once upon a time its was a simple 3 tier system. there was the mainstream bollywood film, mainly socials and romances that cornered 70-80% of the business (raj kapoor’s movies to yash chopra ones) and there was the slightly more serious, more sophisticated cinema (of say bimal roy to shyam benegal) that had a smaller share of the pie. but the biggest success was reserved for the ‘universally acclaimed films’ (mughal e aazam, mother india, kismat) catering to the sensibilities of both, or may be all’ kinds of audiences. there was the rare stunt genre film in between but they started emerging as a ‘different niche market’ not earlier than the 60s. the second thrust came wth the arrival of the multiplexes in the late 90s and since then the market has been getting so fragmented that we haven’t had a ‘universal hit’ for 18 years now.
so here are the top 10 niche markets of bollywod and their approximate size.
10. the indian english film/crossover film – the fact that it actually never managed to cross over (in the sense that no foreigners bothered to watch them, and even the NRI and south asians stuck to watching sharukh khan’s NRI dramas) ensured that this market has remained stuck at under a crore. hardly any films are being made n the category (the last i can recall is mixed doubles by rajat kapoor starring konkona, ranbeer and koel purie.) some say it started with ‘English august’ in 1997, others insist it was way back with merchant ivory movies like ‘siddhartha’ and ‘heat and dust’ but the fact remain that the ‘indian english film’ is a market that has failed to grow beyond 1 crore despite the advent of multiplexes.
9. the Z grade sex flick – you may not know it exists but the ‘miniscule’ budgetted Z grade sex-thriller or even sex-social ( in the end they tell u, in a 3 idiots style pedagogy session, that its wrong to have sex, qualifying it as ‘educational’) are a market by themselves. in a country where television has no sex, internet has 10% penetration and DVD a little higher, these films are a steady stream of revenue for anonymous producers and directors and can make upt 3 crores, if really ‘appreciated’ by its target audience. the last classic in the genre – well – sheela ki jawaani shot in 7 days to coincide with the release of tees maar khan. and for all you know, it might have been a bigger ROI success than the farah khan caper.
8. the ‘real’ art/parellel/serious cinema – it pains my heart to see this niche so low in the countdown but the fact remains that the real ‘high art’ product, s0 rare in bollywood has been unable to find bigger audiences. what has grown instead is the pseudo-art movie (that are much higher in the countdown and hence we will come to them much later) while the ‘genuine’ ones have not even been able to reach the 5 cr mark. ( boi disparagingly stated in their ‘you asked it’ coloumn that ‘hazaaron khwahishein aisi was a 50 lakh disaster) and maqbool did no better. ‘bandit queen had done roughly 10 cr in 1996 that inflation adjusted wud be quite a lot today but that was more of an exception. as it is there are so few of them ( i mean the ‘genuine’ art movies) and the limited market ensures that they remain like that.
7. the horror movie – this one has staged a grand comeback in the last two years. this niche was roaring through the 70s and the 80s but went into oblivion with the arrival of multiplexes. the rare resurgence (bhoot) had to be with the approval of multiplex audiences which was more ‘sensibilities’ based rather than ‘the ‘thrill/horror quotient’ based. but vikram bhatt seems to have changed that single handedly (the new ramsay?) so much so that even shiny ahuja’s ghost wasnt a washout but commission earner.
6. the pseudo art movie – this new niche market has been taking long strides with the help of a ‘half intelligent’ urban middle class that has pretensions to the serious/intelligent cinema but don’t have a taste for the hardcore realizm and in depth socio-political statements that the serious art films make. so they invented a new kind of film that takes the worst elements of commercial cinema, unreal situations,(the whole of vicky donor) unreal characters (the blue painted guy in gulaal) , unreal treatment (the whole of delhi belly) and unreal settings (the prostitute’s den in DEV D, so also the club with break dancers) and mix them with the worst elements of art cinema (slow pace,ugly faces) and finally lo and behold – the pseudo intellectuals recipe for perfect entertainment is ready. produced and directed mainly by junkies (though i have nothing against recreational drug use) and i suspect mostly consumed by them, these films revel in toilet humour, misogyny and worse – like an average Eminem song. its not too difficult to see that this is personally my most hated genre but starting with Dev d at 10 cr plus this genre has managed to be at least 30 cr strong today with an occasional ‘delhi belly’ crossing 50, supported by a mainstream star. rest, from Dev D to vicky donor to wasseypur have not done too badly either. surprisingly the rare gem in the genre ‘pyaar ka panchnaama’ did just 15 cr but then who am i to decide the ‘rare gem’ in a genre i dont even care for. for most of them what works is the ‘close up shot of the poop’ in delhi belly – and so be it.
