Truth is stranger than fiction. Bollywood films are facing tough competition from Hollywood films on their own soil. Several filmmakers, like Mukesh Bhatt, have sounded off an alarm to save Hindi films from dwindling box office collections.
The Jungle Book, which released in April, crossed the Rs 150cr mark, matching up to the box office collections of SRK and Salman Khan
It is well known that Hollywood filmmakers and studios work in a monopolistic way. They have realised the importance of the Indian market and sometimes, even release their films here first.
The collections of Hollywood films have multiplied in India in the last five years. Initially, they would only play at 400 screens across the country, now it is over 1,500 screens. For instance, Jurassic World (2015) released in over 65 countries worldwide. In the US, it released in only 440 theatres, while overseas, it was running in over 800 theatres. In India alone, it was released in 2,300 screens across the country. No big Bollywood films released a week earlier or a week after after its release. Mohit Suri's Hamari Adhuri Kahani, starring Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi, took the risk, but paid the price at the box office.
In another instance, in 2015, Fast and Furious 7 got double the screens that Byomkesh Bakshi got. While Fast and Furious 7 got 2,800 screens, Byomkesh got 1, 240.
Says Vikram Bhatt, "They have aced the genres of animation, sci-fi and action, due to which the multiplexes favour them. This is not a wrong move as they are raking in the moolah. But the biggest impact is on small budget films. During the festive season, it is difficult to procure release dates as the Khans and Kapoors dominate. During the summer months, they release animation films to target the vacation crowd. The IPL takes care of the rest as filmmakers do not want to release their films during the cricket season. So where do the small filmmakers go?"
Saurabh Saxena, COO, Carnival Cinemas says, "Our earnings from Bollywood and Hollywood are the same. But what is happening is that Hollywood films are now running successfully even in the second week. For instance, The Jungle Book did phenomenal business in the second and third week. It was a similar situation during Captain America and The X Men."
According to film distributors, Hollywood is making a planned effort to target India. They are releasing their films here before the US. The Jungle Book released worldwide on April 15, but in India it hit theatres on April 8.
Commenting about the scenario, Amitabh Bachchan says, "I had started ABCL in 1995 and at that time I had said that we need to look after our production houses. The Americans are coming. In 1990, when I was in New York, I met a Hollywood studio head. This man, in a mere 30 minutes, told me the history of the Hindi film industry. I was shocked. He told me to look after our house as the Yankees are coming."
Irrfan, who has seen the best of Hollywood and Bollywood, says, "Earlier, we didn't had to worry about such a situation. If we do not make films that are inspired by our roots, we will not be able to take them on."
Adds Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star India, "It is the survival of the fittest. In the marketplace, only what is really good, sells. For example, Neerja and Kapoor and Sons were our films and ran successfully in theatres for several weeks. The audience has the right to choose what is best for them. If we enforce protective policies, we are stealing the rights of the audience to choose what they want to watch."
Filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt counters Vijay Singh's logic. The veteran says, "In China, only 35 foreign films can release in a year. This is a government directive. This is the case even though there are 50,000 screens. We have only 8, 000 screens. Healthy competition will happen when there is a fight among equal talents. Their films have a budget of 500 to 1,200 crores, but our films have a meagre budget of barely 50-60 crore. How can we match their quality? Unfortunately, the government is not taking action on this."
Cine historian Jai Prakash Chouksey says, "In Bollywood, there is no unity among filmmakers. Big stars get their dates and number of screens. The small budget filmmakers are fighting among themselves to get an audience. The late Indira Gandhi had introduced a bill to limit Hollywood releases. She had the foresight and vision even in the 1970s. But since then, no other government bothered to do anything."
I had started ABCL in 1995 and at that time, said that we need to look after our production houses. The Americans are coming
— Amitabh Bachchan
In China, only 35 foreign films can release in a year. This is the case even though there are 50,000 screens
— Mukesh Bhatt
They have aced the genres of animation, sci-fi and action, due to which the multiplexes favour them and give them more screens
— Vikram Bhatt