By Anindita Sarkar
It’s the season to celebrate Bollywood. First, the 20th Annual Screen Awards in January, followed by the 59th Filmfare Awards the same month and then the Zee Cine Awards held last month. And what do they indicate? That Bollywood is changing. Why? Well, firstly because biopic as a genre has finally got the audience on fire. Courtesy Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the genre was at the top of the jury list at all awards this year. Of course, niche, ‘star-less’ and content driven movies such as Shahid which won the best screenplay award at Screen and The Lunchbox which got the best debut director award at Zee Cine Awards also won accolades. And, a film like Chennai Express announced as the best marketing movie of the year at almost all events showcased how important marketing is for Bollywood, which continues to be largely an unorganised sector, still! It was the year 2012 when the sector experienced a new lease of life after several years of muted growth. Audiences returned to the theatres and India’s domestic theatrical revenues grew by 23.8 per cent year-on-year, thereby contributing almost 76 per cent to the Rs.11,240-crore film industry. However, experts argue that it was year 2013 that offered the most exquisite opportunities to the industry and won accolades for several successful experiments. In 2013, eight movies including Grand Masti, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela made it to the Rs.100-crore club. Also, three movies — Dhoom 3, Chennai Express and Krrish 3 — managed to cross the Rs.200-crore box-office collection mark and thus, brought to an end the much-touted reign of Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots since year 2009.
A 2012 versus 2013 comparison will suggest that the craving for South Indian remixes and ‘single-screen’ masala movies in 2012 waned in 2013. As a result, movies like Policegiri, Bullet Raja and Ramaiya Vastavaiya flopped at the box-office. In fact, even star-led movies such as Boss could not make much noise at the plexes unless they boasted enough of differentiated content. On the other hand, small budget movies such as The Lunchbox, Fukrey and Aashiqui 2 with an even lesser known star-cast, tasted blood.
Small (Rs.6-12 crore) and mid budget (Rs.15-40 crore) projects such as Sushant Singh Rajput’s Kai Po Che, YRF’s Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Farhan Akhtar’s home production Fukrey, Remo D’Souza’s ABCD — Any Body Can Dance, Arshad Warsi-starrer Jolly LLB and Kunal Khemu’s Go Goa Gone came as surprise hits, indicating that movies with offbeat storylines, real life inspirations, youth-driven scripts and served with a dash of humour were increasingly finding audiences. Movies that reach out to the multiplex audiences were clearly the norm for 2013. The motion picture business in India is expected to touch Rs.19,000 crore in the next five years, with multiplexes being the main driver. No wonder that multiplex chain operator PVR Cinemas added 69 screens in financial year 2013-14.
“These were quite interesting signals. 2013 was a good year for the industry and showed us that audiences are now opting for high powered content. Cast is not as big a criteria as it used to be in the good old days and there is the emergence of an alternative menu. Consequently, it’s time for content creators like us to not just to set up projects, but to create cinema,” says Tanuj Garg, CEO—Balaji Motion Pictures.
At the same time, the entry of studios in the film production business continues unabated, with television broadcaster Multi Screen Media (MSM) debuting in June 2013 through MSM Motion Pictures. Says Sneha Rajani, deputy president and head, MSM Motion Pictures, “Most media houses right now in India and across the globe are vertically integrated players. We are no different. We wanted to get into this business, especially in light of the way the movie business in India is growing.” MSM Motion Pictures aims to co-produce small to mid budget films costing Rs.5-15 crore. Rajani too agrees that 2013 has been a phenomenal year. “With the number of movies released and the the kind of businesses that they had, it only goes on to show that we have still not tapped the potential of the industry to the fullest. The movie making business is only going to grow exponentially in the next five years,” she added. For the record, MSM’s first co-production with Eros International, Bajate Raho, was released in July last year. Its latest co-production, Darr @ the Mall, released last month. Youngistaan, a collaborative venture between MSM Motion Pictures and the Vashu Bhagnani owned Pooja Pictures, releases on March 28.
