Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Small budgets, big dreams

Bollywood seems to be in the pink of health with small budget films beating the 100 crore club.



This year non-commercial small budget films like Kahaani, Vicky Donor and Ishaqzaade turned into big successes at the ticket window and earned many-a-brownie points for film makers. The cash registers were abuzz with figures in crores in a matter of days. And all this happened alongside biggies like Agneepath, Housefull 2 and Rowdy Rathore. The moral of the story is that star presence no longer makes a difference to the audience, that their craving for entertainment surpasses star loyalty. No one needs a Khan compulsorily in their film to churn out a hit. For that matter even the IPL season this year did not mar releases, giving trade experts a reason to cheer.

"Films like Vicky Donor and Kahaani if released 2 yrs ago would have probably been average or flops. Today filmmakers can afford to dream of hits even without a Khan or a big budget. This is because the Indian audience is now much more open to meaningful cinema with a good story and script. Also due to the increasing number of multiplex and digital screens, it’s now possible to have a wider release for a film which translates into better box-office collections," says Vishal Desai, a media professional who works for World College-School of Media Studies in Mumbai and teaches film marketing at various media institutes as visiting faculty.

Today small budget films also garner returns by means of satellite rights, profiting the filmmaker. Statistically speaking, Ishaqzaade collected around Rs 40 crore, while it was made in 25 crores, Kahaani raked Rs 75 crore while the production cost was 8 crore, Vicky Donor earned Rs 45 crore and was made in 5 crore. The bigwigs like Agneepath ruled with returns worth 23 crores on the very first day and 120 crores overall, while Rowdy Rathore and Housefull 2 minted 105 crore and 110 crore respectively.
The past week the Box Office saw the release of two small budget, yet long awaited films - From Sydney with Love and Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai.

From Sydney with Love celebrates the rebirth of Pramod Films, the creators of Love in Tokyo and Dream Girl. Veteran producer-director Pramod Chakravorty’s grandson Prateek has written, directed and acted in the film. “This project required a certain scale and I did not want to compromise. I was sure that the revival of Pramod Films could not be done with a shoddy product. Our banner has earned goodwill over the period of 50 years and I want to live on those principles and make films that have long-lasting impact and make sense. I want Pramod Films to be an active banner. Now out of sight is out of mind. The film industry has short term memory and it is necessary to remain in action. We have not cut corners and have shot in Sydney. Our budget was fifteen crores plus another five for marketing. We made the film in around 20 crore,” says Prateek. He is optimistic and has no qualms releasing his project alongside a bigger Jism 2.

Budding actor Aditya Samanta aims to revive the legacy of his family banner through a tryst with romance in his debut film ‘Yeh Jo Mohabbat hai’. The 26-year-old actor will be seen romancing Sanjay Dutt’s niece Nazia Hussain in a typical Rajasthani backdrop. Will his Amar Prem live up to Aradhana, and An Evening in Paris of Shakti Films’ fame is a big question mark. Director Ashim Samanta quoted in an earlier interview, “Love was there 5,000 years back, and love will remain even after 100 years. What changes is the way in which it is shown in each film. Our film 'Yeh Jo...' is on today's line and captures the attitude of youngsters.” The movie was shot in 12 crores.

Film Historian Yogesh Mathur reminisces, “Samanta Films and Pramod films gave genuine silver jubilees. Single screens ran 4 shows a day and tickets were cheap so people could watch the same movie over and over again. Back then films also ran because of music and songs. Now the trend is no longer the same. If Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai and From Sydney With Love have strong storylines, they will surely work, because even today content is the King.” However, Desai adds, "In today's competitive film exhibition space which sees at least 6-7 film releases a week any film needs to have its distinct USP. The above films have not really managed to create that. Also the films are pitched against Jism2, Kya Super Kool Hai Hum (released last week) and Gangs of Wasseypur - II (releasing next week) which clearly have their USPs marked i.e Sunny Leone, adult jokes and gangster drama sequel respectively. Hence in my opinion these films might just go unnoticed.”

Will the USP of old banners reviving themselves work in their favour or will the audience compare the new with old in terms of musical scores and content? Will Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai and From Sydney With Love revel in the same glory as Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar? Or will the biggies outshine these small wonders this week? The fate of these two releases finally rests with the audience

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