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Industry Report: Focus: Asia & Oceania

The Business of Bollywood


- When director Mukul Anand's multi-starrer Agneepath released in 1990, it was rejected by the masses. Agneepath failed to rake in the moolah and producer Yash Johar had a commercial flop on his hands. That was two decades ago.

Since then, much has changed in Bollywood. One, the riveting rivalry between Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay Dinanath Chauhan and Danny Denzongpa’s Kancha Cheena is now considered to be a milestone in India’s cinematic history. More significantly, though, the yet-to-be-released remake of the film that is being produced by Johar’s son has already made up for about 60 per cent of its production cost — satellite rights for the new film were recently acquired by one of the leading television networks for a whopping Rs 41 crore. By the time the film releases in 2012, Mr Johar would have more than covered his production costs even before the first Agneepath ticket is sold at any movie theatre. Agneepath is by no means an anomaly.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

The Aamir Khan-Kareena Kapoor starrer, Dhuaa, was acquired by a rival network for a mind-boggling Rs 38-40 crore, while a film like Rascals, which did below average business, would have cost the networks anywhere between Rs 14 to 20 crore. While satellite rights usually cover a bulk of the cost, licensing and merchandising, in-cinema advertising, and selling movie rights for internet, mobile and video on-demand make up for the rest.

Any revenue that then comes through ticket sales is essentially a bonus. In other words, audiences have little impact on a film’s financial viability. While it is yet to be seen how this impacts the industry — paving the way for more experimental ventures or taking away the creative impetus to make a ‘good film’ — it is nonetheless a break from the past when box office sales, and that alone, defined a film’s success. Back then, a film was a ‘hit’ when thousands thronged to the theatres — not once but several times — to see their beloved stars; while any film that played to empty chairs was a flop.

Corporatisation of Bollywood has now changed the rules of the game. This is not an entirely bad thing. It has surely allowed for greater technological innovation, financial streamlining and fiscal discipline that has made the industry more sustainable. Gone are the days when producers had to depend upon underworld dons to finance their films; today, they can avail of bank loans. Even 2010’s biggest hit, Dabangg, was partly funded by the Securities Trading Corporation of India. Bollywood is undergoing a sea change, no doubt. One can only hope that, in the process, the popular verdict is not lost.


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