Hollywood studios fail to bloom in Bolly-land

MUMBAI: Bollywood is the new global destination and the money-stuffed, well equipped Hollywood studios know it well.

It’s been a while that a variety of Hollywood studios stepped into this fairytale escapade to try their luck in making their presence felt through their high-end expertise and monies. They ventured into quite a few movie co-productions and distributions in complete “Bollywood ishtyle” but failed to leave their mark.

In the last three years, studions such as Columbia Tristar (Sony Pictures), Warner Brothers, Disney Pictures and Fox fed audiences with films like Saawariya, Raaz – The Mystery Continues, Chandni Chowk To China, Saas Bahu Aur Sensex, Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai, Lahore, Roadside Romeo, Quick Gun Murugan and My Name Is Khan. But barring Fox Star Studios, others either featured a scarred incidence on the box-office scorecard or absolutely burnt their fingers.

Columbia Tristar (Sony) was the first multinational studio to enter the Indian filmmaking and distribution business with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya. Released in November 2007, the movie earned Rs 230 million, much lower than what was invested into its making.

2008 marked the entry of yet another big studio on the Indian shores. Yash Raj Films, the biggest production house of the land, joined hands with Walt Disney Pictures for the animated Roadside Romeo. The film was released in October that year and in spite of the initial excitement, the product could muster only Rs 52.5 million.

A year later, it was Warner Bros’ turn to make a disastrous entry into Bollywood. It teamed up with Ramesh Sippy to make Chandni Chowk To China, the first biggest flop of the year. The film failed miserably and managed to gross only Rs 300 million. The studio also co-produced Saas Bahu Aur Sensex with PLA Entertainment but the film too nosedived and earned a meagre Rs 10 million.

This year, to begin with, Warner headed for mid-budget movies like Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge in March and Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai in April.

It co-produced the former with Wide Frame Films that gained appreciation amongst viewers to pocket Rs 290 million. Meanwhile, Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai performed averagely to earn Rs 45 million. The studio also distributed Vivek Khatkar’s Lahore that made just Rs 10 million.

So, have the studios really failed to make it big in Bollywood? Says a film critic, “It is too early to pass any comment on the same. Barring Warner Bros. and Fox Star, no other studio has actually done substantial work to show their seriousness in film production by which one can judge their activities.”

Disney, however, has a majority stake in UTV Software Communications and movie-making stays as a main activity. Its individual Bollywood projects with other entities, however, have failed to make a significant mark.

Fox Star Studios’ experience on the Indian land differs from the rest players. The joint venture company between Twentieth Century Fox and the Asian media company Star was set up to distribute in India 15-18 movies from the international production house within one year. And, the studio met with its its first grand success with Slumdog Millionaire. It also distributed the critically-acclaimed Quick Gun Murugan last year and then went on to distribute the Karan Johar directed My Name Is Khan that made a whopping Rs 735 million.

“No studio besides Fox has been that aggressive. The problem is that most studios don’t have people with the right vision. You cannot have a person perfecting in some other stream head your production department. I think the problem lies there,” says trade analyst Amod Mehra.

Sony burnt its fingers with the failure of Saawariya; and Warner Bros. India released five films but saw only average results.

Says Fox Star Studios CEO Vijay Singh, “After the success of MNIK, we have successfully managed to develop a strong distribution and marketing network in India and have also effectively leveraged our international network to take a film into newer markets and promote it. Our main focus now is to enter into co-production deals and work closely with our partners in the production and marketing of our films.”

But what was the cause of such mediocre performance of the other international players? Observes trade analyst Taran Adarsh, “It is simple, the content of the films were not accepted by the audiences as it wasn‘t good.”

With this mediocre result in place, Hollywood biggies need to have a relook into their filmmaking strategy and make films with good and attractive content. Only then can they attain the success that has been their benchmark in Hollywood.

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