Harikrishnans, the now famous Malayalam film, directed by Fazil, starred the two superstars of Kerala, Mohanlal and Mammootty, along with Juhi Chawla.
In the climax of the film, Chawla, torn between the two heroes, tosses a coin to decide who she will live the rest of her life with. To help solve her quandary, the film was released with two endings.
In the traditional Hindu-dominated belt of Kerala, Mohanlal was shown winning the toss and in the Muslim-dominated parts, it was Mammootty who walked away with Chawla. Of course, it sparked off a lot of uproar and criticism, but what finally mattered was that it was a very smart marketing gimmick that paid off and the film was a resounding success.
Agyaat, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, which was released last week, faced a rather similar uproar because of its unconventional ending, but failed to excite the audiences as Harikrishnans did almost a decade ago.
People in India normally do not label a film good or bad, but would much rather prefer to dissect it into first half and second half.
You would often hear one say that first half was poor but the second half was good and vice versa. Sure enough, the audiences broke Agyaat also into two parts, namely the entire film and just the climax. People came up with radical and extreme reactions to the film’s ending, which perhaps also affected the film’s performance at the box office.
Agyaat was released with 300 prints and in 625 screens across India. The opening in single screens was good but was average to poor in the multiplexes. The reviews were mostly poor and there was a sharp drop in the collections from Monday onwards.
UTV Motion Pictures Plc. led the way and entered into an important co-production deal for Agyaat with Varma. This is a model that the industry needs to adopt right away in these tough times, when films struggle to recover money. A lot of credit also goes to Varma for agreeing to take up part of his fee as a back-end share of profits, thereby helping to reduce the film’s cost of production from Rs8 crore to Rs5.5 crore in one go, and improving the chances of its viability.
Also Read Ashish Saksena’s earlier columns
The film’s final cost, therefore, came to Rs8.5 crore including print and advertising (P&A). The India distributor share from theatrical version has been Rs2 crore. Additionally, the Telugu dubbing rights of the film were pre-sold for Rs2.2 crore. The total recovery for Agyaat will be about Rs6 crore, which would mean a loss of about Rs2.5 crore for the producers. There are bright chances that the losses will be recovered in the second cycle of revenues.
Tere Sang was the second release of the week and has been produced by Anupam Kher and Satish Kaushik. The latter also directed the film, which was released with 130 prints and in about 280 screens. Despite the charges of the film being inspired by Telugu film Chitram and also from Juno, the film surprised the industry by taking a better opening than Agyaat in most multiplexes. However, the excitement was short-lived as the film failed to create any major ripples thereafter.
Tere Sang, which was made at a cost of Rs5 crore including P&A, will end up with India business of a disappointing Rs1.5 crore at best, resulting in an overall loss of almost Rs2.5 crore to the producers since other rights like satellite and home video will contribute Rs1 crore.
Chal Chalein, which released in about 60 screens across India, is a wash-out.
Among the English films, Michael Mann-directed Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, was a letdown. Its reviews were mixed and the film which was opened with 40 prints and in 55 cinemas, barely managed to do business of Rs40 lakh in the first week and will wind up with a maximum of Rs45-50 lakh share at best.
Doing things differently: A still from Agyaat. The movie faced an uproar because of its unconventional ending.
Fly Me to the Moon (3D) and Dragonball Evolution (in Hindi and English) failed to make any mark at the box office.
As an update, Love Aaj Kal became the second film after New York to have crossed the Rs17.5 crore net collections mark in the top six multiplex chains.
It’s commendable that the feat was achieved by Love Aaj Kal in the first week itself. This will entitle Eros International Plc. to an additional 2.5% revenue share from the multiplexes in the first and second weeks. However, the film’s theatrical share from India will not go beyond Rs35 crore as was also predicted by us because of the rather steep drop in the film’s collections in the second week.
Films being released on Friday are Kaminey, Life Partner and Before the Rains.
Ashish Saksena is an executive with extensive experience in India’s entertainment sector and was previously CEO of PVR Pictures. His column looks at the business side of Bollywood releases.
Respond to his columns at firstname.lastname@example.org