Nothing succeeds like ‘100 crore’
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Ever since the Lumičre brothers discovered the magic of moving images, in 1895, films have evolved into a complex compound of imagination, technology and enterprise. Entertaining millions on one hand and generating livelihood and more for several thousands. One can safely say, movies both in India and around the world have leaned heavily on commerce for survival. To imagine it otherwise would be a fallacy. The petering out of art cinema of the 1980s due to lacklustre box office collections and its subsequent revival as middle-of-the-road cinema with the advent of multiplexes is an example of commerce-driven creativity.
It is against the backdrop of the box-office that one must examine the much talked about 100 crore club phenomena that has emerged perhaps over the last five years or so.
In classic Bollywood box-office success was a film celebrating a "jubilee" at the cinemas, followed by the "100-day" triumph. But, as economic liberalisation reared its head, longevity at the cinemas was no longer the measure of a good or a successful film. Increasingly, weekend collections were reasons for weekday success parties. But soon the industry got even more restless to declare its triumph at the turnstiles, and "Opening day collections" became the norm. Finally, the flirtation with euphemisms is over, economics is out of the closet and what better way than to boldly put out a magical number for everyone to aspire to — Rs 100 crore.
Aamir Khan was the first to reach the magic number with Ghajini which he then topped with 3 Idiots that went on to net a whopping Rs 200-plus crore although this magic number was reached over a couple of months since the film held tremendous repeat value. In fact, the perfectionist Khan has now upped the ante and, in his recent interview with Screen, said that Rs 100 crore was big five years ago and that an A-list project should now be counted as successful only if it can manage a business of Rs 200 crore!
Salman Khan was the next to lay claim to the Rs 100 crore-plus pantheon and has ruled for a while with Dabangg, Bodyguard and Ek Tha Tiger.
And the entries ever since have been on the rise. Ajay Devgn entered with Golmaal 3 and Singham, Akshay Kumar with Rowdy Rathore, Hrithik Roshan with Agneepath, Shah Rukh Khan with Ra.One and Don 2 and Ranbir Kapoor with Barfi! With this very attractive number being mandatory for being considered a big league player, it's the one vital stat being flashed rather frequently these days.
This impressive churn is linked to the exponential growth in business ever since films became a legitimate business, funded by studios and financial institutions. Close to a hundred films are released in Hindi alone every year allowing every film a rather short window for wooing the audience. It is a scramble out there and only the fittest survive. As has been the case, usually it is the smartly packaged and promoted films with big stars that make the cut. More often than not, high content films dependent on word of mouth usually get left out as they make money over a period that lasts well beyond the opening week.
But, as it is with all things widely coveted, the rules are becoming more stringent every day. First it was just the grand total that was counted at the end of a film's run but now, to make the grade, a film has to net Rs 100 crore within a week's time from the day of the release. Also it has to be the "net" collections and not gross (the amount that remains after entertainment tax is paid for) and yes, the overseas collection from foreign territories doesn't count and so on and so forth.
The danger, however, with such clever computation is that it doesn't necessarily add up to superlative cinema. In the din of revenue stacking up, the attention to the craft of storytelling is completely lost.
A big-budget film with prominent stars is expected to take a big opening. Throw in some clever promotions, carpet-bombing the plexes and the high ticket prices, you are bound to notch up reasonably good collections. Pull out all the stops and maybe the film will join the 100 crore club. However, to conclude that everybody who watches a particular film also likes it, is oversimplifying the matter. Several times one is reminded that a particular film that went on to do some spectacular business was trashed by the critics. But, in this whole profit-and-loss game, nobody really cares.
A director who shall remain unnamed — he has directed a much acclaimed noir film — shocked himself when a mediocre film by him became a toast of tinseltown, because all that everybody was interested in were the collections. In an industry where nothing succeeds like success, creative flaws are hard to spot in a film that sports the gleaming Rs 100 crore badge.
Filmmaker Karan Johar was recently asked whether his film, Student of the Year, would make it to the 100 crore club and his answer was rather pertinent. He said, "I hope it is very successful, but I would like it that people remember the film for more than just making a lot of money."
Now if only more producers aspired to make films that survive the test of time for creative excellence and not merely the collections, the industry would truly be a profit-making entity and not a profiteering one.
The writer is Editor, 'Screen', firstname.lastname@example.org
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