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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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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.”

READY TO SPOOK YOU OUT: Sheena Nayar
A new film company specialising in horror launches hot Bollywood starlet in first production

TIMES NEWS NETWORK (BOMBAY TIMES; July 22, 2009)

Horror has just got glam. PPC Horrortainment, a division of Percept Picture Company, in association with Glorious Entertainment, is all set to spook Indian audiences with its horror film 8 starring hot Bollywood debutante Sheena Nayar. Believing that a horror film opens doors to a scary world without actually being in danger, Navin Shah, CEO Percept Picture Company, said, “The idea of choosing a new face came from the script requirement. Our understanding is that a fresh face has no baggage and hence is more believable. PPC Horrortainment will specialise in horror films. The idea is to identify gaps in the space and explore it to the full potential. We are also producing Grrrr… directed by Priyadarshan.”
Sheena, meanwhile, said the film will give her the perfect launch platform as even its director, Wilson Louis, felt that her character is a very intense one that only a serious minded actor would be able to pull off. “Nowadays, when trends and clichés no longer work in the film industry, I thought picking up horror as my first film will create intrigue and interest not only in the film but also in me,” said the debutante.

Hollywood has always gone in for horror films because they offer good box office returns. In the last ten years, the market share of horror films in Hollywood has dramatically increased from three to eight per cent, clearly indicating a strong consumer trend. In Bollywood, however, the story has been quite different. In the Sixties, horror was a part of mainstream cinema with super hits such as Madhumati, Woh Kaun Thi, and Mera Saaya running to packed houses. However, over the years, horror got stuck in the B grade. But in 2002, the genre made a stunning comeback with the super hit Raaz. And in 2007, it got a required shot in the arm with Priyadarshan’s blockbuster Bhool Bhulaiya. The recent successes of Phoonk, 1920 and Raaz 2, has set horror on an upswing in Bollywood, and it is into this spine chilling milieu that PPC

Horrortainment steps in with its maiden film 8. Ready to get scared?