5. the multiplex movie – this one focuses on urban youth, (i mean te ‘normal’ urban youth) in delhi, mumbai, banglore, mysore and chadigarh apart from other big towns and usually comes up with clean entertainers. the only condition – a poor man must not be even seen walking in the background in any frame. this market remained stuck at 80 cr since 2007/2008 but has slowly touched 100 cr today. zindagi na milegi dobara was perhaps the film that ensured this one wasnt dead and now ‘barfi’ seems to have given it a new lease of life. 100 cr is not bad after all considering this niche caters to a very small segment (with big purchasing power) and since 100 cr has become such a ‘psychological barrier point’. and even a ‘starless’ ‘student of the year’ has crossed 60 cr and thats a great thing for this niche.
4. the single screen entertainer – singham did 100 cr in 2011, rowdy rathore did 130 this year. by that calculation this seems to be the fastest grwoing niche at 30% in a year. son of sardar will decide how much it grows further. despite the name i have given it, this one gets a lot of sustenance from multiplexes also. may be it caters to the SS viewer in the novue – riches
3. the multiplex big ticket event film – mainly the films starring the three khans, this one touched its peak with 3 idiots and as ‘ek tha tiger’ showed, has remained stuck at 200 cr point. however a highly appreciated film in this niche (like 3 idiots) can any day cross 250 cr (wich is the same as the inflation adjusted 3 idtots’ 202 cr at 8% for 3 years, showing this one is not growing much) . all hopes are on sharukh khan and his ‘jab tak hai jaan’ as this niche also has additional streams of marketing revenues riding on its back like brand tie ups, merchandising etc, a source of income no other niche seems to have.
in any case this shows the highest potential for JTHJ to collect is 250 cr, that is if its appreciated as much as 3 idiots. the lowest offcourse can be ra1’s 114 cr or don 2’s 107 cr and may be even lower if the ‘law of diminishing returns sets inn.
2. the SS big ticket event film – it could also be called ‘the salman khan film’. yes its become a niche in itself, solely on the basis of star power of one man and dabangg 2 will show wat the market size for this one is going to be. in my view (and yakuza wud agree happily) the optimum is close to 300 cr. alas only one man ‘owns’ this niche and considering he also ‘owns 1/3rd stake in the previous niche we discussed, that says quite a lot about him. even this one gets a huge share of its revenues from multiplexes – nomenclature be damned – but is mainly sustained by single screen audiences. bodyguard did close to 150 cr but that was roughly 15 months back. today 300 cr definitely as bodyguard didnt even touch the optimum. does that make this one the fastest growing niche – well we will wait to see as unlike no 4 – the single screen entertainer’ – its maximum potential needs to be touched 1st.
1. the universal hit – this is the niche to which the greatest films in bollywood belong to. kismat, mother india, mughal e aazam, sholay, maine pyaar kiya, hum aapke hain kaun. sadly for 18 years there has not been a single film that has been so universally appreciated since ‘hum aapke hain kaun’ in 1994. 3 idiots, a pedagogical comedy about educational reforms was after all a ‘multiplex movie (though comedy did bring a lot of footfall in SS but that we have seen happening in in the last 4 niches) and gadar (2001) was not liked by a section of the audiences at all – for its xenophobic theme, jingoistic tone, and crude sensibilities. even ‘dilwale dulhaniya le jaaynege’ did not work in some markets in the interiors of india. however a universally appreciated film in today’s scenario (and it cud be from any niche as history has shown though ‘socials’ have more chances) cud easily do anywhere between 350 cr to 500 cr rupees.
For now lets wait and watch!