KOCHI: The evergreen dialogue of Tom Cruise, screaming “Show me the Money” in the movie Jerry Maguire prompted, by Cuba Gooding Jr showcases a discernible correlation between the real world and Hollywood’s perception of reality.
Of late in India, the media and the film industry is abuzz with the amount of money that a film makes rather than the other aspects associated with it. The analysis of how much the film “will make” is a subject of study prior to the making of the film. Experts also ask, why not?
“Giving a huge figure as budget is a strategy adopted by filmmakers to create the initial rush in theaters,” says P V Sunil, CEO and Director, Carnival Cinemas, which is a multiplex operator and also produces films.
Stating examples, Robot 2 or even 2.0, starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar, is the most expensive film ever made in India with a budget of Rs 350 crore.
These numbers are certainly impressive but the revelation of such massive numbers is rather a curious fact here. It is rational to disclose an eye-popping number as budget to promote a film. This is a marketing strategy which film-makers resort to in their quest for a major initial collection.
But how true are these numbers ? This question begs an answer as there is no transparency. The major chunk of a film’s budget are remuneration for the stars, graphics and shooting in overseas locations.
“The production figures nowadays are inflated by 25-50 per cent,” says G Sureshkumar, President, Kerala Film Producers Association. Industry experts point out that the huge figure released by producers are often inflated by 25 per cent. If a film is said to be produced with a budget of Rs 100 crore the actual cost might be Rs 70-75 crore or even less. Some experts are of the opinion that people may stretch the budget by 50 per cent.
Speaking on the same sentiment, Sunil says, “In Bollywood and in other industries in the country it is likely that these figures are often inflated. But there is no mechanism to analyse the given figures and prove them right or wrong. A film can nowadays generate revenue from theatres, satellite rights, DVDs and from online rights. Except from organised players, getting actual production and revenue figures from individual film producers is difficult.”
Using production figures as a trump card for marketing is an eight decades old strategy in Indian cinema. “Inflated numbers serve the purpose of generating curiosity among viewers,” points out Prof C S Venkiteswaran, film critic and documentary filmmaker.
Telugu film Savitri (1933) produced by East India Film Company was the first ‘budget sensation’ in India with a budget of 10 lakhs.
Harish Bijoor, Brand expert and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults explain how box office numbers released in the early weeks serve the objective of being a rating number to excite viewership in subsequent weeks.
“The real collection numbers are those authenticated and submitted for the purpose of entertainment tax collection. Maybe we need to depend on these in the future,” points Bijoor.
Even though the Rs 13,400 crore film industry spans in 20 different languages, films with big production costs are being made in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. There are around 14,000 competing screens in India.
“Generally in India, an expensive product is considered a good product,” points out Jessie Paul, a marketing expert, founder and CEO of Paul Writer Strategic Advisor. Baahubali, for example, claimed, it was the most expensive film. Such claims like “first-ever” or “biggest-ever” or “shot in exotic location’ gives it the bragging rights.
So from a marketing perspective, does inflating the cost of the film enhances its value? “Even though it’s made with a dazzling budget, if it is not a good film, it will definitely suffer at the box-office,” says Sureshkumar. With just one screen per 96,300 residents, India is the world’s most under-screened major territory. China has a screen per 45,000 people.
Hence, money in hand is the real money--not that is shown.