Mainstream commercial films are failing at the box office in large numbers, the coming few months are likely to determine the industry’s long term fate and it could lead to a radical shake-up of the star system…?
By Rodrigues C
THE MONSOONS are finally here in Mumbai.. there is relief and cheer in the air. As for Bollywood the reality is different. The losses are piling up and the onslaught of South movies is causing a headache for many traditional production houses.
Akshay Kumar’s ‘Samrat Prithviraj’, which had the whole of Bollywood rooting for it, turned out to be a huge disappointment.
Released on June 3, the film has collected just about £6.5 million at the Indian box office; its losses are believed to be to the tune of £14m.
The hype and massive marketing buzz created around the movie didn’t help it either. The mixed reviews were another blow. Several shows of the movie were eventually cancelled due to poor response from audiences.
Yash Raj Films, which produced the movie, has now decided to go for an early OTT release of the movie. The box office disaster of ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ comes high on the heels of ‘Bachchhan Paandey’, which tanked in a similar manner in March this year, collecting just about £5m.
Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Dhaakad’, which hit the theatres on May 20 turned out to be another major dud at the box office. Made on a budget of £8.5m, the action thriller collected close to £300,000 at the worldwide box office.
Unlike most films, the digital rights of ‘Dhaakad’ weren’t sold before its release, which had added to the burden of the producers, who believed it would be a massive success.
The film is Ranaut’s ninth flop in a row, thereby hitting her credibility in a big way.
It may be recalled that Bollywood’s misfortune at the box office started after the release of Kumar’s hit thriller ‘Sooryavanshi’, which made £29.4m at the box office in November last year. Eight months since the release of ‘Sooryavanshi’, Bollywood has had a difficult period.
Flops during this period included movies with some big names such as ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’ (£1.7m) featuring John Abraham and ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’ (£2.2m) with Saif Ali Khan in 2021.
Amitabh Bachchan starrer ‘Jhund’ (£1.6m), John Abraham’s ‘Attack’ (£1.8m), Shahid Kapoor film ‘Jersey’ (£2m), ‘Badhaai Do’ (£2.1m) with Rajkummar Rao, Tiger Shroff’s much anticipated ‘Heropanti 2’ (£2.5m), Ayushmann Khurrana’s ‘Anek’ (£700,000), Ranveer Singh comedy ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ (£2.3m) and Ajay Devgn’s directorial ‘Runway 34’ (£2.8m) were the films which tanked in 2022.
There have been just three other Bollywood hits during this period; ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ (£21m), ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ (£26m) and ‘The Kashmir Files‘ (£25m).
‘JugJugg Jeeyo’, featuring Anil Kapoor, Kiara Advani and Varun Dhawan, has been showing promising numbers at the box office since its release on June 24. Made on a budget of £8.5M, the film has raked in a bit over £5m, according to the latest figures.
It’s a well-known fact that many of the big names in Bollywood such as Kumar, Devgn, Bachchan, Ranveer Singh, whose films have failed at the box office recently charge a bomb in terms of salary and remuneration. Devgn was given a pay cheque of £2.5m for directing and acting in ‘Runway 34’, Bachchan was paid £1.5m. Shahid Kapoor, who charges £3.1m for a movie, reduced his fee for ‘Jersey’ after its release was delayed.
For ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ Singh was paid £3m. Dhawan was paid £1.2m for ‘JugJugg Jeeyo’. Akshay – often called Aki – is arguably the highest paid actor in Bollywood, was paid £9.9m for ‘Bachchhan Paandey’ and £6m for ‘Samrat Prithviraj’.
For ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’, which releases in 2023, he is reported to have charged £14-15m, while for the August 2022 release ‘Raksha Bandhan’ its £12m.
The above figures indicate that a major chunk of a film’s expenses are spent on the salaries of its stars. This could also be one of the reasons that Bollywood films are unable to recoup their expenses and are making huge losses.
There is word in the industry that salary cuts are on the anvil. In fact, Akki has already decided to reduce the remuneration for his upcoming projects ‘Selfiee’ and the remake of ‘Soorarai Pottru’ below £10m.
Other stars may follow suit as reducing costs seems to be only possible way ahead for Bollywood, which has already taken a hit during covid.
The fact that the coming few months will see a promising lineup of star-studded fare doesn’t matter. All eyes will be only on the box office numbers, after all Bollywood’s survival depends on it and it could lead to wider changes with traditional Bollywood stars being overlooked for those from the South with bigger and better numbers.