Is Bollywood Really a ‘Religion’?

There are many stereotypes that have stayed in the film industry over years. The one about not releasing a film in ‘shraadhs’ stands out as outdated in particular. With release windows becoming an increasing challenge, every opportunity needs to be ceased. And the young theatre-going population don’t have ‘shraadhs’ on their mind for sure. (Besharam opened at a huge 19.5 cr during the shraadh period).

Another untested stereotype was about not releasing a film pre-Diwali, defined as the 3-4 day period leading up to to the big festival. There has been no precedent over the last decade at least. So when Rakesh Roshan chose a pre-Diwali release for Krrish 3, we were dealing with untested waters. In Ormax Media’s forecast model (FBO), the performance of the campaign suggested that if Krrish 3 released on a normal Friday (not a holiday), it would have clocked Rs. 29.5 cr on its opening day, within striking distance of the Day 1 record, on which the top two positions are held by holiday releases. (Krrish 3 went on to break that record on its fourth day, of course).

In reality, Krrish 3 did 18.8 cr on its first day (I know sources suggest 25, but we all know how it works these days, don’t we? And like always, we don’t count dubbed versions for fair comparison). So that’s nearly an 11 cr (or 35%) deficit explained by “pre-Diwali”!

Which brings me to the point. Bollywood and Cricket have been called the two religions of India, ad nauseam. The cricket part even has a God now, and next week shall be a real demonstration of it all. But Bollywood?

Religion is the opium of the masses, it’s said. Bollywood may fall short on both the criteria here – the opium and the masses. Let’s look at the opium part first. It refers to addiction that’s so strong that it blinds your senses and judgment. Surely, a lot of people were in their senses on November 1 when they chose Diwali prep over watching Krrish 3, which they would eventually watch later in the week to give it that record fourth day.

Now that’s not addiction. It’s convenience. When a religious festival takes precedence over the biggest release of the year, you know where the ‘religion’ part actually is. The Krrish 3 example reconfirms what we may intuitively know. That films are only entertainment at the end of it all. They do not have any strong social, emotional or patriotic overtones, even though the act of movie-going itself is highly social in nature today.

If Bollywood would have truly been a religion, more ‘devotees’ would have found the time to watch Krrish 3 the day it released. It would not have been Priority 2, 3 & 4 for so many of them.

The ‘masses’ part is generally better understood by now. It is popular knowledge that only a handful of Indians go to theatres. As a latest perspective, about 23 million Indians watched Chennai Express in a theatre over its box office life-time, while its TV premiere got viewership of about 60 million, if TAM covered India better. But religion is not about watching films for free in the comfort of your living rooms, is it?

For me, “Bollywood is a religion” is a media-created idea, that has been fuelled by film fans over generations now. It has been a subject of great interest for me to actually “size” this fans segment. And in one such attempt, I discovered that only 11% of film-viewing population of India (including those who watch on TV) are true fans, defined as those who consider films as an indispensable, uncompromisable part of their lives. For the other 89%, as they say in India, “meri hobby hai”.

If you are reading this, chances are that you are a part of the 11% and not the 89%. Which is where the myth gets fuelled further. Get the point?

I’m a part of the 11% myself. It’s taken me a while to understand, and rather reluctantly accept, that the 89% indeed exists.

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About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
This entry was posted in Box Office. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Is Bollywood Really a ‘Religion’?

  1. Himanshu Manroa says:

    Another thought provoking piece Shailesh! Brilliantly articulated.

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