Reflections – So, what’s the excuse now?

In the entire month of September, there were just two notable releases – Dabangg and We Are Family. Now let’s look at the remainder of the year. October has as many as 20 films lined up while November and December have just about 5 each. There was a similar, if not a better, situation last year too when soon after the producers v/s multiplex stand off strike was through, there was a huge clutter of releases that had accumulated. There was in fact a time when as many as half a dozen films were releasing for weeks in succession. However, the worst scenario that hit Bollywood was when there were close to a dozen odd big films that had arrived one after another in the last quarter of 2009. Circa 2009 and Bollywood is facing similar crisis all over again. Though all producers whose films had flopped last year came with a standard excuse – ‘We were hit first by IPL and then later by the standoff’, one wonders what would be the excuse this time around if, God forbid, some big films fail to take off. In this week’s ‘Reflections’, let’s look at the trigger points, if any, that led to the current situation and take stock of what to expect. Better Planning Credit it to slowdown in the industry but the fact remains that not many biggies actually released in 2010. And those which did came with far better planning. IPL was accounted for way in advance so there was no last minute postponement that was required. Big ones like My Name Is Khan, Housefull, Veer, Kites, Raavan and I Hate Luv Storys were given ample space to arrive solo or with limited competition, hence leading to merit being the eventual winner. Raajneeti and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai benefited from their delayed arrival and went on to find huge volumes stepping in. Net, no one really complained as there was space for everyone to see a comfortable release. No egos 2010 has also stayed on to be a year when practical approach has come in handy rather than makers trying to scramble their way in only due to egos. In fact if at all there was a year when mutual understanding and harmony came into play amongst the biggest of the film makers, it was 2010. Perhaps the scared industry didn’t want to be further scarred and chose readjustment rather than hold on to a fixed stance. There have been ample examples to demonstrate that. Karan Johar didn’t bat an eyelid when he realised that Dabangg was his mighty competitor for the week. He pulled away his We Are Family without much ado. Same holds good for Nikhil Advani too who realised that with as many as four Akshay Kumar starrers being ready and Action Replayy in the queue for long, there was no point squeezing in his Patiala House. He would now arrive in 2011. Anil Kapoor’s No Problem was also shifted ahead to a safer zone with the season becoming too cluttered with other biggies. With Anees Bazmee at the helm of direction and a long time duration that has gone into the film’s making, he could have held his stance but he chose to avoid that. Anything for the film to succeed even it meant waiting for a little while. When Mukesh Bhatt realised that September would be dominated by Dabangg and Anjaana Anjaani, he quietly moved his Crook to October. "I am a businessman first", he commented as he avoided any clash whatsoever. Very recently, Yamla Pagla Deewana too didn’t hesitate much and despite its promotional campaign reading ‘Arriving this Christmas’, it sorted out its plans quickly once Farah Khan made her plans clear for Tees Maar Khan to come on the designated date of 24th December. The film would now release in January next year. And if a certain Sanjay Leela Bhansali was aiming for a revenge to give it back to Farah after her Om Shanti Om killed Saawariya 3 years back on Diwali, he totally ignored the very thought of it. He felt it was better to bring his Guzaarish five weeks in advance rather than getting into round two of the battle with Tees Maar Khan. All in all, everything was taken care of pretty maturely by individuals who made sane decisions rather than coming up with knee jerk reactions. And if Action Replayy and Golmaal 3 are arriving on the same day now, hence leading to the biggest clash of 2010, it is understandable. None want to let go of the lucrative Diwali weekend. Add to that the fact that 80 crores first week opening of Dabangg has shown that there is a huge market out there and if the two films could collect a similar sum between them, none would actually complain. But… Despite such good planning and letting aside of egos, the fact remains that the coming weeks have indeed turned pretty crowded. The issue lies not just with the volume of releases but also the fact that number of actors, have multiple films lined up in a matter of few weeks. Aishwarya Rai tops the list with her Robot, Action Replayy and Guzaarish arriving back to back. Akshay Kumar too would be enjoying a double bill with Action Replayy and Tees Maar Khan. Ajay Devgn would end a release-heavy year with Aakrosh and Golmaal 3. Kareena Kapoor, after We Are Family, would also make a comeback in Golmaal 3. Akshaye Khanna, the most reclusive of the lot, too has Aakrosh and Tees Maar Khan lined up. Sanjay Dutt as well as Kangna would be seen in Knock Out and No Problem. Deepika’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey is confirmed for December release but if Kunal Kohli has his way, he may squeeze in his Break Ke Baad around the same time. So what went wrong? With so many films with the same stars arriving together, it reminds one of the last quarter of 2009 when a similar situation had arose. Salman Khan made back to back appearances in Wanted, Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna and London Dreams. Akshay Kumar’s Blue was followed by De Dana Dan. Ajay Devgn too had a double bill in London Dreams and All The Best. Sanjay Dutt had a triple bill in Blue, All The Best and Aladin. Amitabh Bachchan followed Aladin with Paa. Ranbir Kapoor too had Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani leading to one of the most eventful years ever for a relative newcomer. On the other hand, amongst the leading ladies, it was Kareena Kapoor who led the pack with Main Aurr Mrs Khanna, Kurbaan and 3 Idiots arriving in quick succession. Now if one looks at the aforementioned films, the fact remains that more than half of these flopped. Even if one disregards the merits or the lack of them amongst these films, the oft repeated statement by most of the makers here was – ‘What was the choice that we had? We had to delay and arrive now because first IPL had hit us and then the producers v/s multiplex strike. In such a clutter, some films were bound to fail. Our’s did too.’ No one, absolutely no one, took the blame on themselves. No one said that perhaps the content itself was faulty there. No one even hinted of getting into the introspection mode to go back to the drawing board and actually figure out what really went wrong. And here, we are talking about only the biggies; not a couple of dozen odd medium budget and smaller films that arrived in the same time period. No, one is not suggesting that a filmmaker should have hung his head in shame and exposed himself to the ‘janta’ in the witness box. There is no need for that. After all the verdict had already been announced at the box office and that was good enough to make them see red. However, the point is that time and again there have been different reasons cited whenever a film has failed. It could be climate, cricket, strike or anything else. So what happens now? Planning has been taken care of. Cricket is through. Egos aren’t a discriminating factor at all. Still, a clutter exists. The underling statement is – ‘Just like it happens in any and every industry, unforeseen situations like these do take place in the industry.’ When Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini released in December 2008, the nation was still shocked by the aftermath of 26/11. Still, the films became blockbusters. Circa 2010 and the films that deserve to be successful will become so even today. Also, if stars are having multiple releases within three months of each other, it is all unplanned, circumstantial and inevitable. No actor would want his films to arrive so close to each other; no film maker would expect the same either.

Despite the best of intentions, a situation like this could be created when it all becomes a release heavy season. Do we really have to find an excuse every time such a scenario takes place? Can’t we take it all as it happens and let things take their own route when no contingency plan can be formulated? Can industry, trade and audience refrain from indulging into unnecessary root cause analysis at the end of every year? Or would some makers have Anjaana Anjaani to blame this time around: ‘This is the film that started it all. If it wouldn’t have moved itself ahead by a week, we wouldn’t have had to re-strategise our release plans.’ Well, one hopes that’s not really our excuse this time around when curtains come down on 2010!

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