How Bollywood has changed from the jubilee crowd to the crorepati club

The criterion of a ‘blockbuster’ has evolved from how many times an average moviegoer would go to watch a film, prolonging the duration it was kept at the theatre, to the quantitative number of audience that can be packed into a theatre over a weekend.

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Ankita Lahiri | September 30, 2014



Picture this from the 1973 blockbuster Zanjeer:  As Pran attempts to sit down, Amitabh Bachchan kicks away the chair. “Jab tak baithne ko na kaha jaaye sharafat se khade raho... yeh police station hai... tumhare baap ka ghar nahi

Fast forward to 2014: Salman Khan swings the auto-cum-car 90 degrees as he helps his friend elope with his lover.  At the same time, he fights off some fifty guys and falling in love with Jacqueline Fernandes. The film is ‘Kick’.

Most people would remember the first scene even years later, few would recall the latter even a few weeks down the line.

According to reports found on different websites, Zanjeer earned Rs 6 crore at the box office. Kick earned Rs 378 crore. And in a few days, as against months that Zanjeer ran.

While inflationary pressure, devaluation of rupee and other economic fundamentals have changed the rules of the game, it is also a reality that the meaning of a Bollywood blockbuster has significantly changed as the pages on the calendar have turned. From a time when the success of a film used to be measured by the duration that it could keep the audience engaged, the quantitative success now depends on whether the movie has managed to enter the Rs 100-crore club in the opening weekend.

For the current movie ‘Boss’, the phrase, “golden jubilee,” no longer exists. It is now either the Rs 100-crore club or nothing at all.

The criterion has evolved from how many times an average moviegoer would go to watch a film, prolonging the duration it was kept at the theatre, to the quantitative number of audience that can be packed into a theatre over a weekend.

Bollywood has always played with numbers. Only now the numbers ring in tune with the box office numbers. It is a true blockbuster only if it enters the Rs 100-crore club. And slowly even that benchmark doesn’t seem to be enough – the Rs 400-crore club is the new Rs 100-crore club.

Speaking at an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry recently, even union minister of information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar commented on this, wondering who would have thought a single movie would do business worth Rs 400 crore.

Ironically, this evolution has occurred in the span of a single generation. Till date, the success of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (released in 1995) is marked by the fact that it is still being shown in Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai.

That was then. Sixteen years later, the biggest scoring point for another Shah Rukh Khan film, Ra.One, was that it was the first movie to cross the Rs 100-crore mark.

The path that leads to the blockbuster mark has also changed in nature over time. At one time it used to be restricted to the sale of movie tickets and, at the most, music rights. But the revenue that a movie generates now has multiple components. The largest share of the revenues today comes from the sale of global copyrights. Add to it the earnings from music rights, inflated movie tickets, especially over the weekends at multiplex theatres, and promotional activities (including sale of merchandise etc), and little wonder that the numbers have become bigger. So much bigger.

The target audience of the two phrases has also changed face. The audience of the ‘jubilee crowd’ in the pre-multiplex era was limited to the domestic sphere (up until the early-1990s, when the NRI audience started growing). But the audience for the multi-crore club films is borderless, and certainly not restricted to any specific geography – like Dubai, as was the case earlier.

It’s a common saying that the face of Bollywood changes every Friday. So why shouldn’t the meaning of success change, too?

But how many of us would still remember the dialogue-baazi from even a lacklustre Bachchan starrer of the 1980s and the super-duper-uber hit Salman Khan film next month?

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