If anyone is going to solve the issues of the Indian film box office, I feel it is going to be a bunch of hobbiest talking on a blog, don’t you? Let’s roll up our sleeves and fix this thing!
’83 The Film
This has been in production for roughly a thousand years. At first because there was such focus on doing it well, the actors learned Cricket, the period was recreated perfectly, and so on and so forth. And then because the pandemic hit and this Big Film was supposed to wait until it could have a full theatrical release, as it deserved.
The past few years have been a sea of sports films, period films, biographic films, and patriotic films. And this was going to be the grand finale, the most exciting moment in Indian sports history without question. And one of the best sports stories ever, the team from nowhere with no hope who won it all. Plus the first time Ranveer and Deepika co-starred since marriage, and so on and so forth,
And now it has come out and just gone flop. Why???
I have a few theories:
- Class/pandemic. The multiplex audience is more likely to stay out of theaters, I think, because they are more likely to have the luxury to stay home or go to safer options for entertainment. And at the same time, they are more likely to have the latest clear information on the pandemic and make self-protecting decisions. Does that make sense?
- The audience is just plain OVER these historical sports films. They were always more multiplex than single screen, the majority of the audience just wasn’t into something that was slow and specific and just plain not Indian. Meaning, not the Rasa drama mixed style of narrative, or the consciously surreal aesthetic, or the old school declarative style of acting.
- Too much promotion. It was already insanely overpromoted before the pandemic, and then we had two years to almost forget about it, and then it felt like they rushed it out. I mean, what can you do? Back up and spend six months again on the leaked photos from the set etc. etc., or just pretend the last 2 years didn’t happen and go straight into trailer and release? Neither is a good option.
What do you think?
Spider-Man No Way Home
A Hollywood film is absolutely dominating the Indian box office. Why? The Marvel movies and Hollywood films in general have been steadily rising at the Indian box office for years, largely because Hollywood finally started dubbing in multiple languages which is really the key. People don’t like subtitles, and also don’t like watching movies in languages which are not their first. Dub in every language where you release, that makes a HUGE difference. But what else is it?
- Spider-Man movies in particular are just FUN. He’s the teenage hero, the films are automatically family friendly and light and low stakes. It’s the perfect film to take the whole family to, and it is that family box office which drives Indian ticket sales.
- Promotions were smarter. Especially for India. Marvel in general is smart about holding off on their release promos until right before the movie is supposed to release. They plan release dates closely ahead of time, but also plan to adjust as needed. In India, this movie wasn’t even promoted until right as the release date was announced, and then there was a nice tight promotion campaign right in the lead up, nothing low energy or stretched out.
- The Hindi film industry in particular has so much ugliness attached lately. Buying a ticket for a movie is a political statement more than just enjoyment. It spills over, it makes the theatrical experience feel duller and sadder. But a Hollywood movie? No politics there! Which is frankly kind of odd. India had years of being proudly isolationist. And now it has switched to embracing Western products and so on.
And Allu Arjun rises! Nationally! Is it just his fun hair? Is it that there are so few big movies releasing that people are willing to try a southern film? Or is there something else driving the surprise success? Oh, and like Hollywood, the realization that dubbing is VITAL in making an all India hit has been around for the past few years, at least since Eega/Makkhi. It’s now reached the point of songs, song releases, trailers, everything in separate languages. But is there something else happening?
- Star power. Hindi film has been running from star power, while all the other major industries have stayed with it. Again, there are politics there, the Centre has been afraid of the film star power for a long time, and thanks to the rise of social media, has been able to break the system and break the stars. Meanwhile, in the southern states, the politicians ARE the film stars, so there is no fight between them. You don’t have to know who Allu Arjun is to enjoy his charisma, the way the film is built around his hero, all the familiar aspects of a strong star system.
- Masala. Pushpa looks to be a high quality film, unique look to it, strong characters. etc. But it also has great songs and dances, a romance, probably some comedy, and all the aspects that are unique to Indian film in any language.
- Single Screen Audience. Going to my thinking, the single screen fun Masala action audience is more likely to be going to movies in pandemic. They don’t have the luxury of finding other entertainment, they also don’t have the luxury of self-isolating all day every day. If you are already out on the streets for your job, to buy food, etc., then why not go to a movie?
What do you think? Is there a reason I am missing? Or a reason I should remove?
Great soundtrack, attractive young cast with star power (noticed, had to be imported from the south, and brought in from the 90s, because modern Hindi film doesn’t grow stars), and a non-patriotic, non-sports, human based plot. And it released to streaming. But is getting way more talk on the influential fan sites, including this one, than anything in theaters. Why?