“Today, about 70-75 per cent of the domestic box office collections come from multiplexes. Ticket prices at multiplexes increase by about 10-15 per cent every year, so their contribution will only go up further,” says Shailesh Kapoor, co-founder and CEO at Ormax Media—the specialised media insights firm. According to Kamal Gianchandani, president, PVR Pictures, growth in the film business is led by two factors — growth in the number of people who come and watch (read admissions) and the growth in the ticket prices. “In 2013, growth was witnessed on both these parameters. The average ticket price (ATP) in multiplexes grew by about 7 per cent while the overall ATP growth nationwide was about 9 per cent. The admissions, meanwhile, have grown by 3-4 per cent,” he says.
Quite evidently, Indian cinema and its consumers are ready for a fresh revolution.
And therefore, the slate…
Viacom18 Motion Pictures (VMP), a full play studio that creates Hindi, English and regional language films, is set to release Manjunath, its next after the recent mid-budget movie Queen, starring Kangana Ranaut, for a March-end release. Set in India’s hinterland, the film is based on the real life story of Manjunath Shanmugham, an IIM Lucknow graduate, who joined an oil company and then went missing.
Additionally, after the resounding success of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the studio is creating another biopic titled Mary Kom that portrays the journey of a woman pugilist who goes on to win an Olympic medal. The slate also includes Dharam Sankat Mein, a project that builds on the success of OMG —Oh My God. It is a satirical take on the religious idiosyncrasies of the common man. Gabbar is an action thriller with Akshay Kumar and the studio is also working with the award winning duo Sujoy Ghosh and Vidya Balan on a still unnamed thriller. VMP is also producing Margarita With A Straw, which describes the journey of Laila, a spunky girl born with cerebral palsy. Challenging the norm, it explores how a girl like Laila is curious about sexuality.
Across town, Disney India (earlier known as Disney-UTV) too has a number of movies that span a wide variety of genres ranging from drama, action and horror to romance, comedy and thrillers. The slate also features the first set of locally produced Disney branded movies including Khoobsurat, P.K., ABCD 2 and Jagga Jasoos (ABCD 2 and JJ release next year). Meanwhile, Imtiaz Ali directed Highway which has just been released, Vishal Bhardwaj directed Haider which is to be released in September, the Salman Khan starrer Kick, an Eid release, directed by Sajid Nadiadwala, Kabir Khan directed Phantom, slated for an October release, and Kunal Deshmukh directed Shaatir are all slated to release this year. It is also co-producing the Lingusamy directed Tamil film, Anjaan starring Suriya, which is slated to release mid 2014.
Now talk of Balaji Motion Pictures and here is how the slate looks like: Shaadi Ke Side Effects, a romantic comedy that released last month, Ragini MMS-2—India’s first ‘horror-and-sex feature that releases on March 21; Main Tera Hero, a romantic comedy that releases in April and The Villain, an action romance co-starring Sidharth Malhotra and Shraddha Kapoor, that releases in June. According to market sources, Balaji Motion Pictures is investing more than Rs. 120 crore into its film business this year which also includes the marketing and distribution costs.
Meanwhile, the bigger studios including VMP and UTV are investing around Rs.500 crore this year. The smaller production houses are also aiming high. DAR Motion Pictures (DAR), a wholly owned subsidiary of DAR Capital Group, came into limelight last year with releases such as The Lunchbox, D Day and Mickey Virus. This year it intends to grow further with movies such as Fattack—a fun youth film against the canvas of ‘gulli’ cricket at a budget of Rs.6 crore, Baaji—the first Marathi vigilante superhero film essayed by Shreyas Talpade at a budget of Rs. 4 crore, Bikini Murders — a crime thriller with an international cast with a budget of Rs.45 crore) and Haunted 2 – sequel to the 3D stereoscopic horror film Haunted 3D for a budget of Rs.2.15 crore.
“In 2014, Peekay, Kick, Singham 2 and Happy New Year are some of the big films. But you can be assured that there will be several mid-range films that will stand out, if they get good audience word-of-mouth after release,” adds Shailesh Kapoor, co-founder and CEO at Ormax Media—the specialised media insights firm.
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