There are times when one wonders about the people in Bollywood who throw away serious money on what can only be called movie junk.’’ Shobhaa De on the Rs 50-crore debacle, Drona.
De isn’t the only one wondering. Most people with a smidgen of common and film sense are hard put to figure out why film corporations, hailed as the torchbearers of change in Hindi cinema in recent years, are throwing away good money on abysmal films like Drona and Kidnap, another Rs 40-crore dud.
And therein lies a story, of the deadly combination of big money and rank ignorance in many production houses that has led to the most lavish but worst films being made in recent years.
The red carpet welcome accorded to Reliance Adlabs, Indian Films, UTV Motion Pictures, Mukta Arts, Ashta-Vinayak Cine Corporation, Eros International, Percept Picture Company and their ilk when they entered Bollywood now seems sadly inappropriate.
The quality of 70 per cent of Bollywood cinema has reached a new low (A Wednesday, Welcome To Sajjanpur and Mumbai Meri Jaan come into the remaining 30 per cent); and though the corporates were busy patting themselves on the back till Eid this year, the two recent superflops have got the sceptics going.
A marketing source says that the corporations don’t even have an idea of how much to pay for a film. A recent ‘hit’ with four lukewarm actors that rocked two metros should have given the corporation that funded it approximately Rs 19 crore.
However the corporation is said to have paid the producers Rs 29 crore, and so will take a Rs 10-crore hit. More recently, the makers of Kidnap, looking to cash in on the overnight popularity of Imran Khan, reportedly sold the film to the Indian Film Corporation for a monumental Rs 40 crore.
“Even in these times of exaggerated figures, a Sanjay Dutt-Imran Khan film should have been sold at no more than Rs 20 crore,’’ says a trade expert. “How can the corporate explain its extravagance? What was it thinking when it signed this deal?’’
Every film corporation has reportedly been overpaying for its buys; and only three out of ten films actually break even. One out of those three becomes a mega-hit. This year’s tally of genuine hits includes Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Jannat , A Wednesday and Welcome To Sajjanpur. “The three big star-studded hits are ‘suspect hits’,’’ says an insider, “because either the producers or the distributors/sub-distributors lost money.’’
Another reason for money going down the drain is that corporates produce films and sell them for a profit to other corporates, taking the price up. Ashtavinayak Cine Corporation, for instance, made Kidnap and Golmaal Returns and sold both films for distribution to Indian Film Company reportedly for Rs 85 crore; it is also bankrolling an outlandishly budgeted film which it is now trying to resell to a film corporation for Rs 150 crorewhich , at this point, no one is willing to give.
Likewise, T-Series , which made Karzzz, has sold it to Reliance for Rs 40 crore. A particularly outrageous deal is the price promised to a top hero by a film corporation for a project still in the embryonic stage. A trade source says the details of the “alarming’ ’ contract include a 30-something-crore signing amount to the hero, a percentage in the music rights, satellite rightsand a share from the negative exploitation after a certain period.
After Frightful Friday (read the twin debacle of Drona-Kidnap), film corporations are seriously wondering whether they can afford to go ahead with such a ridiculous price structure. However, sources confirm that the corporation that has signed this deal cannot back out because it has already coughed up the 30-something-crore signing amount.
According to Mahesh Bhatt, film stars thrive on the paranoia of the security-seeking bosses of corporate houses. “These corporate honchos have no clue about movies. They talk about a new big idea but in actuality, they even prostrate before a self-proclaimed star,’’ he says.
“They had bragged to the world that they had come to Bollywood to introduce a culture of honesty and transparency. But the blunt truth is that they have poisoned it further with their clever lies. None of these new gods are making money. They are kidding themselves and the world. And, to conceal those lies that they are selling, they need a star on their side.’’
To add insult to injury, corporate honchos know nothing about scripts either; and most haven’t even bothered to employ a team of script supervisors like the Hollywood studios do. Says a female director who recently walked into a film corporation office to narrate her subject, “I was shocked that the four vice-presidents , who I roughly estimate draw salaries of Rs 2 crore-plus annually, knew nothing about films.
I was asked to give a narration to a bunch of FTII freshers who gave me absurd suggestions like ‘Why don’t you have a little of Khosla Ka Ghosla in your film?’ or even better, ‘Why don’t you add a track like the one in Partner?’ ’’ The director, who had gone to narrate a serious subject , has still to recover from her experience.
This kind of chaos is prevalent everywhere, say insiders. Studio sources reveal that a writer-director making his second film (the first one bombed recently) shot most of it, even the climax, without finalising the heroine. A debutant director who doesn’t know even know where to place the camera is at the helm of a Rs 100-crore project with two hotshot heroes.
Sixty per cent of the film was recently wrapped up overseas; and the corporation bankrolling the project knows nothing about its director’s incapability. Instead, its head honchos are just standing on the shore (literally), sanctioning additional funds. And, some day in the near future, they will palm off their foreign adventure to another corporation for a fancy price. You can hardly argue that film corporations don’t know how to roll their funds.
6 months ago