- Streaming is easier. We have seen this over and over again. Movies that have boycott campaigns, fake news around them, social media mob mentality, they flop at the box office. And then once they release streaming, they hit like gangbusters. We JUST saw this with Love Aaj Kal 2, massive backlash in theaters, and then people saw it for themselves on streaming and suddenly everyone liked it. Especially movies aimed at a traditionally female audience, since Indian women have a far harder time controlling movie choices than men. Family audience is key, which means men and women both have to enjoy it. But second to that is the male only audience, since men control the finances, the public spaces, all of that.
- No created outrage, not worth it for streaming. If this film was in theaters, Sara Ali Khan would be hounded again for being too Western, too nepotism, too everything. Not to mention people arguing over whether the plot is “feminist” enough, or alternatively not “respecting traditional values” enough. But it’s just a streaming release so it can sneak out.
- Fans are thirsty. Hindi films rose internationally in the 90s and early 2000s based on Masala style romance films. And then that audience was suddenly abandoned for no real reason. A few romances flopped, the stars who were created by romances were attacked, and the industry ran towards other genres. Now there is a high quality original romance, released in a way that avoids controversy, and they FINALLY have something to talk about.
Personally while 83 was massively promoted before pandemic after pandemic it just was too little. They barely promoted on the at all. Most of it was stuff on social media which unless you’re an obsessive Bollywood fan like me you wouldn’t have known. Instead of going on many popular shows on India like big boss, the kapil show, etc. There were also too less promos on tv compared to ADHM which basically brainwashed me into seeing the movie due to a promo every 2 mins. Pushpa being a hit is not a surprise as Telegu film industry basically promotes the films that the Hindi audience craves and allu arjun dubbed films are constantly on tv. Also it’s freaking Spider-Man and Atrangi re is a interesting discussion due to the polarised opinions.
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Oh good, I felt like 83 was barely announcing a release date and then it was out! Good to know it wasn’t just me with that feeling. And again, that goes back to the multiplex audience that is driven by promotions and opening weekend, not word of mouth.
Agree on everything you said, I also think that Hindi films are just starting to recover from the pandemic compared to south industries so this lack of promotions doesn’t make sense at all.
While the general discussion here about movie markets and what audiences are interested in are not my strength I DID see the spiderman movie last night in a U.S. theater, and as I got up to leave with the family I thought “well that was very Masala!” – except I don’t have an exact translation of what Masala is – I feel like it is a film that runs the full gamut of emotion from laughter to sorrow, action to drama. And basically the newest Spiderman checked all those boxes more than a typical superhero movie.
And so, reading on your blog that Spiderman is doing very well in India, does not surprise me. It seems like it would fit in with Indian movies.
As for Pushpa, despite being in the Bay the theaters showing it are too far for me to go to in the middle of family time, and the showings are all too late for a person who puts kids to bed. Allu Arjun’s last movie was unusually successful, even if it wasn’t my personal favorite. This movie from the previews appears to have, if not a better role, a much better female lead than his typical co-star. Also, it isn’t about rich people. I am so @#$! sick of watching rich people. Sports movies – if they aren’t rich, they are the select few. After this pandemic and everything else I am done with the rare and the select few. Don’t get me wrong, I love DDD, but it isn’t a movie I would be interested in going to see in the theater right now. I don’t know if the fact that Pushpa is a period piece plays into it. I wouldn’t be interested in a movie from the 1800s, but the 1970s wasn’t a time of prosperity in the U.S., so in a way it is a familiar. Mind you, my family has done economically just fine through the pandemic, and yet I still don’t want to think about rich people.
For Pushpa I feel like Indian audiences will always want a masala movie and I think the hindi industry in recent years have been sort of deviating away from that type of movie (rohit shetty exempted ofc) while it’s still very strong in the Telugu industry which imo has sort of perfected delivering the spectacle and high octane energy these masala movies need in addition to the rise of hindi dubbing for south indian movies. I never wanted to watch ’83 so I haven’t been following it too closely but I’m surprised that it’s underperforming. It did seem more like an ensemble movie instead of other more successful sport movies where it’s like “big star” and others though so maybe that’s part of the reason why nobody was excited.
