There is a reason why Bollywood has largely remained a family business and it is not only about nepotism. Actors from filmi families certainly get the wind in their favour at the time of their launch but there's another aspect of Bollywood that we have completely overlooked. And this has got to do with the movie-making business -- the families who have traditionally directed and produced Bollywood movies like the Chopras and Johars.
Let me explain.
Most of the reputed Hollywood studios have been starving for some decent revenue in the Indian filmmaking business. it is also a fact that their performances have remained far below their own expectations. Some production houses like Disney have also temporarily shut down their movie business in India as well. A lot has been written about why they (the Hollywood studios) have largely failed in the Indian market. They have not only failed, they have been bleeding so bad that some of them have stopped acquiring films from producers.
However, the scene is completely different at the offices of family owned production houses like Yashraj and Dharma (even the ones owned by film stars), most of whom have done decently over the past decade. It is said that Bollywood is not a business. It is like the mafia. You learn to survive in this jungle after generations of experience and definitely, not overnight.
It is outright difficult for a rank outsider or a fringe player to enter the mainstream commercial moviemaking business and start making money immediately, unless you have plenty of luck on your side and a deep war-chest.
This is what happened with Hansal Mehta, who has remained a niche player in Bollywood with Shahid and Aligarh, till Simran happened. Simran is Hansal Mehta's costliest film till date and perhaps only one with a leading Bollywood star.
Simran had a budget of about Rs 30 crores. The production cost is nothing compared to big budget films but nevertheless it was supposed to be a mainstream Bollywood entertainer. It was supposed to catapult Hansal Mehta and some of his team members into commercial cinema.
That didn't happen. Simran won't be a hit. It will be lucky to recover its money though the collections have been really paltry at the box office. You must be wondering how and why the film is struggling at the box office despite such heavy duty promotions by Kangana Ranaut. How could a good film underscore when it had good content, great promotion, controversies, a big star and a good script? Here are five probable reasons.
1. Complete ignorance about the audience:
The film is about a Gujarati lady called Praful Patel and her dysfunctional family. The film also released a few days before Navratri, the most pious and biggest festival of Gujaratis. The film's script contains everything that would send shivers down the spine of even a liberal Gujarati family. Praful Patel is everything that a Gujarati family don't want their daughters to be. Yes, we can talk about feminism and cinematic liberty but we cannot forget that the film is a commercial project and supposed to make business by making people spend money to see it at the theatres. I work in a Gujarati dominated office space and I can say with a certain amount of certainty that once the word got out about how the film 'exposes' the double standards of Gujaratis, the elders and middle-aged Gujarati audience were ticked off.
Navratri is also a time when the younger ones in the families turn 'sanskari' or at least make a show of it. They wouldn't openly endorse a film that goes against the very family values that they are celebrating during Navratri. By talking about Gujaratis, I am using them as an imagery for the rest of the middle-aged family audience in India.
Hence, the TG (Target Group) was lost and with that, any Indian family that fall in the same category. The family audience decided that it was not a good film to watch. That word-of-mouth spelt disaster for the film. The timing, given the content it carries, couldn't have been worse. The film could have targeted New Year but no, it had to come out on a religious festival.
2. The changes in the script and the resultant hotchpotch:
Now that the entire original script has been posted online, one can clearly see what was lost in translation and what was deliberately discarded. The stamp of forcible intervention of too many people is all over the film.
There are so many questions that remain unanswered. For example: Why was Kangana and her father was so distant and distrustful of each other? The scenes of the bank robberies were also hastily done. The original script shows her doing a recce of the banks that she was going to loot. That part is missing in the final film.
That the script evolved over time and it became a hotch potch of sorts, is written all over it. Tell me, which leading producer or director would allow that to happen once the script is locked?
3. The film is too dark for a festival release:
Navratri, Durga Puja, Diwali (that follows) are festivals of light, joy and laughter. This is the time when people dress up and come to the movies in groups. Friends gang up and come to the theatres. Families of tens come to the movies to have fun together and share a huge tub of popcorn. Now, are you expecting all of them to come and cry watching a film?
Now, the major part of Simran is dark where at every point of time, the main antagonist is struggling, falling, getting hurt, having bad sex and basically getting messed up. Forget about entertaining you or cracking you up, this film makes your heart heavy.
There are some comic reliefs but basically the film is dark. You don't laugh with Praful Patel but you tend to cry with her. You are told every time how messed up she is as a person. Now, tell me honestly, are you up for some depression during a festival where you are supposed to dance, eat and make merry? Well, there goes another opportunity because of a bad script.
4. The film has become a Kangana fest:
The film doesn't have any recognisable face other than Kangana Ranaut. Not even an actor who you can readily recall. As a result, you turn blind to them after a while and only see Kangana in every frame of the film.
The film is entirely about her and her journey in an alien land. There is nobody to share her burden. Now let's look at the other hits which also had Kangana in the lead. In Queen she had Rajkumar Rao, Lisa Haydon and other nice guest appearances.
In the Tanu Weds Manu franchise, she had the able support of R. Madhavan. What happens here? You cannot even take your eyes off Kangana. If, by chance, you get tired after watching her for a while, there is absolutely no relief.
That is what happened in the end, too... many people complained about too much Kangana in the film. The audience desperately needed one more recognisable actor who was nowhere to be found.
5. Last but not the least, the lopsided promotional strategy:
The Rajat Sharma interview changed the course of the entire promotions. What was supposed to be an appearance to promote a film, turned out to be an occasion of muckfest and washing dirty linen in public.
If you ask me, I would blame the PR and not Kangana Ranaut for what happened. Sure, Kangana is a fiesty woman who will answer every question that is posed to her. But it is the job of the PR to ensure that she is seen at the right media interactions, grants one-on-one interviews to the right journalists and ensure that the content that emerges out of it promotes the film and nothing else. It is a journalist's job to get an interview that will sell and go viral, it is the job of a PR to ensure that only the film benefits out of it.
Going by the way, how films are promoted these days, we know that a Bollywood PR does this job really, really well. Then how come this one time every rule book was thrown out of the window?
It seems that the journalists who interviewed Kangana, did their job really well. But the PRs who were supposed to promote the film had a deeply flawed strategy. Why was there so much negativity surrounding Kangana when her film was about to release? Surely there's something major we are missing out here.
But this is for certain that the whole promotional strategy was deeply flawed. This is definitely not how it should have happened.
Did Kangana not listen to the PRs or did the PRs never bother to check how the interviews were going to pan out?
Lastly, coming back to Hansal Mehta again, he surely had to go through a traumatic time.
We are also sorry to know that Hansal had to delete his Twitter account because of reasons best known to him. However, we are glad that he is back. Directors like Hansal are great filmmakers. They make niche films with subjects that nobody would touch.
Shahid and Aligarh are classics. But they are not mainstream films. When you are playing with the big boys, you got to play by some rules of the game. Changing the rules of the game and still winning the game, happens only when you have a stroke to good luck.
Just like Praful Patel in Simran. When you throw caution to the air and continue gambling even when the stakes are really high.... you stand to lose.
Just like Praful Patel in Simran.
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