New Delhi: Director Leena Yadav’s critically acclaimed drama Parched, which opened to 62 lakh over the last weekend, may have garnered its fair share of applause in the festival circuit, but back home it faces an uphill task. The film, starring Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla and Tannishtha Chatterjee that was released in about 100-150 screens, has mostly got late evening and night slots, and only in rare cases does it have more than two shows in a single theatre.

Those numbers, in themselves, may appear unimpressive and obscure but it is quite likely that the strategy will work for the Ajay Devgn produced film that revolves around a group of repressed women in a Rajasthan village. Industry experts say the genre of such films necessitates such releases.

“When you make a film like that, you’re prepared for a not-so-wide release even if it comes from a big banner or maker. It’s not meant for single screens. You’re limited to the multiplexes, within that to the metros and further to a discerning target group that will only come to theatres after work," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.

Like the month’s earlier money-spinning courtroom drama Pink, Parched is likely to grow with word-of-mouth praise with able support from festival recognition, Mohan said.

Rajendar Singh, vice-president, programming and distribution, INOX Leisure Ltd, agreed that there is no point in taking these films far and wide. And Parched, he added, was doing well for itself despite the ostensibly minuscule numbers and the show timings seemed to work in its favour.

“You could slot these films for morning shows but the public will not come in all likelihood," he said. “With limited screens and timings, they make money. There is no point in taking them to centers where nobody will watch them."

Singh’s statement is backed by historical evidence.

Parched, trade experts believe, falls in the same category as small, content-driven films like Masaan, B.A Pass, The Lunchbox, CityLights and Shahid, which made impressive box office collections of 4 crore, 8 crore, 20 crore, 9 crore and 2 crore, respectively, benefitting from strategic late-night shows. Masaan, especially, ran in theatres for almost four weeks. The case has been the same for critically acclaimed Oscar-nominated movies which typically cater only to niche audiences in India.

To be sure, there is a particular science behind the late-night slots too.

“Past experience has shown that the audience for such films, limited in the first place, usually belongs to the upper class and comes for the movies after they’re done for the day," Mohan said. “The film commands its own set of audiences for whom a 7pm or 8:30pm show or even later makes sense."

Every cinema chain usually has a programming team made of film buffs that monitors historical trends like which slots and months work for genre-specific films and then takes decisions on show timings.

“Based on such data and the final cut of marketing elements, we concluded that the audience for the film would comprise serious cine-goers, the kind who go to theatres twice a month, and fall in the 30-plus demographic," said Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures. “We further drew similarities from The Lunchbox which targeted a similar group and was backed by a name like Karan Johar. Parched has Ajay Devgn on board."

All figures in this story have been sourced from movie websites Bollywood Hungama and Box Office India.

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