Star appeal, big budgets and swanky foreign locations have failed to bring cheer to Bollywood as the world’s biggest film industry struggled to make a profit in the first half of 2007. Most entertainment analysts agreed it was almost impossible for Bollywood to repeat the success of 2006—its best year ever—but the failure to deliver even one blockbuster so far has surprised all.
While some films aimed at niche audiences made profits and a few others won only acclaim, the big-ticket Hindi films with top stars failed to set the cash box jingling.
Analysts blamed weak scripts for the failures.
“Where are the good stories? You can’t get away with only star appeal and foreign locales,” says Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta. “If you have a good script, chancesare you will have a hit, stars or no stars.”
Original scripts and sequels like those involving a flying superhero, a lovable hoodlum and the story of a suave thief gave Bollywood a rare, superhit-filled 2006. The good times had actually rolled over from 2005 which was until then the best year in terms of revenues, with new marketing strategies, opportunities offered by the Internet, mobile phones, gaming and merchandising helping boost profits.
In comparison, analysts said the turnover in the first six months of 2007 was just a fourth of about $55 million (Rs225.5 crore) collected during the same period in 2006.
The 2007 box office front-runners are Guru, said to be inspired by the life of Indian entrepreneur Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance group, and Namastey London, a romantic comedy partly shot in London. But the list of doomed big-budget films with top stars is long: Salaam-e-Ishq, Eklavya, Nishabd, Tara Rum Pum and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, among others.
“Once again, it has been proved that big names will not guarantee a hit,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
This summer, Bollywood is also feeling the heat from Hollywood blockbusters. A measure of Hollywood’s growing impact in India was seen when five Bollywood films released this month were trumped by Ocean’s 13 with George Clooney again taking the lead in the latest in the series.
No Bollywood film was released the day Spiderman-3 hit the screens, suggesting Indian film-makers did not wish to take a chance against the Hollywood blockbuster.