The 100-Crore club: No direct connection to success

Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan in Pathaan. Photo: Yash Raj Films 

The first film to collect Rs. 100 crore net (that is, after subtracting the entertainment tax, which amounts to be anything up to 40 percent of the ticket amount) was Ghajini, produced by Indian Films and Reliance Entertainment and directed by the South’s A.R. Murugadoss with Aamir Khan and Asin in the leads.

The film was budgeted at Rs. 65 crore, and in that sense, a Rs. 100 crore domestic collection was no big deal, because a film with that budget, considering deals with the distributors, needs Rs. 130 crore returns just to theatrically break even. However, the extra-theatrical income (various rights like music, satellite, digital, overseas et al) got the film over Rs. 200 crore, and so it qualified as a hit.

More important, it was the first ever Hindi film to get in that amount in ticket sales. And this also means in terms of audience that watched the film, that is, the footfalls. But yet again, there was a rider—the ticket-rates: A film that sells tickets at Rs 500 or more needs half or less of footfalls to make collections when the admission rates are Rs. 150, Rs. 200 or Rs 250!

And tickets in ‘multiplexes are known to go as high as Rs. 1000 to Rs. 2000 in the first week or weekend, and big-ticket (read A-list films like Pathaan or Brahmastra) movies do show such inflation, especially on prime-time dates like Eid, Diwali and Christmas when big stars prefer their films to release.

But, in 2008 (and in terms of inflation-adjustment, Rs. 100 crore would probably mean Rs. 160-175 crore today!), the sheer volume of Ghajini’s domestic theatrical business was indicative of the public response. As Anil Kapoor put it at the time of Mubarakan (2017), “How much the makers want to invest in their films is their business. As media, you must only think of how much the film collected in theatres, because that many tickets were sold!”

Nevertheless, 2008’s biggest hit in the classic success parameter of Return on Investment (ROI) was Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na that was made on a budget of Rs. 10 crore and made Rs. 53.2 crore, followed by Neeraj Pandey’s smash debut, A Wednesday!, made in Rs. 3 crore that collected Rs. 12 crore in India and Rs. 4 crore more overseas. The third biggest hit was Mukesh Bhatt’s Jannat, (Rs. 10 crore / Rs. 41.5 crore).

And Jaane Tu… had two major common points with Ghajini—Aamir Khan (who only produced Jaane Tu…) and A.R. Rahman.

Adah Sharma in The Kerala Story. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

2023 has shown a remarkable trajectory in the box-office with a hit (albeit with reportedly “pumped-up” collections) like Pathaan, a success like Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar and a flop like Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan all crossing the domestic 100 crore “benchmark”. Alongside, a film made on a paltry budget of Rs. 20 crore, The Kerala Story, has collected over Rs. 230 crore in India alone and grossed approximately Rs 300 crore worldwide! These facts yet again underscore the fact that the 100 crore club is emphatically not a reliable yardstick of true success.

Allu Arjun in Pushpa—The Rise: Part One. Photo: Universal Communications

Hindi cinema’s 100-crore club has now touched 104 films. However, seven of these movies (Bahubali—The Beginning, Bahubali 2—The Conclusion, 2.0, Saaho, Pushpa—The Rise: Part One, KGF2 and RRR) have been essentially South films, and so 3 more films will be needed with the current Hindi tally at 97 to complete a purely Hindi 100-crore club.

But essentially, let us list out the films that proved calamities despite such whopper collections. Here is the list, arranged star-wise!

Aamir Khan: Thugs of Hindostan, produced by no less than Aditya Chopra with Amitabh Bachchan toplining the show, smashed the record for opening day collections in 2018 by collecting Rs. 52.25 crore in India—it was Diwali New year and rates were inflated highly! However, the first-day collection finally accounted for more than a third (!) of the eventual India lifetime, showing a rapid decline in the first week itself. Made at a huge cost, the film resulted in significant losses for theatre-owners, who demanded refunds from the sub-distributor of Yash Raj Films. Even worldwide, the film could not balance its investment over there!

Shah Rukh Khan: RA.One and Dilwale were the SRK films that never recovered their investments, while Raees made good its investment only because of extra-domestic income.

Salman Khan: Tubelight, Dabangg 3, Race 3 and Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan are his major casualties among this list. The last mentioned tops the list as the budget (Rs. 250 crore-plus) exceeds the worldwide collections, which have now stopped! This was one over-confident movie! However, as mentioned in my recent feature (The increasingly confusing parameters of Hits & Flops, May 27), Salman now plays it smart in his home productions and forgoes his fees, so the venture becomes profitable—on paper! This was true also of Tubelight, Race 3 and Dabangg 3, which would otherwise be flops in the classic way of assessing flops.

Let us not forget here that the Salman Khan fan is so passionate, especially on Eid, that he throngs the halls with a frenzied craze akin to fans of South mega-stars. So, even a weak or terrible Salman film makes a minimum Rs. 100 crore. And the economics do take all this into account at the planning stage itself.

Ajay Devgn: Shivaay won some acclaim for Ajay Devgn’s direction, especially his technical expertise wherein he supervised the cinematography, visual effects and stunts. It joined the 100 crore club, but its budget alone was Rs. 110 crore, which meant that its recovery could be pegged at a minimum Rs. 220 crore net. The worldwide gross was reportedly under Rs. 150 crore, and the balance investment cannot have possibly come from the various rights!

Hrithik Roshan: The jury is still out on Bang Bang! and whether it was a success.

Ranveer Singh: 83, with a certified investment of Rs. 240 crore, recovered a mere Rs. 170 crore from worldwide box-office (Rs. 107 cr. from India) and another Rs. 47 crore plus from non-theatrical sources. The film was thus still in the red.

Hit and more

In actual fact, a hit is that which brings in double the investment—anything that returns thrice or more the moneys is termed a super-hit. In that case, it is obvious that the smaller films made with slender budgets scored the highest: URI—The Surgical Strike, The Kashmir Files, The Kerala Story (all with collections between Rs. 200 to 300 crore) and other films like Grand Masti, Raazi and Stree are blockbusters, besides the South’s Bahubali 2—The Conclusion, KGF 2 and RRR, which also did voluminous business also in their original languages.

With films joining the 200 crore-plus club and moving even to Rs. 500 crore-plus (Bahubali 2, Pathaan), and the above-mentioned disparity in rates of tickets, we now have to perhaps go back, perhaps, to the single fully reliable parameter of true successthe quantum of footfalls, which is also calculated by some sources, though there is no authoritative data of late—that is, in the last two decades. An authentic organization like Rentrak has failed to make an impact in India. But we still manage to have fairly reliable information about the decades from 2000 to 2019.

But that’s another story.

(Note: All figures from online sources including Wikipedia, and others)




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