At a time when movies with small budgets are reaping rich rewards, it wouldn't be wrong to question whether Indian filmmakers are taking too much risk in making big-budget offerings.
Although budgets of Indian films are merely a fraction of what Hollywood banners spend, the former is increasing its spending capacity. Many projects have made headlines for their budget, signalling a massive growth in production costs.
The trend of investing big bucks in films has led to spectacular cinematic experiences for viewers, like the magnum opus Baahubali series, made on a whopping budget of Rs 430 crore . Majority of the cost was spent on visual effects, needed to justify the grandeur of the setting.
However, the Baahubali franchise is not on top of the list of big budget Indian movies. The slot has been taken by Rajinikanth’s newest and most-expensive venture—2.0, sequel to the 2010 release Robot or Enthiran. The film costs over Rs 500 crore and is scheduled to release on November 29. It is also touted to be Asia’s most expensive movie so far.
Moving to Bollywood, the Hindi film industry too is ready with its share of big budget films. 2018 began with a bang with a big-ticket film Padmaavat that was worth Rs 215 crore. Upcoming multi-starrer Thugs of Hindostan which will release this Diwali has a budget of over Rs 300 crore. The film will be followed by Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero that has investments of Rs 180 crore and will hit theatres on December 21, ahead of the Christmas holiday season.
However, for every successful big size film there is an unsuccessful one that results in huge losses to the industry. When Salman Khan-starrer Tubelight tanked, it not only affected the overall box office collection of that year but was also a big blow for distributors.
Another Eid and Salman release Race 3 could not write its success story as the film earned Rs 166 crore with a budget of Rs 185 crore. It was a similar case with films like Bang Bang and Ra.One. Raees barely managed to earn more than its budget. While Bang Bang and Ra.One minted Rs 113 crore and Rs 141 crore respectively in India, their budgets were also too high.
At a time when movies with thin budgets are reaping rich rewards, it wouldn’t be wrong to question whether Indian filmmakers are taking too much risk in making big-budget offerings.
In an earlier chat with Moneycontrol, Siddharth Anand Kumar, VP Films & Television Saregama and Yoodlee Films had said that "films don't fail – budgets fail."
"There are enough examples of your typical big- budget films failing and smaller independent content-driven cinema garnering critical acclaim and driving box office numbers. Not that there is anything wrong with the masala big bucks Bollywood blockbuster – there is a defined target for that, and we are not dismissing it at all," he had said.
Concurring with Kumar is Rahul Puri, MD at Mukta A2 Cinemas. "Limited budget is the key to sustenance of films and the industry through the year," he said.
But does this mean India should not experiment with big ventures. There is no denying that with bigger budgets come bugger risks but when the risks are calculated it will guarantee success.
Puri in an earlier interview had said that "2.0 isn’t a massive risk." "The film (2.0) will do a certain amount of business in India but given the fact that the film has got Rajinikanth it has massive potential to do well outside India. Even Baahubali did fantastic business overseas. It (2.0) is an extremely bankable film because of the massive brand and hype,” he had said.
However, the shortcomings in the exhibition space is a huge hurdle for the big screen spectacles. India works with 8,000 odd cinemas divided between single screens and multiplexes. The Indian film exhibition segment, in terms of number of screens, is less than 1/5th in size as compared to developed markets like China and US.
This poses a big a problem as there are not enough screens to draw maximum profits especially for big-budget films. Apart from tier I markets, such films have to earn big business from regional pockets as well. And this could be a tough task as regional industries have their own offerings which take up screen space which may bring down the share of big films.
But all these difficulties are not discouraging Indian filmmakers to try their hand at making big-size films. In fact, Indian film industry is all set to go beyond the benchmark investments. Another big-ticket film in the pipeline is Ramyana, which will be made at a budget of Rs 500 crore and will be shot in 3D and released as a three-part series.Exceeding this budget will be the cost for making Mahabharat for which Karnataka-born Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, among the richest Indians in West Asia, will be investing Rs 1,000 crore.