It was 16th December. An Exhibitor friend called to tell me that huge crowds had gathered to watch Spiderman: No Way Home at Anuroop Talkies, Samastipur in Bihar. The demand for the latest Spiderman is tremendous in small towns in India. Youth (15-25 yr olds) were travelling 50-100kms to watch their hero as 2K screens are far and few in small towns. Even smaller kids were pestering their parents to take them to a theatre to watch the webslinger. Marvel has caught the imagination of the youth like no other brand in recent times across the length and breadth of this country.
On 17th December, my manager informed that Pushpa was sold out. I couldn’t believe it. I frantically started calling colleagues to cross check. Everyone was reporting fantastic sales for Allu Arjun’s flick. Although the film could not get proper showcasing due to the webslinger, it managed to get its audiences inside theatres. Till today it's running to packed houses.
Bollywood has no answers to the onslaught by Hollywood and South Filmmakers. Its core audiences are shifting and Bollywood is now seen as an urban phenomenon, catering primarily to urban audiences. 83, which released with huge promotions and hoopla, has failed to fire for its makers. This Rs 250cr plus budgeted film has raked in only Rs 45 crore in its opening weekend. 83 was a film that Bollywood had pinned its hope on. Its lacklustre performance coupled with the success of Pushpa and Spiderman puts the existential question mark on the industry. Pitching a sports historical film as a blockbuster is a mistake in itself. A sports film, nowhere in the world, is treated as a theatrical blockbuster. Nothing has worked for Bollywood besides Sooryavanshi and that remains an exception rather than rule.
If a Film Industry can't hold its own, theatrically, and where its exhibitors prefer a telugu dubbed and English dubbed film over a supposed blockbuster content during festivals, its time to go to the drawing board as something drastically has gone wrong.
Let me try to list out the wrong’s
Youth Connect: The Youth are finding Bollywood very preachy. The 'cool' quotient has gone down drastically. Constantly dishing out pedantic and preachy cinema targeting a mature audience has led the youth to drift towards brands like Marvel. Go to any theatre playing Spiderman and you will understand what I am talking about. There was a huge demand for Eternals alongside Sooryavanshi . Ageing Superstars and lack of new stars is alienating the youth from Bollywood. Lack of franchises and IP’s is also not helping the cause. The youth don’t find Bollywood cool enough as compared to its Hollywood brands. Even the 7-15 year old category is greatly associating itself with Hollywood brands. This is a very serious situation that needs to be addressed.
Mass Connect: Bollywood has forgotten about this section of audience. It relies on its superstars to get them inside auditoriums during festivals. Even that has started to give diminishing returns as even the festive content has become elitist in nature. Totally bypassing this audience has made the road to recovery post pandemic very difficult as films after films have failed to bring in audiences. It's this audience that revived southern industries in no time. It's this audience that the southern film makers are looking to capture and this audience has powered Pushpa to great glory. Bollywood is gifting this audience to who ever wants it.
Confusion over Star Driven or IP Driven: Bollywood finds itself at cross roads. It's primarily a star driven industry where stars want to be actors. They dont want to hold onto their images. Hence, the openings don’t come barring few stars and new actors break image before they are built. Hollywood doesn’t create theatrical stars anymore, it relies on IP’s to get the blockbusters. Bollywood doesn’t have a strong eco system of IP’s and its stars shunning their images puts them in a position where very rarely do their films open super strong like Hollywood Blockbusters or Southern ones. This confusion isn’t helping.
A movie industry needs theatrical clout to survive and Bollywood is losing it in its own backyard. If course correction doesn’t take place, soon things will get worse from here. Bollywood needs to get its Mojo back!