Rs. 80 crores... Rs. 90 crores... Rs. 100 crores... Rs.120 crores. It seemed like an auction in progress a year and a half back when biggies were announced and being (apparently) sold at these prices even without a frame being shot. Just on the power of banner, star cast, director, scale, set up and the vision for release, there were at least half a dozen films that were pretty much touted to be the next BIG blockbusters in the making. My Name Is Khan, Ghajini, Blue, Kites, Kambakkht Ishq, London Dreams and 3 Idiots were some such films that had a lot riding on them. Actually quite a lot!
All of this was before recession hit the entire world and along with that, showed its ugly face to the (vulnerable) film industry. Suddenly there was a panic button being pressed and renegotiations became the order of the day. Whether it was a big or a small film, each of them was impacted. Apart from the fact that audiences were now expected to visit theaters less frequently due to slowdown in the market, film industry also took a major hit with satellite prices going down due to huge cut downs in ad revenues.
The films were still as exciting as before. Audiences still wanted to watch an Aamir in a Ghajini and 3 Idiots. Akshay still had fans rooting for him in films as diverse as Kambakkht Ishq and Blue. Vipul Shah still carried his Midas touch from the days of Namastey London, Waqt and Aankhen into London Dreams. Hrithik didn't loose any of his appeal for Kites which was being pitched for international markets. In the meanwhile, Shahrukh Khan and Karan Johar continued to entice audiences with their promise of treading a remarkably different path from the world of candy-floss to a realistic My Name Is Khan.
London Dreams The only thing that changed (and a major change at that)? Market dynamics. The attractive, though grossly over the top, price tags of Rs. 80/100/120 crores were now out of question. Yes, Ghajini reportedly did manage to net close to Rs.120 crores just from India but the biggest supporters and haters of Aamir Khan would agree that it was 'once in a couple of years' kind of phenomenon that was witnessed in Ghajini. Yes, a film tomorrow may do similar business again but it was too much to expect similar outcome for each of the 6-8 biggies that would be arriving in next 6 odd months.
Frankly, the prices had to fall and the result is that talks around all those Rs.100 crores deals have fallen silent. And even as the prices are being renegotiated (and been agreed upon as well), it is all been done in the hush-hush tone.
Says a top filmmaker who wishes to be unnamed, "What we have learnt from this entire turn of events is that we should stop going gaga about our films and declare them as Rs.100 crores blockbusters when we are yet to shoot a single scene. What's the point in pricing your film so high and becoming greedy when you don't know about how the market would behave tomorrow? Yes, charge high but only after your film is ready and you know the market dynamics in the current times. Go ahead, ask for big money, but don't kill the distributor on the table itself and risk the film going down as unsuccessful at the box office due to wafer thin margin of error. Let it be a win-win situation for everyone."
Blue This is one good step that the makers of Blue have recently taken. Though there is no official word yet, indications are that this Rs. 65 crores film (which was being widely publicized to be made on a 100 crores budget) is being released by the producers on a commission basis.
Comments a trade expert, "If this has indeed happened then I would say good sense has prevailed for the makers here. It's a nice approach since it ensures that if there are profits, they are for all while producers own up losses, if any. A Rs. 65 crores tag looks reasonable enough and the recovery should also not be a problem, especially so since the film carries an international appeal. However, if only they would have continued with their Rs.100 crores fixation, it would have been a dicey situation."
Last heard, even Kites and 3 Idiots have not crossed the elusive Rs.100 crores mark. Even London Dreams is no more nurturing Rs.100 crores + dreams and as per Vipul Shah, the maker of the film, he is happy to go back to the old school method of selling the film to various distributors across the country.
"Yes, earlier there were talks of Rs.120 crores with Indian Films. However, that deal is no more happening. In any case, I am not dependent on the corporate houses to see my film release in theaters. I have enough distributors across the country who are willing to pick the film and I am more than glad to release the film through them", Vipul stated recently.
With My Name Is Khan already sold, Blue apparently making the first move when it comes to a film being released on a commission basis and London Dreams too moving ahead with Plan B, it has to be seen if other biggies in the pipeline also follow suit.