nine. But it’s not only because of Bollywood—the real issue is the lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce in the Pakistani film industry as also the government’s unwillingness to offer a concrete support policy. Unless quality films are produced in the country, you can’t expect the local populace to root for them.’’

Indeed, Baig believes Bollywood has given a boost to the exhibition business in Pakistan. “Indian films have renewed the Pakistani public’s dwindling interest in going to cinema halls, and because of this some new cinemas have been built,’’ he says. “These releases have ensured at least some business for cinema houses which were at the mercy of the local low-quality productions.’’

A source from the Pakistani film industry supports the pragmatism. “When a producer or distributor can buy a Salman or Shah Rukh starrer for about Rs 70 lakh to a crore, why would he want to invest Rs 2 crore in making a Pakistani film which may not have any takers?’’ he says. Adds
producer-distributor Shakeel Akhtar, “Most Bollywood films are bought for between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore and go on to do business of crores, which is good enough for Pakistani distributors who cannot even collect a few lakhs from a Pakistani film.’’

However, fear of complete destruction of the industry has angered some film and television professionals in Pakistan who are now opposing the release of Bollywood films and growing Bollywood content on television channels. “There is a lot of pressure to restrict the number of Bollywood releases in Pakistan, as it affecting the film industry,’’ says Satish Anand who distributed Wake Up Sid and Main Aurr Mrs Khanna in Pakistan. “There will be a new regulation by November, after which not all Bollywood films will get a chance to be released in Pakistan.’’

So Bollywood, which has been getting some additional revenue ranging from a few lakhs to crores, may have to write off the territory very soon. Says trade analyst Amod Mehra, “Pakistan was an additional overseas territory for Bollywood, and though not very big did bring in some money.’’ As for the restrictions, he believes they were bound to happen. “The Pakistani film industry is dying, and Bollywood films had become the last nail in their coffin. This opposition is only to save their industry.’’

LAUGH OUT LOUD: Ajay Devgn, Bipasha Basu and Sanjay Dutt pose with fans who have loved watching their film

Audiences, Bollywood stars and trade analysts, say Ajay Devgn gave them ‘best’ gift of all for Diwali

TIMES NEWS NETWORK (BOMBAY TIMES; October 23, 2009)


Ajay Devgn kept his promise. His film All the Best — Fun Begins… directed by Rohit Shetty, is as fine a Diwali gift to cinegoers as it may get. Slowly, it has picked up steam at the box office and is now laughing its way to the bank. Literally!

“The film didn’t open big on Friday but on Sunday and Monday, it jumped by leaps and bounds — from 30 per cent to 95 per cent,” said trade analyst Amod Mehra. Indeed, because audiences everywhere are having a blast watching the comic timings of Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Mugdha Godse, Fardeen Khan and Ajay. “It’s very refreshing. No number of stars given by critics can change the opinion of cinegoers. Once the public says a film’s a hit, then it’s a hit. This film picked up because of word-of-mouth publicity,” added trade analyst Komal Nahta.

Multiplexes are enjoying the post-Diwali ticket sales that this Ajay Devgn Ffilms’ release is fetching them. “On Tuesday, the film did better business than it did
on Sunday and Monday. The audience, just like me, was laughing its guts out,” said Ashish Saxena from Reliance BIG Pictures. Devang Sampat from Cinemax attributes the success to Ajay having picked the right script for the festive season. “It’s been a trend where people look for total entertainment during Diwali. They just want to have a good time… I’m expecting this film to do even better in the coming days,” he said.

Not strangely, film critics
have given good ratings to this one too. Even Bollywood stars, keeping their own films aside, have been entertained by this comedy. “It’s an honest entertainer and I laughed throughout. I felt happy after watching it,” said hunk John Abraham. Ditto was the reaction of the producer’s wife and beautiful actress Kajol. “I laughed, my daughter Nysa laughed and the whole theatre laughed. And that’s when Diwali started!” she said.
— SWB

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