It’s been a rather unusual year for Bollywood so far. We are four months into the year, and there has been not a single 100cr film yet. Race 2 has almost touched that mark, but most trade reports suggest its domestic lifetime nett business is around 95cr. Only one other film (Special 26) has crossed the 50cr mark.
There are three others in the 40cr range – Kai Po Che, Chashme Baddoor and Himmatwala. But the latter missed its target (at least the one proudly set by its director in various media interviews) by more than 100cr!
The 30cr club includes ABCD, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and Jolly LLB. Aashiqui 2 should be entering this club for sure, making 2012 a year of many small victories but no real huge ones like Agneepath or Kahaani. The second half of the year is packed with some huge films, so there is more than enough material to correct that.
But what stands out clearly for me is the consolidation of the youth trend. Three films – ABCD, Chashme Baddoor and Aashiqui 2 – have managed to becomes prominent hits on the strength of young India’s theatre patronage. Kai Po Che at least had the urban elite, office-going crowds supporting it. But these three films have managed to achieve box office glory without any real support from the so-called “high-end multiplexes” or the critics. It has been “mass” success in every sense of the word.
Chashme Baddoor is the simpler of the three success stories. It’s a comedy after all, and the appeal this genre enjoys is fairly well known. But the other two films caught most trade experts off-guard. When we forecasted opening day box office in the 4-5cr range for ABCD and Aashiqui 2 about a month before their respective releases, there was a sense of disbelief. I must admit, the disbelief was not just in the industry, but within our office too.
Can ABCD actually cross 4cr on its opening day? It was releasing with Special 26, an Akshay Kumar film, and had no real star credentials to show. Unlike Aashiqui 2, it didn’t even have a chartbuster song. In the case of Aashiqui 2, the music was ruling the charts for two weeks before the release, but the starcast had no equity at all, not even the DID-led equity that the ABCD stars enjoyed.
But we stuck to the forecasts that Ormax Cinematix’s FBO model suggested, and the actual numbers were only a notch higher! Some trade websites forecasted 7-8cr weekend for Aashiqui 2 last week, which would suggest a first day of less than 2.5cr. On days like this, one realises the true power of consumer data!
There are two distinct aspects about this youth phenomenon that fascinate me. The first one is to do with WOM (Word Of Mouth). Our extensive understanding now suggests clearly that WOM spreads the fastest for youthful films, and the slowest for family films. So, a film like Aashiqui 2 can show growth over the course of the day on strength of the youth buzz generated from the morning show onwards, while the more family-inclusive Mere Dad Ki Maruti never really catches on instantly, and by the time the WOM picks up (eventually at a very good score of 61), it’s already Monday and the film is struggling to find audiences.
The second aspect of the youth phenomenon is to do with their content tastes. There has been a lot of stereotyping that goes about the youth only liking content that offers instant gratification, such as physical romance, item songs, college comedy etc. But ABCD proved that they can enjoy an inspirational story in equal measure. Aashiqui 2 has now proven that emotional love stories, especially when backed by melodious music, have a huge connect too.
ABCD scored 72 on the WOM index (at par with Special 26 and two points ahead of Kai Po Che), while Chashme Baddoor is at 63. Aashiqui 2 scores will be out next week, and based on box office trending, should be fairly decent too. That ABCD is the joint leader on the WOM index so far this year is a great example of how the youth are willing to go beyond the frivolous and embrace the emotional and the inspirational, even when it comes without a starcast and with many execution flaws. The only non-negotiable element is “entertainment” (which is where Nautanki Saala struggled, with a WOM of 42 only, primarily because of its sluggish pace).
Yes, the young India will throng the theatres to watch Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Dhoom 3 too. But it is their interest in non-starcast cinema that holds great business potential for filmmakers in Bollywood. You can actually come up with a subject that’s youth-relevant, and execute it with a wafer-thin budget and make 35cr+ with relatively low risk levels.
And Sajid Khan thought a Himmatwala remake was India’s youth idea of entertainment!