Though an occasional disaster, in between mostly flops, some recovery films and a few hits along with a rare blockbuster has been the pattern for Bollywood at the box-office, It seems to be changing of late. And for the worse! With Raabta, a 70 Cr budgeted film netting just about 20 Cr and thereby yielding a distributor share of 10 Cr, coming in the wake of such turkeys like Mirzyaa, Rangoon and above all Bombay Velvet, it is very clear now that the decision makers of Bollywood need to be questioned. The film industry is going through one of it’s worst phases, perhaps the second worst after the 80s. And that decade was marred by external reasons – the increasing onslaught of (then) new demon of video piracy, dwindling of middle class audiences, leading to products targeted at the lowest common denominator, a decaying old infrastructure and back breaking taxation. However today Bollywood is not facing any of those issues. The middle class and high purchasing power audiences are visiting the theaters loyally, piracy has settled at a level and is not increasing, taxes, though high are not the exorbitant 100% like the 80s and there is spanking new infrastructure standing from theaters to technical service providers to studios.
And yet we are in doldrums. All because of one reason. People are playing with others’ money, mostly public money garnered by huge corporates, The so called producers are making profits at the table along with their actor friends and eventually the losses suffered at the boxoffice become just a number in the balance sheet of the company at the end of financial year, with no one to account for it.
Which brings us back to why Raabta disaster is more scary than others. Raabta was not acquired by a corporate studio headquartered in Los Angeles that hired it’s India CEO from a soap manufacturing company. Raabta has the name of T series associated with it, A company which has always been known to have a really smart entrepreneur at the top from a family that seems naturally blessed with an year for good music and power to sniff potential Blockbusters from a mile. If anyone thought that after the demise of Late Gulshan Kumar the company will go down, well his son Bhushan Kumar has proved in the last decade that he is a chip of the old block – with able support in the form of Uncle Kihsen Kumar.
So when, not Fox, not Disney, not Viacom but a company like T series get involved with a 70 Cr films starring Sushant Singh Rajput it raises the scariest of questions – Are the individual producers too falling for the ‘perception game’ created by Media and PR machinery of Bollywood actors and producers? Was this a sensible budget for a Sushant Singh Rajput film? Don’t even begin telling me MSD did 120 cr. We all know It was because of Dhoni and even a documentary on Sachin Tendulkar collected big at the BO.
We don’t know the exact financial details of the deal on Raabta but it’s very clear that someone somewhere screwed up big time. Will he/she be given a bigger cabin and the annual raise like at the corporate studios or will the heads roll – on that answer depends the future of Bollywood.