An Assortment of ADHM News Items

The biggest news is really the meta-news that there are 3 news stories about ADHM to one about Shivaay.  Clearly, the people who run English language industry news sites are pretty sure that their readers care more about ADHM then Shivaay news.

This underlying assumption, that the readers of English language industry websites care more about ADHM than Shivaay, is kind of what underlines two of these stories.  Or actually, the flip of that, that readers of English language industry websites (so, educated or abroad, with internet access which usually means better off) are the ONLY ones interested in ADHM.

A “well-informed source” quoted by Bollywoodhungama argues that:

If you look at the association shouting for a ban on Karan Johar’s films, the Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association had similarly resolved to not release Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan and focus on the Ajay Devgn comedy Son Of Sardaar. The COEAPOI only has authority over single screens in Mumbai and Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka. The rest of the country is free to release whichever film they want this Diwali.

I am not suggesting that Ajay Devgn has masterminded the campaign to stop the screening of ADHM. However the association asking for a ban on ADHM are also telling the exhibitors that audiences will prefer Shivaay for Diwali as action is the preferred genre during the festive season.

So, first, any bets as to if this “well-informed source” came from inside Dharma?  Honestly, I could go either way.  I certainly trust the information given, it matches with what I’ve seen in the coverage.  That this association is only single-screens in the states surrounding Maharashtra, and that single-screens would probably be going for Shivaay anyway.  It could just be someone at a distributor’s office or who owns a couple single-screens and sat in on the meetings, giving their perspective on things.

But what is up with the “I am not suggesting that Ajay Devgn…” in a way that seems like, yeah, you kind of are suggesting that Ajay Devgn is in cahoots with the single-screen theater association!  If this is a source from inside Dharma, with specific directions as to what to say, this is an interesting tack to take.  I will be curious how successful it is, if other sources pick up on this hint and run with it.  Ajay all along has been portraying himself as the underdog, against big bad powerful Karan Johar and Dharma films.  But this could change the narrative, make Ajay the bully who is trying to destroy Dharma just because he’s afraid of a little healthy competition.

Now, I don’t actually believe that Ajay bribed or lobbied or whatever the single-screen association to ban ADHM.  I do think he has a better relationship with single-screen theaters than Dharma does.  That’s his audience, that’s his base that he has to keep happy.  And, to some degree, they are going to do everything in their power to keep Ajay happy.  Losing rights to screen ADHM is really not that big of a deal (their audience didn’t care that much about it anyway), but losing Shivaay, or the next Golmaal, that could be a HUGE deal for a single-screen theater.


Speaking of those relationships, Bollywoodhungama has another really really interesting spin on this, saying that it’s not about Fawad Khan or ADHM or Dharma Productions at all, it’s about the local distributor!  Shringar films, apparently, does not deal well with single-screens, and the exhibitors are jumping on the chance to stick it to them, using patriotic feelings as a cover.

In a way, this is still Dharma’s fault.  If they cared more about the single-screen audience, then they would make sure their film was distributed in a way that worked for single-screen theaters.  I am guessing Ajay Devgn Films is always careful to make sure their product will show in single-screens in a way that benefits everyone, because that is their bread and butter.

But this is also a good reminder that this “ban” is only going to have a secondary effect on Dharma and Karan Johar and everyone else, the immediate effect is going to be on the distributors.  Ooo!  I’m gonna make a flow chart!

Profit flow chart.jpg

As you can see, the money (green arrows) flows from the distributors to the filmmakers, and from the exhibitors to the distributors.  If there is a last minute ban on exhibition, the distributors are the ones caught in the middle.  They’ve already paid their money to the filmmakers, but haven’t gotten it from the exhibitors. (this wouldn’t be the case, of course, if the ban was announced 3 months ago before the distributor contracts were confirmed, but I think we can assume that Karan got paid by 2 weeks before release and is safely out of it)

Of course, you’ll also notice that the Exhibitors are the ones hanging out at the end of that chain, the only green arrows coming to them are going to be from the public at large.  So if the public is going to boycott, or protest, the exhibitors are the ones they will reach first.  A decision not to show a movie which might lead to boycotts is a legitimate choice for them to make, and it might have nothing to do with any associations with the distributors or the filmmakers.  But it is true that the distributors will be the ones most immediately affected by a ban.

Although there will be an effect on the filmmakers as well.  Notice my nice big purple arrow.  That is to show the prestige and power a filmmaker can gain based on the box office received by the exhibitors.  And when I say “filmmaker”, I don’t just mean the production house, or the director, but everyone involved in a film.  Sure, Ranbir Kapoor and Aish and Fawad and Anushka have probably already gotten paychecks for their work.  And they had the opportunity to work with Karan Johar, and be part of this huge promotional push.  And Pritam got paid for his music, and Manish Malhotra for his costumes, and so on and so on.  And even Karan and Dharma Productions have already been paid by the distributors.  But that’s just a short-term effect.  What about long-term?

