Bollywood is bleeding. There are no doubts about it. B-town’s half-yearly report is a cause for concern. Despite big-ticket titles, boasting of A-list heroes, Hindi films haven’t delivered at the box office.
The likes of Shahid Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, and Ranbir Kapoor, all with big releases this year, haven’t been able to deliver what they promised in terms of box office success. What is adding to the worry is the fact that regional films like KGF 2 and Pushpa: The Rise are making a big noise with their content.
Now, Tollywood has halted all shoots from August 1 to take stock of rising cost factors – which includes remunerations – and work out the economics of filmmaking. Bollywood is yet to take any such preventive or corrective measures. In an exclusive conversation with trade experts, IndiaToday.in asks: if that’s a path Hindi cinema, should take, if big stars should slash their fees, and if Bollywood is really bleeding.
SHOULD BIG STARS SLASH THEIR FEES?
Akshay Kumar is the highest-paid actor in the country. There is a buzz in the trade circles that the actor charged a whopping sum of Rs 130 crore for his yet-to-release film Cinderella. His last release, Samrat Prithviraj, didn’t bring in the expected numbers. For smaller films, the actor relies heavily on a profit-sharing model.
Ranbir Kapoor, whose last film Shamshera, is one of the biggest duds of the year, has reportedly been paid Rs 75 crore for his upcoming Sandeep Reddy Vanga film, Animal.
Ranveer Singh, whose last release Jayeshbhai Jordaar made no big noise at the ticket window, has been floating a signing fee of Rs 50 crore-plus for his 2023 roster. Will he get those figures is a big question.
Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor, shared his worry about the skewed mathematics surrounding actors and their fees, “The time to reassess is not now, the time to do it was more than five to seven years ago. And this is something that has been long overdue for the simple reason that, ultimately, filmmakers depend on the face of the star to recover the money that’s invested in the film is very ambitious,” he said.
Trade expert Taran Adarsh opines that Bollywood works on relationships and not box office numbers. He reveals, “It all depends on different producers, actors, the actor and producer relationship, a lot of times these equations come into play. But it is also important that the revenue model needs to be streamlined.”
EVEN SOUTH IS BLEEDING
Trade analyst Ramesh Bala explained that it is not just Bollywood which is suffering. “Generally, all the industries in India are going through a tough time, not just Bollywood. Even in Tollywood, Malayalam cinema is also going through a tough time. Bollywood is more visible because it is a pan-Indian industry, even the boycott calls are more visible in Bollywood than compared to other industries. But the situation for regional films is also alarming,” said Ramesh.
THE REVENUE MODEL NEEDS A REVISIT
Talking about some of the corrective measures the industry can take, Rathi says, “We have enough examples where actors earn a lopsided profit while the producer earns just about money, distributors and exhibitors incur losses. Hence, there is a need to reassess. This will keep happening if these kinds of obnoxious salaries are paid to actors. Nothing justifies the pay when a Kartik Aaryan film is doing better than those starring superstars, nothing justifies the fact that The Kashmir Files is doing better than films featuring big stars.”
Ramesh Bala stressed the urgent need to revisit and reassess the current situation, “We must assess everything; actor’s remuneration, cast and crew, production and viability, revenue streams to make the production more viable. The Hindi film industry hasn’t done well since the pandemic and the theatrical business has suffered immensely.”
However, Taran feels that Bollywood won’t be able to adapt the blueprint of regional films as it works differently. He adds,” The Telugu industry did this in a very systematic manner. Here we cannot do it because a lot of movies are planned and scheduled. Having said that, it is the right strategy as a lot of rethinking and restructuring must happen.”
Tanuj Garg, the Managing Partner of Ellipsis Entertainment who produced the Taapsee Pannu-starrrer Loop Lapeta, says, “What is needed is a genuine course-correction; fixing of economics and a re-calibration of priorities. That’s something Ellipsis, as a content creator, is extremely mindful of and that’s put us in good stead. Content and budgets need to be designed in a manner to enable everyone on the value chain to make money.”