By Vinod Mirani
After ages, one saw a dignified and sensible promotion campaign for a film. It is 'Uunchai', a tricky theme about the friendship of three senior citizens out on an adventure. This, coming from a production house that is known to make family socials and love stories. Actually, the campaign is not selling only the film. It is marketing the Rajshri brand!
What is heartening is that even after 76 years, the Rajshri brand still survives and is as active as ever - a close, family-built and -owned film company that has seen and survived the onslaught of the fly-by-night corporate film production houses that spend millions on proposals and not films.
The Rajshris never believed in this new-age promotion of films. I don't even remember the company releasing teasers or ads on television channels. And, with 'Uunchai', they are sparing no media. On television, the campaign is everywhere, be it 'The Kapil Sharma Show' or 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'. What is more, the campaign is led by none other than Sooraj Barjatya, the face of the Rajshri banner, the creative head/brain/face. The man was always shy of facing the media. He has taken the lead to promote this film, his latest presentation after 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo' in 2015.
It is not as if the Rajshris did not indulge the media. I remember when the company was launching Madhuri Dixit with 'Abodh', a press conference was called to introduce her at the then Ambassador Hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai. Of course, being a Rajshri PC, it was a high-tea affair at 4 p.m. They were not into cocktails-and-dinner-type PCs. Their media interactions were limited.
Another one that comes to mind is following their attempt to make a sequel to their 1978 musical blockbuster 'Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se' - 'Jaan Pehchan' in 2011. It was a disaster. They engaged with the media in Mumbai, but to no avail.
You watch these supposedly subtle promotions of films on the various television shows. Like, 'The Kapil Sharma Show', 'Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah', 'Indian Idol', and so on. Usually, you don't see a film being promoted on 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'. Here, there's no scope for buffoonery on the part of the stars and the customary appeal they deliver at the end: "Please see our such and such forthcoming film"!
The Rajshris knew when they needed the media. During the making of 'Maine Pyar Kiya', they would screen the film for a select few during various stages of its making as it was the first film Sooraj Barjatya was helming. These were called trial shows. The first invitation was when the film was about eight reels in the cans.
The Rajshris knew it all because they were deep into the business of cinema, be it production, distribution and exhibition, as in controlling numerous cinemas. They produced films with a very tight budget and were the only company to have a distribution office in all circuits across the country and, among the many films they released, they also released 'Sholay' in a few circuits.
The Rajshris were making successful films till the time when they got carried away and launched 12 -14 films simultaneously. That really hurt the company's business profile. The films may have incurred losses at the time, but, today, in this digital age, they are worth a lot. The banner regained its glory when the new-generation family member, Sooraj Barjatya, made his debut with 'Maine Pyar Kiya', followed by 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!'.
Now, when aged actors are still portraying themselves as dashing young men on screen, Sooraj has dared to come up with a film, Uunchai, where the three main actors play their age. The film is about friendship. And, usually, films on friendship do not fail.
The difference here is that the television promotion campaigns are all built around the film and do not pander to the TV shows. Sooraj Barjatya has tried to revive the 1960s storytelling in 2022. Such a film as this takes a few days to grow and the Rajshris have engaged limited screens to let that happen.
Hindi Films' Poor Run Overseas Too
Filmmakers giving out inflated box-office figures to the media and posting them on social media has become a norm now. A few media people are even bribed to endorse these claims. But there are two sides to a coin and, similarly, social media also has people with 'For' and 'Against' viewpoints. So, in the end, it is all a futile exercise. People see through them.
Now, even film stars, from Akshay Kumar to Amitabh Bachchan, lament the missing audience in the cinemas. But there are also some irresponsible and foolish actors who make public statements, like "we are not asking audiences to come watch our movies!"
Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Tapasee Pannu and Alia Bhatt went on the record with such comments! Who do you think films are made for? Only for the stars to make money? But where will the money to pay you come from if you tell the audience that you don't need them?
Coming back to box-office performances, the production houses loved to flaunt the figures of the overseas business along with the domestic figures. It is surprising therefore that no filmmaker or star has boasted about the overseas business of his film recently! Why not flaunt inflated collection figures like the way they do with the domestic business?
Is it probably because all ticket sales are accounted for? That they are available to the public as the ticket sales happen?
All that, but most of all because the overseas business is as poor as it is in India. In most cases, the lifetime collection of recent releases are less than even the opening day collections of films that hit the screens, say, a couple or three years back!
Take a look at the figures of the recent films of Akshay Kumar: 'Bachchhan Paandey', 'Raksha Bandhan', 'Ram Setu' and 'Mission Mangal' are way below films such as 'Good Newwz' and 'Kesari' in the overseas market.
The lifetime collections of 'Ram Setu' are $2,26,461, 'Raksha Bandhan' $4,83,245 and 'Bachchaan Pandey' $6,54,582, against the first day of 'Good Newwz' ($13,83,892) and 'Kesari' ($12,96,688)! These are collection figures from the UK, UAE, Australia and New Zealand. All figures are in US$.
This falling collection trend is not limited to just Akshay Kumar films. Figures of Aamir Khan's 'Laal Singh Chaddha' compare poorly with 'Dangal', despite a six-year gap between their releases.
'Dangal' opened with $24,51,000 in UAE, as against $6,06,000 in the case of 'Laal Singh Chaddha'! A mere 25 per cent. Even in Turkiye, where Aamir visited the presidential palace, 'Laal Singh Chaddha' could manage just $29,700 opening compared with $56,400 of 'Dangal'.