On August 11, the box-office witnessed the clash of two big Bollywood movies: Aamir Khan’s ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and Akshay Kumar’s ‘Raksha Bandhan’. The beleaguered industry was banking heavily on them to usher in the sunshine, but both of them failed to impress the audience and sank without a trace. The ‘boycott campaign’ against ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ also dented its business, though this isn’t the sole reason for its woeful performance.
‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ has netted ₹45 crore in India in five days, which is lower than the first day collections of Aamir’s last release ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’. Akshay’s ‘Raksha Bandhan’, on the other hand, was a non-starter and collected a pitiful ₹34 crore net in five days.
2022 has been Bollywood’s annus horribilis as even the movies of A-list stars have opened to empty houses. Almost all the stars have cranked out monumental clunkers which were dead on arrival. There is rampant panic in the industry as the list of bummers is piling up.
All experts unanimously agree that this is the bleakest period in the annals of Bollywood. The New Indian spoke with a string of industry people about the current state of the box office. Here is what they had to say:
Taran Adarsh (Trade Analyst): I have been talking to a host of distributors and exhibitors over the last five days about ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’. Almost all of them are very vocal about the fact that ‘boycott calls’ severely impeded its box-office performance at the turnstiles. I think the industry is now realising that these boycott campaigns were not just limited to social media but also had many takers in real life as well.
The actors must silently do their work and focus on making stellar movies rather than making impetuous statements that can hurt the sentiments of people. Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor also issued apologies recently, which underlines my assertion.
While these are undeniably terrible times, everything isn’t lost. Though ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and ‘Raksha Bandhan’ bombed miserably, a small Telugu movie, ‘Karthikeya 2′, is making strides in the Hindi circuits. It means the audience wants to come to cinema halls, but Bollywood has to give them quality movies. The emphasis must be on wholesome entertainers, which are best enjoyed on the big screen.
I think Bollywood will bounce back in some time. The producers are taking stock, introspecting and the course correction is underway.
Girish Johar (Producer and Business Expert): I’m at a loss for words to express my disappointment and shock at the debacle of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’. Even Akshay Kumar’s ‘Raksha Bandhan’ is a colossal flop. This is the worst ‘Independence Day’ for Bollywood as far as business is concerned. The entire industry is in a state of shock. Both these films are not as bad as their collections suggest.
This clearly shows that the audience at present is simply not interested in watching Bollywood films. What else can explain the abysmal collections of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and ‘Raksha Bandhan’ during the extended holiday weekend? Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar are two of our biggest stars. Their films are expected to at least fetch decent initials. But, at the moment, it seems all the stars have lost their ‘pulling power.
I’ve never seen Bollywood go through such a crisis when most of the movies are wilting without a whimper. The producers are extremely jittery and uptight. Even most of the stars are panic-stricken. No one knows what exactly is happening. It is a hard task to make sense of anything amid this unending bloodbath at the ticket windows.
Bollywood is facing multiple problems. First, the content we are producing isn’t engaging enough for the audience whose habits have changed during the pandemic. Second, new releases are coming to OTT platforms too early. That doesn’t give people the motivation to go to cinema halls and watch them. Third, the ticket pricing of multiplexes is too steep for the hoi polloi, especially if we talk about popcorn, snacks and cold drinks. Last, but not least, these boycott calls from certain sections are also affecting business. There is a sense of disdain and disenchantment towards Bollywood.
As an industry, we must all come together and candidly discuss this existential crisis looming over us. That should be the first step toward resurrection. Then we must produce compelling content that is in tune with the taste of today’s audience. Story-telling finesse must come to the fore. Things are looking terminally dismal right now, but I hope the tide will turn soon.
Raj Bansal (Veteran Distributor): I am trying hard to maintain equanimity, but my heart is going out to the fraternity, which is reeling under unprecedented strain. I expected ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ to turn out well because Aamir is a wise man and has an enviable track record. But all hopes have come crashing down. Why the movie has torpedoed unceremoniously despite being released during a period that had so many holidays is inexplicable.
To be honest, the content has to take precedence. Producers should no longer make ‘proposals’ and dish out exorbitant amounts to male stars. How can an actor charge ₹100 crore when the lifetime business of his films is not even ₹100 crore net? I’m not pointing out a particular star as this holds true for everyone. The content and making of the film take a backseat when producers focus on merely putting together ‘projects’.
There must also be discussions about the prices of popcorn and other edibles in multiplexes. It costs almost ₹5000 for a family of five to watch a movie in a cinema hall. Due to this, people now prefer to wait for a few weeks and watch films on OTT platforms unless the reports are simply extraordinary. We have lost a large segment of the family audience by making it unaffordable for them to visit theatres.