The mainstream Hindi movie industry is in the doldrums, big budget releases are failing to send punters back into cinemas – our cineaste in Mumbai takes stock of the latest atmosphere surrounding the industry…
By Rodrigues C
IT SEEMS Bollywood’s downward spiral will continue for some time.
After ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ (‘LSC’), ‘Raksha Bandhan’ (‘RB’) and ‘Dobaaraa’, it was the turn of ‘Liger’, staring Vijay Deverakonda and Ananya Panday, to bite the dust at the box office. This sports action flick even features a cameo role for former world boxing champ, Mike Tyson. (See links below for previous coverage of Deverakonda and Dobaara). More recent press have stated that ‘LSC’ will do okay because of collections outside India.
If reports are to be believed, the upcoming film, ‘Mogul’ with Aamir Khan in the lead, based on the life of erstwhile music tycoon Gulshan Kumar, has been shelved because of the box office ruin of ‘LSC’.
Now, considering Bollywood is the flagbearer of the whole Indian film industry, though unofficially, its current state of affairs, is leading to serious concern in the country, so much so that State Bank of India’s Research team led by Group Chief Economic Adviser Soumya Kanti Ghosh has complied a report titled, ‘Reminiscing the days of Friday blockbuster Bollywood releases: are we witnessing a behavioral shift in viewers’, which spells out the reasons for the spate of flops.
The report concludes that pre pandemic Bollywood released on an average 70-80 movies annually and made between £322 million and £591m, whereas the 61 Hindi titles, including dubbed ones, released between January-August 2022 had collected just about £344m (48 per cent of this came from 18 dubbed movies). Ticket prices at multiplexes are three to four times higher than in single screen theatres. While 62 per cent single screens were in south India, the north and west had 16 per cent and 10 per cen, respectively; this could be one of the reasons south cinema is winning (see here).
OTT, as it is commonly known in India and refers to streaming and digital, has about 40 different players (with many just India based ones, as well as the international outlets), and has around 450m subscribers, and is expected to swell to 500 million by 2023. This is also giving Bollywood sleepless nights.
The high entertainment tax on Hindi movies is another factor.
Barring the states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, this tax is between 15-60 per cent in all other states. In Mumbai, which is Bollywood’s moneybag, this tax is 45 per cent. On the other hand, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu charge no tax for Kannada and Tamil films respectively, while in Andhra Pradesh, it’s 15 per cent for Telugu films. The report says that more and more millennials in the north prefer to wait for the movie to release on OTT. In the south, a larger percentage of the older population still watch movies in cinema halls.
To make matters worse, the last few years has seen a #BoycottBollywood trend gaining traction on Twitter.
Boycott Bollywood Movies and Boycott Bollywood are being widely searched on Facebook. The #boycottBolywood hashtag has had over 140,000 posts on Instagram. YouTube videos on the boycott Bollywood trend are being viewed by hundreds of thousands. These trends target an upcoming film or an actor, so as to make sure its box office numbers are affected. Users, who are part of this trend, have been also aiming to end the clout of the Khans — Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman — and the westernisation of Hindi films and drive out nepotism. The latter gained prominence after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. The trend’s most recent targets were ‘LSC’ and ‘RB’.
After Hrithik Roshan praised ‘LSC’, his upcoming ‘Vikram Vedha’ started receiving boycott calls. Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s upcoming film ‘Brahmastra’, Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Pathaan’ are also being targeted by the trends.
In fact, what exasperated fans even more is Bhatt’s nepotism related remark in a recent interview, saying: “If you don’t like me, don’t watch me”.
The comments have led to massive trolling of Bhatt as well as the #BoycottBrahmastra trend. It is also believed that Kapoor’s acknowledgement that he is a “big beef guy” in an old video interview and ‘Brahmastra’ director Ayan Mukerji’s 2019 Instagram post — where he revealed how ‘Dragon’ became Brahmastra and that Kapoor’s character was supposed to be long-haired Rumi and not Shiva — are to be blamed for the social media boycott.
Of late, many Bollywood stars have been speaking up on the boycott issue. Akshay Kumar has said that these boycott trends “affect the economy of India”. Arjun Kapoor said “we need to come together and do something genuine” about it. Kareena Kapoor called on people to watch films. Suniel Shetty has said he “hates” the campaign and a lot of jobs were in the balance. “So for that sake, let’s not destroy an industry that has its own legacy of good people who probably at some stage make mistakes.”
The next few months will see many big movies hit the screen. Online campaigners against Bollywood are bound to use their right to freedom of expression to vent. No one can stop that. At the same time, no one can also stop someone from watching good content at the cinema, which reportedly current Bollywood films lack. Isn’t content king after all?
Until next month, asianculturevultures…
Vijay Deverakonda – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/iffi-50-final-day-closing-ceremony-and-film-november-28-stars-talk-films-fans-and-what-they-have-learnt-vijay-deverakondara-rakul-preet-singh-ilaiyaraaja-farah-khan-yesterday/