The Box Office Bullies


There’s a new set of bhais who have cropped up in Bollywood.

These ‘goons’ don’t extort money but ‘release dates’.

These bullies have come up in the last five or six years and their numbers are steadily increasing. Understandably, everybody in this film industry is watching silently from a distance even though they know these people are ruining their own business.

With virtually no opposition, these bhais are ruling the roost in Bollywood. Let me explain who these people are.

These ‘bhais’ extort release dates

These days, the most important factor that determines the success of a Bollywood commercial film is its release date.

The mathematics of determining the best release date is simple. If you can secure a release on a holiday, you will surely get back a sizeable amount of your investment. More so, if you manage to release your film on a national holiday. If that national holiday precedes or succeeds a weekend, then your film is a sure-shot money spinner at the box office.

Ask any ‘big’ filmmaker and they will tell you that release dates are being locked even before the start of production. All big producers have their release date locked before the film goes on the floors.

But that is not the problem. Of course, you will want to release your film when you can reap maximum profit.

The problem lies somewhere else.

Some of these ‘big’ filmmakers are not content with the fact that the release date of his film is coinciding with a national holiday. They don’t want anybody else to release their film in that week.

At any cost.

Why these producers are no different from the bhais

Big-Bully-Cartoon-ihatebullies.net_One of the main business principles of the underworld bhais was to create a monopoly. They would create their own space and wouldn’t let anybody tread on their territory.

How are these producers similar to those bhais? Here are the similarities.

  • These producers also mark their ‘territory’ – which is a particular week in a calendar year.
  • They would then declare their territory to other producers and ask them not to tread on their zones.
  • Then they will release their film in such a manner that the audience have no choice. If you want to go to a theatre during that holiday, you have no option but to watch their film, however good or bad it turns out to be.

Fair business practices are flouted blatantly

Every Mr Moneybag will aspire to operate in a monopoly market and ensure maximum Return on Investment (ROI).

There is nothing wrong with that.

What has gone drastically wrong is the way some of these producers are going lengths to ensure that they have a solo run at the box office. These producers are not thinking twice before arm-twisting the smaller players in the market. Some of these strong-arm tactics are no different from what a goonda would normally employ.

The operating principle is simple: Any film, big or small, is competition and it must be trampled on.

cartoon-bullying-image-jpgPreviously, one big producer would steer clear from the other big producer’s film at the box office to ensure that two big budget films don’t clash. They would enter into a gentleman’s agreement and would re-adjust their release dates.

But over the past few years, Bollywood goondas have picked up the cudgels against smaller producers.

The reason: Even a small budget film is collecting huge monies at the box office, if the big budget turns out to a dud.

So, what are these goondas doing now? They are forcing smaller filmmakers out of the race.

To avoid a clash with a bigger filmmaker, some filmmakers are grouping together and releasing their films on a ‘dry weekend’ (when there are no big films up for release).

Trust me, there are some really good Bollywood films with great content (albeit with smaller actors) that don’t have a release date because they haven’t been able to manage a slot.

The problem starts when a smaller filmmakers starts acting defiant and locks his release date alongside a biggie.

That is exactly when the bhaigiri starts…

An example of Bollywood bhaigiri

This filmmaker wanted to release his ‘small’ film alongside a biggie. He thought that he never posed a threat to any Bollywood big budget because of the content of his film which was obviously niche.

Notice, how he was forced to backtrack just because bhai thought that he was a threat.

Here is how he narrated the chain of events to me.

  • “I got a call from Mr X. He is an employee of a big production house. He said that I had made a mistake by locking a date because their ‘big’ film has locked that same date as a solo release. I said, this concept of a solo release is illegal and I am going to release my film on that date only.”
  • –> “One week later, I got a call from the senior vice-president of the same production house asking me if they can meet me to talk about the release date. They said they want to work out a solution. I said, I don’t want to meet them.”
  • –> “Ten days later, I got a call from a senior member of an Association. He said that there’s a technical error in the release date that I have been allotted and I need to block some other release date. I said there’s no error and if they persist on making me change my date, I will drag them to court.”
  • –> “The next day, the filmmaker himself called me asking me politely but firmly to change my release date. He said he wants to meet me to figure how his production house can back me and ensure that I get a good release. He said that his superstar friend can also promote the film for free if I want to change the release date of the film. I told him that I don’t want to change the release date.”
  • –> “Today I got a call from the multiplex chain saying that they won’t be able accommodate my film across all their properties because all the screens have been booked by the bigger film. They suggested that I change the release date.”

The filmmaker has since held back his film.

The above example is a very civil example on how some smaller filmmakers are being kicked around to make way for big-budget releases.

Just ask around and you will get to hear about uglier examples.

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First image taken from here, second image taken from here, third image taken from here

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