A filmmaker once narrated me the story of how he got thrown out of his own film!
He told me that during the initial days of filming, he realized that the film is going towards a different direction than what he had originally imagined. He immediately rushed to his lead actor, a prominent Khan, and told him that an urgent change was needed in the script. He argued that the script at hand was way different from his story and screenplay. The director was not ready to go forward with the changes that were made to the script later.
A “creative argument” followed and the hero, the prominent Khan, gave him two options — (i) Make the film the way the Khan wants or (ii) He would step out of the film and let the director have his way.
Good sense prevailed and for the sake of the film, the director chose to step out. The Khan went ahead and completed the film the way he wanted.
The film turned out to be a Bollywood classic and minted huge monies at the box office.
Everybody agreed that the script was one of the best that Bollywood had ever seen.
The question was never answered whether the film would have been better or worse had the director went ahead and made the film his way.
Whatever be the hypothesis, there was one confirmed conclusion — had the Khan stepped away from the film, nobody would have noticed it and the film wouldn’t have been a classic or perhaps not even a hit in the first place.
In Bollywood, the Khans have more or less ruled over the last 20 years. Most of the big budgets, the crappy storylines, thousands of screens on a national holiday and (in some cases) distribution rights of prominent locations — have all belonged to the Khans.
This has become sort of tradition.
Making a film with the Khans means that not only you have to accede to all their demands, you need to accede a chunk of your profits as well.
All this for good reason because the Khans know that all the profit that you are making is coming to you because of them.
Still, the list of people knocking on their doors haven’t reduced one bit. Ask their managers and they will tell you that their date diaries have entries from the year 2018!
However today, even though the films made by the Khans are still hijacking the screens on a national holiday but they have suffered in quality. The Khan films are still minting hundreds of crores but they are now largely dependant on marketing and PR rather than content.
The Khan films consistently get bad reviews and bad word-of-mouth (most of the times), but before that could affect figures at the box office, the films are comfortably home. This is happening because of an intense PR activity and marketing campaign that precedes the release of each Khan film.
The huge marketing blitzkriegs that their films generally entail are becoming so costly that they are threatening the very business model they are based on.
On top of that, there is this refusal to let any other film release when they are in the market. It’s kind of forced monopoly which is unwritten and enforced unofficially. It is surprising that all producers so far has stuck to this policy and never ever raised a question over it. Except a few prominent ones, of course.
Nobody has ever questioned whether or not allowing other films to release with the Khan films is fair competition.
But Bollywood seems to have found an organic solution to this problem.
The solution is films like Neerja.
It is heartening to see that films like Neerja are getting love in equal measure from the audience even though it is helmed by an actress who was, quite recently, more known for her style rather than acting prowess.
Films like Neerja are slow but sure signs that the monopoly of the Khans are ending.
Films like Neerja will ensure that Bollywood steps out of its self-imposed Khan autocracy.
Thanks to Neerja, the Kings might be dead soon.
Long live the Kings.