Atrangi Re is a surprise for me. For me personally I was following the news pretty closely early on because the cast and crew intrigued me from the get-go but I didn’t think that other people were going to watch it and I’m surprised that there are quite a bit of people that seem to really like it though there have been some discourse and debate about it lmao. I didn’t follow other digital releases like Mimi and Haseen Dillruba when they came out this year so I’m not sure if the response to Atrangi Re was greater or less. I ended up loving it so I of course would have loved to watch it in theaters but I feel like maybe having it go directly to streaming was for the best. Very interested into seeing how Sara follows up her career after this because all of a sudden a lot of people are saying it’s her best role since Kedarnath so that’s bound to have made her feel better after LAK (2?) and Coolie No 1 (2?).
Also the MCU/Disney just has a huge chokehold on movie industries everywhere.
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The only one of these I have something close to an informed observation about is “’83,” that observation being that my experience was surprisingly different than what’s being described here. In the first place, I had no clue the movie even existed before a few weeks ago. I don’t make any particular effort to keep up with industry announcements; until a trailer comes out or my local cinema posts the showtimes, I don’t hear about a movie UNLESS friends who do follow filmi Twitter get hyped/exasperated enough to specifically tell me. Clearly nobody I knew was excited about the idea of this movie in 2017 ( ; The trailer played like bonkers once it dropped here, though.
And then it came as a big surprise to hear that the film was doing poorly in India. The screening I went to in MA was sold out. People were cheering, crying, the whole shebang. (The guy next to me also kept describing the games to his wife before they actually played out on screen, which might have annoyed me if I knew the first thing about sports! Thankfully, I’m safe from that one ( ; ) It seemed to me like exactly the kind of Hindi movie that people keep saying they want: optimistic, good production value, nothing very challenging, patriotic but not in a gross way. But of course an NRI audience isn’t an Indian audience. For that matter, the choice of a Christmas release probably offers a bigger box office boost here than in India given how many people, with the apparently sole exception of Margaret and I, get the whole week between Christmas and New Years’ off of work. *shrug*
Oh! I can at least tell you about the Christmas release thing! I thought the same as you for years, and then a commentator on the blog schooled me. Most schools in India close for Christmas, and some offices. So you have this random day off for a holiday you don’t celebrate, perfect time to go to the movies! You won’t get the big family crowds you would for Diwali, but you will get a nice assortment of people.
On Tue, Dec 28, 2021 at 10:19 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I knew schools were closed, but it still seems to me like there is a pretty big difference in moneymaking potential between a one-off bank-holiday-type free day versus multiple days off of work (and multiple WEEKS off from school for the kids).
Flipside: nothing else to do but go to the movies. No family commitments, no religious events, it’s like memorial day in America.
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Could that explain the Atrangi Re success too? I think it was also a Christmas/Christmas Eve release. So if people aren’t going to multiplexes, but they have time to spare, they stay home and watch the newest movie online. Women can watch it too, since they’re home, they chew on it, recommend it to female friends who are more inclined to see a romance, and it snowballs from there.
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Oooo, that’s a very good theory! It’s similar to the reason that the Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies have taken off. Women, at home alone, looking for something fun and distracting.
On Thu, Dec 30, 2021 at 4:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I am the multiplex crowd in India & had a week long break from watch to do whatever I wanted. When I thought of going to theater to watch a movie,the first choice was definitely Spider-Man cos I knew I won’t be wasting time & money on this one & it turned out to be true. It is truly paisa vasool & a big screen experience at that. I was considering going to 83, when Shyam Singha Roy came out and so had to go watch in theater due to Sai Pallavi. I’m guessing others like me would have gone to Pushpa for Allu Arjun or their respective local stars. I’m still thinking whether to go for 83 despite reading all the positive reviews and knowing that it will just be my kind of movie.I also knw that if I wait a little longer it will come in OTT & don’t mind waiting. There is nothing in 83 that is pushing me to make that effort to go to theater to watch it.
Pushpa had bad reviews whn it came out, still people are going for it cos it is mindless fun & the star value attached. Also the hatred of majority against Bollywood is at an all-time high & Deepika/Ranveer is a favourite target of propagandists. Bollywood has kind of lost the sheen with the influx of OTT, politics & lot of stupid reasons.
Oooo, I hadn’t thought about the OTT aspect! Which is stupid, because that’s a big part of my decision making as well. The one Indian movie I have seen in theaters since the pandemic started was Love Story, because it was a Sai Pallavi movie and Telugu so I knew it might not hit streaming. But ’83 feels guaranteed to hit streaming, so why bother seeing it in theaters?
On Tue, Dec 28, 2021 at 11:15 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Dropping this link here because Karan mentions Pushpa – though otherwise not much of substance beyond the observation that a big movie has to have a certain scale, it’s not just about adding languages.