New Delhi: Film critic Anupama Chopra had lamented about this earlier when Sallu bhai was on the rampage with his monster hits, Ready, Dabangg, Bodyguard - but the obsession with this figure took on very sad, disappointing dimensions when recently the release of the late Yash Chopra's swan song JTHJ was completely hi-jacked by how soon this dazzling, SRK-Katrina-Anushka rom-com would blast the Rs 100 crore mark not whether the film was the perfect ending to a filmmaker's magnificent obsession of using love as a passionate leitmotif of all his films; not whether SRK managed to wow and charm the fans with his matchless, stylized body-language and histrionics; not whether the two heroines, in their own respective ways, fleshed out their roles with the sense of abandon and sensitivity demanded; not whether the Gulzar-Rehman magic, the spectacular locales and canvas out excelled Yashjee earlier efforts.
Whatever happened to old-fashioned movie-going experience... the thrill starting from the time the lights dimmed, submitting to magical willful suspension of disbelief right through and returning satiated and enthralled?
Even up till a few years ago, life was different. Mainstream publications and TV channels did reviews. Hits were defined by Silver, Gold and Diamond jubilees, with dazzling, glamorous parties marking the occasion, with reports splashed across film magazines. Details of daily/weekly/monthly collections were restricted strictly to the trade Magazines.
At the end of the day, vulgar and crass as it maybe, this in-your-face phenomenon is here to stay.
In recent times however, this Rs 100 crore disease has spread like a fungus and today, in crass, blatant and brazen manner, first day/weekend/weekly collections - real or fictional - are blitzed across mainstream and film publications with depressing regularity. Has the fun and enjoyment of going to the movies to an IPO-watch? Have the merchants taken over from the mavericks and magicians?
Many heavyweights of B-town share this concern. Director Rajkumar Hirani - Munnabhai and 3 Idiots - is extremely uncomfortable with this fact and articulates it in no uncertain times. He suspects it is a chilling sign of a consumerist and market-obsessed time when people are encouraged to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
"For God's sake, it's not an IPO but a film. Sure I understand and am concerned about the ROI factor, but for me audience appreciation is the key. People loving your film and recommending it to others remains a matchless high. For me, the shoe-string-budgeted Jane Bhi Do Yaro, made three decades ago, is way beyond any Rs 100 crore movie because even today it is remembered, loved and given cult status."
Both Anurag (Barfi) Basu and Kabir (Ek Tha Tiger) Khan agree. Basu - returning after a big budget disaster, Kite - admitted he was apprehensive about the commercial viability of his movie.
"Transforming young, hot, popular, glam stars like Ranbir and Piryanka into sexless deaf-dumb-artistic creatures could be risky. The content too was anti-glam. Would the audiences respond to the soul to the film? I guess I got lucky. If you go with your heart chances are, it will find another." Kabir agrees. "You can't sit down with the self-created agenda of writing a Rs 100 crores film. Stupid. You have to go with your sense of self-belief. I did exactly that for ETG... god was kind. It worked."
Film critic Mayank Shekhar comes in next with his take. He believes that with corporates entering the industry, profits and ROI have taken on a more realistic vibrant and aggressive dimension. "Most of these companies are listed and therefore figures matter, because they impact the share market."
He agrees that the earlier version of a leisurely process of selecting a movie to watch, the excitement attached while making the trip to the theatre, the thrill of being lost in the dark for that time and the long, never-ending discussions about the movie - with not a syllable about its collections or financial potential - that invariably followed, are lost forever, in the consumerist and market-driven times we live in, but asks, "Isn't everything today weighed in financial parameters? 100 crores means popular, which translates to success, which is the big driver to see the film. Footfalls have replaced heartbeats. Sad but true."
Eminent Film Analyst Komal Nahta brings his own spin, "I continue to be most amused by the mass-following jabber of the Rs 100 crore club. Do even a fraction of the people who talk about it have a clue about the authenticity or dynamics that go behind the making - or projection - of this magical figure? Very Unlikely. It's now become fashionable to mention this across all media channels leading it to become a part of the Water-Cooler talk and common parlance. Hilarious."
New York based, Bollyfan doesn't think it's either weird or funny. Says the 30 year old Ad-executive, Pralhad Khanna, "We live in nanosecond times where capsules - not long speeches or romantic meanderings of the heart - are drivers of the purchase intent. In marketing, statistics work wonders because they define hard facts, persuading (at least) trial run. Why shouldn't the same apply to movies? If a movie, in these fiercely competitive times, wants to stay ahead, then advertising their collection is a great way to invite footfalls. Also, it's a super buzz- vehicle, creating curiosity and generating excitement. I think it's cool and takes away nothing from the film-viewing experience. It's the sizzle, not the steak, for chrissake. Get a life."
Music director Abhisekh Ray (Paan Singh Tomar, I am Kalaam, Sahib Bibi aur Gangster) isn't too pleased about the signals that this figure sends out, "I find it totally misleading in terms of value judgement because popularity should never be confused with excellence. There are scores of artistes who have not attained the kind of commercial status some others have, should they be dismissed, ignored or neglected? Besides, movies today being an expensive proposition, not all films - despite brilliant content can afford big promotional budgets, so many sections of the country and audiences. Lastly there is a huge chasm between collections made on day 1, weekend or weekly compared to revenue spend making the film. What's so great about 30 crore weekend if the overall budget was 80 crore?"
So at the end of the day, vulgar and crass as it maybe, this in-your-face phenomenon is here to stay. Why? Simply because money talks, market rules and sensex is king for today's what's-in-it-for-me generation.