Bollywood flies high

The Asian Age.

Entertainment, Bollywood

The film industry has a reason to cheer as audience flocks to the cinema halls, breaking the box-office jinx of the first quarter.

Vicky Kaushal

With major big-budget films losing the box-office race last year, the film industry has been on a slow incline. But the first quarter of 2019 proved to be a jackpot for Bollywood. Traditionally, most big-budget films stay away from releasing their films in the first quarter, making way for experimental and small-budget films to have their moment of glory.

But the collections in the first three months have been over Rs 1150 crore for all the films put together including the spill over of Simmba, which released on December 28 last year. The trade is pretty much elated and points out that it could augur well for the industry despite the slow start for this week’s releases Junglee and Notebook.

Interestingly, all kinds of films have done well in the first quarter. From patriotic film such as Uri, period dramas like Manikarnika and Kesari, thriller like Badla, a family comedy Total Dhamaal to the youth-driven films like Luka Chuppi and Gully Boy, have done well according to their budgets.

Breaking the January jinx was Uri starring Vicky Kaushal that went on to collect a staggering Rs 245.21 crore. The film is based on the September 2016 Surgical Strikes conducted by the Indian Army against the terror launch pads in Pakistan, a subject that instantly struck a chord with viewers across India. Kaushal, who till then had been in the fringes of the industry, came into the limelight.  It was followed by Kangana Ranaut’s solo show Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. The film that was surrounded by multiple controversies emerged victorious at the box-office and collected a decent Rs 92.19 crore. “Films like Uri: The Surgical Strike, Luka Chuppi, Badla, Total Dhamaal, Gully Boy, Kesari, Manikarnika and other films like Thackeray, The Accidental Prime Minister and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga put together have garnered over Rs 1100 crore. The other 20 odd films together have made around Rs 50 odd crores. This is one-third of what was made in 2018, where the box office of Bollywood releases made Rs 3,300 croreswith most of it coming from the bigger releases in the second half of the year. Hollywood films had also grossed a record Rs 900 crores at the box office last year. This effectively means that Bollywood has got a headstart to doing much better business,” says Atul Mohan of Complete Cinema.

Manoj Desai, the owner of Gaiety-Galaxy theatres, feels that the box-office run has been great but from April, things are going to slow down a bit. “It’s been good by far; In fact, it’s been  been phenomenal.  2018 wasn’t this great but with this start, one can  only start expecting more. But from April due to IPL, exams and elections we are all prepared to see what’s going to come. However 2019 has been extremely entertaining not just for multiplex audience but for single screens as well,” he added.

This quarter also saw a number of real life stories making it to the screen. From biopics on Manmohan Singh, Bal Thackeray and Rani Laxmibai to films inspired by events such as Uri and Kesari. Trade analyst Vinod Mirani points out that the different genres having worked in Bollywood is a whiff of fresh air but adds a word of caution. “It does purport that the variety in the films offered at the marquee is doing the talking. But with so many biopics coming up in the days to come, it may be dangerous for the industry. Multiplexes love the idea of huge opening weekends when they can sell more popcorn, but they will need to trust the content they are picking up.”

Incidentally, the multiplexes are now facing the wrath of filmmaker Ronnie Screwvala who has complained to the Competition Commission of India against the unjust Virtual Print Fee (VPF) being imposed on producers for the release of their films. They have also not just clocked great numbers but have seen their shares soar at the Sensex as well due to the business despite the market being in the red. “It is true that the multiplexes have also profited hugely. Inox and PVR have registered close to a nine and a three per cent increase in their stock prices,” he affirms.

(With inputs from Sanskriti Media)