The ongoing season in India might be monsoon but in Bollywood, it’s raining flops. Ranbir Kapoor starrer Shamshera became the fifth film by Yash Raj Films (YRF) to tank after a series of flops, including Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Jayeshbhai Jordaar and Samrat Prithviraj. YRF is not alone; there were other big-banner films like Bachchhan Paandey, Heropanti 2 and Runway 34 that failed to get audiences back to the big screens. Experts believe that in the past few years, Bollywood started losing its sheen, with the pandemic only aggravating it.
“For many years, Hindi films have gone urbane and elitist. Down south, they tell the same tales in a way that a common man can understand and enjoy them. We really need to learn from them about how not to alienate anybody,” says Akshaye Rathi, Director of Aashirwad Theatres, a Nagpur-based film exhibition and distribution business.
He insists that Bollywood stars haven’t marketed themselves well in South Indian markets.
“Big studios like Yash Raj Films release their films like Dhoom, Tiger Zinda Hai, etc. in Tamil and Telugu dubbed versions. More Hindi film studios need to do it with more consistency,” he adds. Proprietor of Bobby Enterprises and distributor of Delhi, UP and east Punjab circuit Sanjay Mehta explains what has gone wrong.
“Hindi films have lost out on the connection with the masses. They were concentrating more on films which were metro-centric, or for the overseas market, because multiplexes bring in more money. Multiplex ticket prices are much higher than at single-screen cinemas. That’s the gap filled in by regional films,” he says.
Mehta is hopeful that upcoming films like Brahmãstra, Laal Singh Chaddha, Raksha Bandhan, and Pathaan, etc., will do well at the box office.
“Bollywood now has a better lineup than Covid times, but Hindi films still need to pull up their socks and improve. Special effects of Brahmãstra can be compared to Baahubali or RRR. The North has realized that they need to spend more on quality,” he adds.
Another reason why experts believe Bollywood is ailing, is because of the content.
“Historically, Bollywood films have seen decent collections even when the content has been weak given the strong fan following of superstars. That seems to have changed, with content being the primary driver now. Most movies released in the last two-three quarters have gotten mixed to negative critic reviews, indicating that weak content is the primary factor for the poor performance,” says a recent research report by Emkay Global, which tracks the space.
Bhansali Productions’ CEO Prerna Singh agrees that content needs to be the king. Her latest production, Gangubai Kathiawadi, made Rs 155.5 crore at the box office, nearly half of the Rs 400 crore her last Hindi film Padmaavat earned, according to Sacnilk.
“We would have gotten 3-4x more had it not been for the pandemic. The idea of a star has changed. Now the ‘idea’ is the tar. You can’t show somebody’s face and expect a hit,” she says. While there have been some recent hits from Bollywood, there’s quite a gap between the collections of the Hindi dubbed versions of South Indian films and Bollywood movies, film trade analyst Komal Nahta says.
“Bollywood will have to produce 10-12 really good films (and cross the Rs 100-crore revenue mark for medium-budget films, and the Rs 200-300 crore revenue mark for bigger budget films) in the remaining seven months of the year , to close the gap with what Hindi dubbed versions of the South Indian films have been collecting,” he says.