Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023

As much as he likes to say that he leaves the business side of things for his Dharma Productions CEO to handle, filmmaker Karan Johar is perhaps among the most astute observers of the film industry. In an appearance on a roundtable interaction organised by Galatta Plus, Karan dissected the issues with Bollywood in particular, and revealed some interesting details about how he calculates a film’s chances of success.
Karan said that while ‘normalcy’ has returned to cinemagoing across Indian film industries, the Hindi industry is experiencing problems in particular. “What’s happening in Hindi, the major belts — and I’m going to get slightly technical so that everybody understands — Mumbai and Delhi, which account for 60% to 70% of the number that comes in, they haven’t been behaving as consistently as they were pre-pandemic. So, what has been working is only the spectacle films, even if they’re dubbed films.” he said.
Pointing out that ‘the biggest hits’ in the Hindi speaking belt ‘are dubbed films’ — KGF: Chapter 2, RRR and Baahubali 2 — Karan said, “The market has been behaving very erratically… Always know, if the heartland and Gujarat step on board, there’s nothing stopping you. The moment those two territories are distant from your film, you can never do a very large number. So, Gujarat, and CPCI Rajasthan have to step on board, and that’s just how the business model works.”
He said that Hindi filmmakers used to be trendsetters once upon a time, but for some reason, became trend-chasers in the 1980s, when they began making remake after remake of South Indian hits. Blaming himself for being a part of the problem, Karan said, “After Hum Aapke Hain Koun, everyone, including myself, decided to jump on the bandwagon of love, and Shah Rukh Khan was created. We let go of all our roots from the 70s, and in 2001 when Lagaan was nominated for an Academy Award, we were like, ‘Oh, now we’ll do these kind of films’ right up till the 2010s. My Name is Khan is still a root of Lagaan, in my head, which released alongside Dabangg, which again (changed trends) and people were like, ‘Now let’s start making commercial films again’. That’s the problem, we actually lack the spine and lack the conviction…”
Singling out the films starring Amitabh Bachchan, written by the iconic duo Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, Karan said that their style was mimicked across the nation. But Hindi cinema turned its back on Salim-Javed’s films. “We, who should be very grateful to Salim saab and Javed saab, we let go of that cinema and went to Switzerland.”
Karan said that in the current climate, he can’t justify the costs that would go into a film starring newcomers. “It’s pointless to market these films,” he said, noting that 8000 people showing up to a mall to gawk at the actors doesn’t even translate to 80 people buying tickets to watch their films in the theatre.
The Hindi film industry has produced only a handful of bonafide hits this year, but several more high-profile movies have failed tragically. Of the hits, only The Kashmir Files, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Drishyam 2 have generated significantly bigger revenue than their production budgets. And while Gangubai Kathiawadi and Brahmastra also did big business, they cost much more to make.
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