As films led by Bollywood superstars continue to flop, A-listers are taking pay cuts and there is talk of budgets going towards storytelling instead, reveals Anupama Chopra.
‘2022’ is the worst year for Bollywood
The year 2022 hasn’t turned out to be great for Bollywood. Recently released big-budget movies like Lal Singh Chaddha starring Aamir Khan and Raksha Bandhan starring Akshay Kumar failed to impress the audience’s inquisitiveness. Also, 15 out of 20 most-anticipated Bollywood films of this year tanked at the box office. Top actors, big production houses, and massive budgets are no longer a guarantee of commercial success.
Nevertheless, only three films this year — Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, and The Kashmir Files — managed to achieve success.
To make it worse for Bollywood, Lakhs of posts are being generated on social media platforms calling for boycotting Hind films and many of its movie stars, creating tension in the industry where colossal money is riding on top actors. Even some of the memes declared that Bollywood was finished.
“Undoubtedly, this is a time of great churn, but good things will come of it. Already, there has been some course correction in the market. A leading producer told me that star prices — especially for top-rung leading men — have dropped by up to 35%,” says Anupama Chopra, reported in Hindustantimes.
“In the over 25 years that I’ve been a film journalist, actor salaries have been disconnected from ground reality, continuing to soar even as film after the film tanked.”
Vikram Malhotra’s take
Leading producer Vikram Malhotra (Airlift, Sherni) described current events as a “seismic shift”.
“There is a major conversation around costs. We need to make spectacles because that is what the audience seems to want to see right now, but the budget will go into the film rather than the hero. OTTs are also tightening their belts. It’s a buyer’s market right now,” the producer said.
“The good thing is that heroes can lower prices citing the narrative around the fate of the industry. So there is face-saving for everyone. If they don’t do it, they know their films will simply get shelved.”
Vikram Malhotra quoted Warren Buffett’s famous lines when discussing the current scenario: “You don’t know who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out.”
“Any industry attains maturity and sustainable growth when the demand side matures. That is when quality products start playing a more critical role. For decades now, we have believed that we can dish out anything. But audiences now want value for their time and money,” Vikram Malhotra added. “If we have to raise our game and work harder, why are we complaining? Why are we being paranoid and calling it doomsday?”
“There is also a pervading sentiment that the obsession with social media, especially Instagram, has eroded the status of stars and the industry at large. It has, as a male superstar described to me, “made stardom chhichhora (cheap)”.
“Images of actors going, in an endless loop, to the salon, the gym, Maldives, attending brunches and spectacular events, have also underlined the fact that they live in bubbles of entitlement. “Naturally people want to pull them down,” one producer said. “Especially after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput (in 2020), the impression of the industry is so negative. There is no awe or respect.”