I have had many occasions to write about how deficient are the marketing graduates who now literally run the film exhibition industry. They often fail to judge the potential of a particular film offered to them or judge the public mind.
In today's day and time, how can a person in a position of responsibility afford to not only affect the business of his own company, but also kill a film's prospects?
The people designated by multiplex properties to plan bookings for films, the know-all kinds, who play God and decide whether a film deserves any playtime at all at their cinemas and, if it does, how many and what time slots it should get, blundered twice recently. They sabotaged 'Jhund' and planned to do the same to 'The Kashmir Files'.
But it was not up to them. A film does not work because of a multiplex; it is the public which decides.
'The Kashmir Files' was slated to create history and a frenzy across the nation. The multiplex programmers failed to gauge the film's potential and gave it one or two shows per property. So, the film was released with just 500 screens. Putting it in just four words, 'The Rest Is History', would be too simple. Because, within three days of its release, the film was running on about 2,500 screens and in four shows.
What happened was that 'The Kashmir Files' had not only caught the imagination of the nation, but also captured the box office. Since the first show got over on the Friday of the release (March 11), the only subject being discussed on all social media platforms, newspapers, television channels and, eventually, Parliament, was 'The Kashmir Files' and not even the election results of the five states announced just a day earlier.
It rarely happens that all opinions about a film are positive. But that is what has happened with 'The Kashmir Files'.
One gentleman named Rambhai Dabhi in Gujarat put up a sign at his workshop which read: "This is to inform all workers that the company will pay the cost of tickets to those willing to watch 'The Kashmir Files'." This was soon after the first show of the film was over!
There are three major multiplex chains and the programmer of each decides whether a film merits playtime at a particular chain and, if it does, how many screens, shows, etc. The other smaller multiplex groups follow these 'three wise men'. Their decisions made 'Jhund' suffer -- the film could have done better than it did, eventually.
This bunch called programmers has been spoiled silly by filmmakers who prefer to ease their way with wine and dine and soothe their egos. The treat is arranged with the screening so that seeing the film would enable them to allot screens and playtime accordingly.
Now, 'The Kashmir Files' is not a film to watch if one is keen on what is lined up after the show! There is no limit to how a filmmaker can please this breed. You have spoilt them and let the rot set in the system.
Here is one example as to how desperate a filmmaker gets for a decent release. A producer with three films lined up for release in one year tried to be extra large-hearted. He took eight to ten programmers on a weeklong vacation to London! Now, hosting a bunch of junketeers, all paid, can finance a nominal budget film. But this same lot would reject it when it came to granting playtime to such a film!
Why would a producer with an A-list star film in the offing need to bribe anybody is the question!
And how humiliating would it be to chase the filmmaker of the very film you refused its due number of shows. It is the film that brings footfalls. No one has ever visited a multiplex property because it is a tourist attraction! This lot of programmers should have learned this during the Covid-19 lockdown, when even a 'Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari' had to be screened on the maker's terms!
Even with the few screens the film got, it went on to collect Rs 3.55 crore on its opening Friday! By the evening, those multiplex programmers got busy chasing the makers; they wanted to add more screens and more shows of the film.
All screens have now been made available for 'The Kashmir Files'. The cinemas are going so overboard that, by Monday, the fourth day after the release, the film which started off with 561 screens, was playing on 2,600 screens! It was drawing full houses even in 1 a.m. shows and in 5 a.m. shows!
Some states, such as Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Tripura, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh have exempted the film from paying GST. But, a state's share in the GST of a cinema ticket is 9 per cent and that is not much of a concession for a film such as 'The Kashmir Files'.
Also, the multiplex managements never pass on such benefits to the public. They consume it by increasing the admission rates by more than 9 per cent. That is playing it unfair.
The Government at the Centre thinks that the film is very relevant, so it might as well make an exception and let 'The Kashmir Files' be the first film to get GST exemption from the Centre as well. But a concession of 18 per cent makes sense only if the multiplexes pass it on the viewers.
How can one usurp the GST concession meant for the audience? Petty manipulations have been a regular feature in the film industry since the arrival of satellite television and OTT platforms.
A film's satellite cost was always pre-determined when sold, but was subject to the box office performance over a film's opening weekend or the first week box office earnings. So, even if the film had fallen short, increased collection figures were published. Now, the same practice is being followed by OTT platforms (the media complies, of course!).
Looks like the OTT platforms have caught up with such stunts. A recent film, acclaimed by the media especially, has collected about Rs 70 crore, but the figure put out is Rs 100+ crore. The multiplexes, the sources of box office collection figures, never counter such false numbers. Maybe because they think they adds equity to their brand?
An OTT platform decided to call the bluff. You are saying your film has crossed Rs 100 crore? Fine, just prove it to us by getting your GST payment receipts to tally with your claim.
A few films have been made earlier on the Kashmir issue, such as 'Shaurya', 'Hyder' and 'Shikara'. 'Shaurya', which was lifted from the Hollywood film, 'A Few Good Men', as well as Hyder, played anti-Indian Army stories. 'Shikara' was a love story with terrorism as its backdrop; probably, the maker, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, was trying to retell his '1942: A Love Story', where the background was India's freedom struggle.
The success story of '1942' was scripted by the film's music composer, the late Rahul Dev Burman. It was otherwise a routine love story. 'Shikara' had no R.D. Burman to salvage it.
Now comes 'The Kashmir Files', which finally tells the story of the way things happened in 1989/90 in Kashmir, not caring for the national joke called secularism! And see how the film has been rewarded for its honesty.
Here, the figures speak for the glorious march of 'The Kashmir Files' at the box office: Day 1, screens 561, collections Rs 3.55 crore; Day 2, screens 850+, Rs 8.5 crore; Day 3: screens 2,000, Rs 15.1 crore; Day 4, screens 2,600, Rs 15.05 crore; Day 5, screens 2,600, Rs 18 crore; Day 6, screens 2,600, Rs 19 crore; Day 7, screens 2,600, Rs 18 crore.
The seven-day tally adds up to Rs 97.65 crore.
The irony of this story is that a film that started off with just 561 screens on Day One ended the week with 2,600 screens. If that was not enough, Day Eight onwards, it has been playing in 3,800 screens, that is, 1,200 screens added for the second week, limiting the screens for the week's new release, 'Bachchan Pandey', to 3,500.
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