If Dharma has a flop film, even worse a film dogged by controversy, that’s going to make it a lot harder for them to get their next project off the ground, and their distribution rates will probably need to be slashed like crazy before anyone will take a chance on them for the next film (if you remember, that’s the deal Red Chillies and Shahrukh cut with distributors to make up for the loss on Dilwale).

Ranbir is coming off an almost unprecedented string of flops, he really really NEEDS a major hit to get him back on top, a major inarguable hit.  Without that, he won’t be offered the plum roles any more, won’t be able to pick and choose projects as much, won’t have the industry power he needs to do what he wants, from protecting his privacy and refusing interviews, to getting his next passion project funded.

Anushka isn’t doing nearly as badly as Ranbir, she can probably bounce back from this with no problem, but it would still be a bit of a black mark on her record, especially as she is trying to get her own production house off the ground.  Aish has already decided it’s not worth it and is pulling herself away from the project, so any gain or loss of prestige won’t reflect on her.  Fawad has already lost, any box office will be spun as “in spite of” his presence, not because of it.  And everyone else involved in making the movie, to a greater or lesser degree, is going to be watching those box office figures and deciding how this will affect their future.


Of course, all this industrial stuff is interesting, but underlying it all is some deeply deeply personal stuff that must be going down.  I already mentioned how rumor has it that the Devgn’s and Karan are on the outs, breaking a friendship between Karan and Kajol that goes way way back to their teenage years, before either of them were famous.  Who knows what broke them up, but here is more confirmation that it is serious: Kajol is not going to be in ADHM!

I totally forgot about this until this article, but Kajol has made an appearance in every movie Karan has made, even if it is just a couple second cameo.  And now she is being replaced, Karan is having Alia make that couple second cameo instead.

This is kind of more shocking to me than when Student of the Year was announced, the first time Karan was making a movie not starring Shahrukh.  That was an artistic decision, he couldn’t make the kind of movie he wanted to make if Shahrukh was in it, he couldn’t launch newcomers under Shahrukh’s shadow, he couldn’t make a light low-budget experimental film if it was also a KHAN film.  But Kajol not showing up, that’s purely personal.  Her little 5-10 second appearances were just a gesture of goodwill, and good luck, between two old friends.  And now she’s not going to do it?  Things must be serious!


8 thoughts on “An Assortment of ADHM News Items

  1. Oh, thanks for the chart! Very useful.

    But what about selling rights to distributors? Is it always a fixed (negotiated) price only? Or do the film-makers also gain theier percentage from the amount of sold tickets?


    • The industry is in flux right now, so there are a lot of experimental contracts going on, with riders like “if it breaks a certain amount, we give another bonus to the filmmakers”. But traditionally, distribution rights are bought based on a bidding system.

      The distributors try to guess how successful the film will be and bid based on that. They get to see early cuts and song sequences, and hear the narration, and meet the stars, and use their best judgement as to what will be a hit and what won’t. That’s where a failing box office could really hurt Karan and Ranbir and everyone else. They will look at the profits of ADHM when they make their judgement on how much to bid for the next project.

      There’s also the situation where the filmmaker and the distributor are the same person. UTV/Disney, Yash Raj, Rajshri, all are both studios and distributors. Rajshri was the first, and they made soooooooooooo much money of Hum Aapke Hain Koun, that Aditya Chopra saw what happened and decided to imitate the business model with Yash Raj. Being your own distributor means you can put out a big push for a film no one else believes in (like HAHK), and then reap all the rewards when it hits big.

      (also, I just realized I forgot my Monday morning question post again! Oh well, I’ll make it a Monday afternoon question post)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I had no idea about these kind of deals. Same with the bidding system.
        So, distributors kind of take into account every single moment – from how the film looks itself to filmmakers’ previous box-office record.

        It seems a lot more simple when filmmaker and the distributor are the same person.
        But, then, I guess, the risk is higher, since they don’t get that “safe amount” from distributors.

        More Monday questions! Cool! )


        • Exactly! About the “safe amount”. And what used to be standard (again, it’s rapidly changing now) is that the distributors would make their bids and pay before the film was even completed. That’s how filmmakers could afford to finish, they would raise the money to start filming, and then as soon as they had a song finished and some stars committed, they would start shopping it around looking for a distributor to purchase the rights so they could make enough to actually finish the movie.

          Yash Raj is unusual in so many ways, one of them is that it has the funds and infrastructure to actually be its own distributor. That’s what the profits from DDLJ and Dil To Pagal Hai got folded into, enough money to set up a distribution network and fund their own films with no money from distributors.


          • This reminds me of a sequence from Luck by Chance, where a producer (played by Rishi Kapoor) approached star after star, trying to get someone big for his film to please distributors. And as he couldn’t find a star soon enough, they decided not to pay him in advance and moved on to another project with a different producer.


          • I really should watch Luck By Chance sometime, from everything I’ve heard about it, it’s basically as good as an “Intro to the Industrial Structure of the Indian Film Industry” class.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: ADHM Resolution! Karan Humbles Himself, MNS is Happy | dontcallitbollywood

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