Filmmakers review, delay projects to stem box office failures

NEW DELHI: A number of filmmakers are postponing the release of their ready films to re-look at scripts, dialogues and scenes, fearing rejection from audiences that has hit several projects. T-Series has pushed its mega-budget mythological film Adipurush to June from January 2023 after the teaser received flak while Tiger Shroff’s Ganpat will also no longer release this Christmas, as planned. Filmmakers are trying to make sure VFX is impressive and the script has no major loopholes at a time that audiences are exposed to international content. This leads to much cost escalation with Adipurush now estimated to need an additional 80-100 crore to modify certain parts.

“Recent box office performances have been an eye opener for the fraternity at large, and many filmmakers are reworking projects in terms of style or presentation or even how they would like to pitch to audiences, say a thriller versus a larger-than-life spectacle,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. Pushing a project may not always be the best idea though, Johar added.

In case of Adipurush, a summer release means it will have to compete with tentpole Hollywood films, many made for large-format screens such as IMAX, like the T-Series production, and will have its visual effects and action up for comparisons. T-Series did not respond to Mint’s queries on reasons for pushing back the release of the film and whether it believes modifications will help find greater draw. However, in a statement issued last week, director Om Raut had said the team was committed to make a film India is proud of. “In order to give a complete visual experience to the viewers, we need to give more time to the teams working on the film,” Raut had said.

Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president of films and television, Saregama India, which owns Yoodlee Films, said there was no doubt audience tastes have changed because of the exposure to global content on OTT and many strategies steeped in older, pre-covid thinking are no longer working. “Any kind of disruptive technology enables audiences to mature faster than creators can keep up with and it takes time for content to adapt to these changes. Makers are definitely re-examining projects and it is only smart to go back to the drawing board to make sure audiences feel rewarded,” Kumar said, adding that there was also a sense of optimism that films will do well so certain additional costs don’t hurt.

There is a sense of panic in the industry given how none of the usual tropes have worked in the past few months, be it big faces, large-scale spectacles or holiday weekends, agreed Vaibhav Modi, founder-director at Victor Tango Entertainment, a production house.

Other than re-examining VFX heavy films like Adipurush, film distributor and exhibitor Sunny Khanna said producers are also holding back on from green-lighting new projects in a hurry, especially where budgets don’t add up and the stars in question may not guarantee returns. Instead of paying high fee to lead actors, many are looking at pumping more money into the product, Khanna added.

The recent move by Yash Raj Films to release Salman Khan’s Tiger 3, for Diwali 2023 instead of Eid in April, as initially planned, not just gives them more time to work on the film but ensures adequate gap post YRF’s other biggie, Pathaan, starring Shah Rukh Khan, slated for January 2023. While there is no official announcement on the same, Dharma Productions is said to have put Tiger Shroff-starrer Screw Dheela on the backburner after the tepid response to the announcement video and the lead star demanding an unreasonable amount of money. “One big hope during covid was that OTT platforms would come to the rescue of producers and help make projects more viable. But now, even they are acquiring wisely and rejecting anything that doesn’t work for them,” Mohan pointed out.

To be sure, cost-cutting, budget management, and streamlining production processes are strategies that most studios are following. “None of us, regardless of experience or expertise, can claim to know everything there is to know about filmmaking or what this business is all about. If big budgets and massive star casts are failing, we must dig deeper into the reasons, be they economic, creative or technical. When a film lacks passion, the audience senses it. They cannot just be made as commercial projects no matter how much we may want to succeed at the box office,” producer Anand Pandit said.

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