Number game

Number game

Hindi film industry is witnessing a new trend called ‘100 Crore Club’. For any film now, the opening weekend in theatres decides the fate of the movie. Rajiv Vijayakar traces the possibilities and effects of this phenomenon.

What’s in a figure? The 100 Crore Club is now Hindi cinema’s elite yardstick for a film’s huge connect with masses and classes alike, causing to mega-money to pour in for filmmakers and the corporates backing them.

Ranging from in three (Chennai Express) to about 40 days, 22 films so far have crossed this magic figure. The list began with Ghajini (released in Christmas 2008) and, as of now, Grand Masti is the 22nd film to join the club. Interestingly, these are the only two films with an ‘adults only’ certification to reach this benchmark — Ghajini had excessive violence, and Grand Masti a liberal dose of sex and sleaze!

The basics

But first, the basics: when does a film become an eligible member of this halcyon club? The figure stands for a domestic net collection – in other words, the money a film makes on ticket sales, only within India and after the Entertainment Tax is deducted.
And now for the huge variables in this constant benchmark: starting with the ticket rate. For example, it would be absurd to surmise that Chennai Express is a bigger hit than 3 Idiots in 2009 simply because the former has crossed Rs 228 crore and is still running, while the latter stopped at Rs 202 crore (this is called ‘lifetime’ collections, as re-releases today are almost passé). Allowing for hikes in ticket prices over three years, 3 Idiots would be ahead by several crore!

For the same reason, Dabangg, which reached the 100-crore mark in 10 days and made Rs 140 crore lifetime, is still considered a bigger hit than Dabangg 2, which made the grade in six days with an eventual lifetime of Rs 155 crore. As trade analyst Amod Mehra puts it, “The film was a hit, but as a sequel, it failed. Sequels should ideally perform better!” (Incidentally, this is the only franchise that features here with both parts. Singham 2 is coming up, and Golmaal 3, Don 2, Housefull 2 and Grand Masti are sequels of earlier films).

Yet another trick is of manipulating ticket-rates according to shows (weekends, prime-time etc.), and since it is also prestigious to reach the mark ASAP, increasing the number of prints at release — a single multiplex may even have 25 shows of a big film daily!
What’s more, key festivals like Eid, Diwali and Christmas and national holidays are considered as great incentives, and so we have films releasing before Friday to get in the extra numbers to boost the crucial opening weekend collections.

It is perhaps apt to ask whether the 100- crore figure is thus relevant anymore when in 2013, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani has made Rs 190 crore, apart from Chennai…’s high score. Last year, Ek Tha Tiger had touched Rs 199.5 crore. So, should not the new yardstick be at least Rs 150 crore?

And here we come to the final and most important variable: the cost of a film! Mirani points out that for those corporates or distributors who bought these films and spent on their marketing, many movies in this list were just average runners or only broke even in profits, and in some cases, the buyers even lost money vis-à-vis the acquisition figures.

The standout loser was RA.One (2011), which made Rs 115 crore at the box-office against a cost of over Rs 160 crore. Of course, we also have the non-theatrical revenues that include satellite and video rights, overseas and music rights, in-film advertising and more that decide the final balance sheet of a film, which has nothing to do with this figure!
And so on, one aspect is clear: none of these 22 films are a patch, business-wise, on past all-time great hits like Mughal-E-Azam, Sholay, Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Gadar-Ek Prem Katha, whose inflation-adjusted figures would cross Rs 400 crore and (far) more!

Star-studded affair

As of now, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Grand Masti remain the only non-star films in this list. This made their achievements bigger than the films starring Salman (Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Dabangg 2 and a cameo in Son Of Sardar), Aamir (Ghajini, 3 Idiots) and Shah Rukh Khan (RA.One, Don 2, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Chennai Express), Akshay Kumar (Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore), Ajay Devgn (Golmaal 3, Singham, Bol Bachchan, Son Of Sardaar), Hrithik Roshan (Agneepath, cameo in Don 2) or Ranbir Kapoor (Barfi!, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani).

Interestingly again, Bhaag… was a critics’ delight as well, while Grand Masti was universally slammed by reviewers and yet made it. And in that sense, they sent a more significant message to the filmmakers: that other than A-list stars, what works today is the surprise element in the content, sex or otherwise. No one, for example, expected Grand Masti to be so bold and brazen, so despite a lack of hot stars, the audiences lapped it up, and the critics were shown their place.

The 100 crore club also highlights some aspects: one, we do not find exceptional music in more than a few cases — only four films — Sajid-Wajid’s Dabangg (with “Munni” done by Lalit Pandit), Himesh Reshammiya’s Bodyguard (with one song by Pritam), Sajid-Wajid’s Rowdy Rathore and Pritam’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani — had musical scores that gave these movies blockbuster openings — in the last case, even more than the leading man. Any other song or album did well only after the films succeeded.

Two, it was once again about telling a story with the right mix of family appeal — top stars, perfect entertainment and emotional quotients and the right vibe sent out to the majority of audiences of all ages. The elements found in these films (even in the offbeat Barfi! and the message-oriented 3 Idiots) showed that successful filmmakers did not do anything different but had the skills to connect with and had immense respect for every class of audiences across all demographics.

Of course, release and marketing strategies helped, as did — in theory — the cameos done by top stars enacting songs — Katrina Kaif in Bodyguard and Agneepath (“Chikni Chameli” become endemic after the film’s release), Salman Khan (Son Of Sardaar, along with two fight sequences), Kareena Kapoor (Rowdy Rathore, Dabangg 2’s “Fevicol Se”), Amitabh Bachchan (Bol Bachchan) and Madhuri Dixit (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani).

Incidentally, even the heroines seemed to be repeated in films here, come Kareena (3 Idiots, Golmaal 3, Bodyguard, RA.One), Asin (Ghajini, Ready, Housefull 2, Bol Bachchan), Sonakshi Sinha (Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore, Son Of Sardaar, Dabangg 2), Priyanka Chopra (Don 2, Agneepath, Barfi!), Katrina Kaif (Ek Tha Tiger, Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and Deepika Padukone (Chennai Express, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), proving that, perhaps, they too had their roles to play, even if in many cases roles were just cosmetic. They surely seemed to be lucky mascots at least!

Finally, Rohit Shetty is the only director who had every one of his four releases since 2010 (Golmaal 3, Singham, Bol Bachchan, Chennai Express) in this list. His writers and technicians came in too, with writers Farhad-Sajid also contributing to Housefull 2. Karan Johar produced Agneepath and Yeh Jawaani…, while Farhan Akhtar, the leading man of Bhaag..., was the writer-director and co-producer of Don 2.

Comments (+)