The figures are out. Ayan Mukherjee’s magnum opus Brahmastra has been in the making for a long and whose main star attraction is the real-life couple recently hitching, Ranbir Kapoor-Alia, Amitabh Bachchan and Mouni is running riot at the box office to emerge as the much badly needed blockbuster hit where it raked in a terrific opening clocking in Rs 75 crores in two days and soon hitting Rs 200 crores mark.
Moving beyond the box office numbers, it begets an important question as to whether the film’s number has served as an important reminder that boycott hashtags haven’t had much of an impact on Hindi film box office, contrary to what we were led to believe with the shocking flop of Lal Singh Chadha. Perhaps, Brahmastra came as an exception to the norm where it’s one among the last pre-pandemic movies getting on a roller coaster ride.
It whittles down to the idea that movies like Lal Singh Chaddha and a host of shocking flops such as Shamshera have sent the industry into a tizzy of sort whose main fault is the content, which has been neglected for many years. Sadly, the youth couldn’t identify with such movies lacking a connection in building pre-box office hype in terms of ticket numbers or something like Raksha Bandhan that truly belong to the 60s. Such kind of movies no longer works and should never have been attempted in the first place. Star names don’t matter much if one would call it the winning formula. About time for the industry to invest massively in good storytellers, screenplay and scriptwriters.
One thing filmmakers need and must understand is that right now in the new normalcy after the industry has been shut after two lockdowns are that they will not be competing against each other every Friday. Their biggest competitor is now digital, OTT is the new superstar that has already been present and the pandemic has spurred its growth in the country. Face it, the internet is the ‘Bahubali’ as we speak about the economics of filmmaking and if anything to go by and learn from the failure of Lal Singh Chaddha. Why has brand Aamir Khan failed? It should serve as the best education of sorts as filmmakers grapple with numbers to make business work.
The point should not be about ego on insisting to have a Friday release in the face of limited footfalls in a world still afflicted by COVID, numerous OTT channels mushrooming on the market and a high budget when the producer is unsure whether they will recover their price or not. It’s overlooking not just the Economics of filmmaking and silly ways to march into the jaws of fire. In the past, we have had films like Chehre or Jhund doing that among a host of other films when the sure-shot way to recoup the money was to get a straight OTT release and still manage to break even.
Such foolishness should be avoided and this is what Aamir Khan did by being blind and overlooking market realities, if we were to believe the grapevines on insisting to sell the film 6 months later digitally and that too demanding an astronomical figure relying on past success. It no longer works that way. It’s about time for producers to revisit where they should sell, the profit margin and also for distributors to revise the price of cinema tickets if they want the audience back to theatres.
Let’s look at Economics. Case one: Family of four with husband, wife, two kids, and grandparents, a ticket worth 400 bucks at a minimum price, add coffee/coke/sandwich/popcorn blowing 2500 plus bucks.
Case two: Boyfriend and girlfriend/two friends + a friend of either sex, yet again a good 2000 bucks blown. We are living in post-pandemic times. This needs to be reiterated and filmmakers must understand that the public will not be ready to fork out a fortune when they can pay between 500-1000 Rs months on two OTT providers, getting access to unlimited viewing, irrespective of Indian and foreign languages
Do you blame the audience? It’s not about the boycott gang hashtags on Twitter or cancel culture in preventing people from watching movies. Brahmastra as a pre-pandemic film is an exception for it has been able to connect with the Indian masses despite being in the making for a long time. Not every film would be Brahmastra and not even its sequel. The film industry is witnessing a tectonic change, fraught with challenges and trickling down to makers to usher change in terms of paying attention to content which is King or Queen. One cannot compromise content and churn the same old dish every single time. The classic formula is long gone. The audience has changed and will not lap everything thrown at them. The young generation no longer has this kind of tolerance.
The shift is already here. Filmmakers must pay attention to content by exploring new, bold subjects while at the same time, staying true to the desi flavor of filmmaking. Just look at how regional cinema, be it in the South, North East and Marathi cinema has leaped ahead of the Hindi film industry. The latter has lost the art of entertaining the public like it once ruled the roost during the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. It’s about time to create the art that the Indian masses will identify with, retain the cultural ethos of movies, masti, and magic celebrating cinema while curating rich content swooning the audience on its feet in bringing something new that will ring in novelty.
The cancel culture is just a fad, breeding hatred against the film industry where it gets absolutely ridiculous to see such tweets just because something wrong happened. Two wrongs don’t make it right. The super stupendous success of Brahmastra has sent a strong signal and it’s about time that the audience would override anything, sitting next to each other irrespective of religion, caste, creed, or sex to celebrate a cinema-loving nation. I was and am bating for Brahmastra as we celebrate cinema to win over hate. We owe it to everyone associated with cinema and whose livelihood depends on it.
At the end of the day, don’t stay away from the cinema irrespective of whether you choose to watch Brahmastra over Kashmir Files or Kashmir Files over Brahmastra or any other thing. Boycott of any other movies, irrespective of ideologies just doesn’t make any sense at all, and at the same time, market alterations will pave the way for content driven if cinema is to thrive since boycott campaign just doesn’t work and have no impact. Films are not working, irrespective of the stars because the content is poor and nothing else. After all, the audience deserves better, or else digital viewing is already leading leaps and bounds.
Star power will no longer work at the box office, no bhai giri, ghissi pitte formulaic dialogues, blockbuster songs, fresh romantic couples, or action in the climax. The ball is in the court of established or new filmmakers or for that matter, meaningful cinema curators to come up with something new while paying attention to the market needs-don’t neglect the demands of the audience-while revising price of tickets is a need. Think about it or else the industry will bleed. No cancel culture can steal the thunder.