Viewers are reporting empty seats in cinema halls that are showing Aamir Khan-starrer PK, while trade analysts and media reports claim that the movie has grossed over Rs300 crore and will do Rs500 crores. Hope, the taxmen remember to collect their dues from the movie’s ‘huge’ success
Aamir Khan-starrer PK has reportedly collected Rs300 crore in just three weeks since its release. The movie is being termed an all time blockbuster, trade analyst Taran Adarsh said in a tweet , “PK creates History. Crosses Rs.300 cr. (Week 3) Sun 11.58 crore. Grand total: 305.27 cr nett. India biz.” This has become an accepted fact. Global figure of collections is expected to be Rs500 crores. However, there is no independent verification of these figures. Indeed, anecdotal evidence appears to tell a slightly different story. Several people are questioning the collection figure of Rs300 crore and how this is possible with barely half filled theatres across the country.
There are three aspects to understand the ‘blockbuster’ collection figures. First, the producers wanted to hike ticket rates for PK. Second, there was a controversy about ‘hurting’ the sentiments of the Hindus. And third, according to several viewers who recently watched the film in theatres, many seats were empty all across major exhibition territories. This raises the question that if halls were not full with viewers, how did the movie collect Rs300 crore in just three weeks?
See the tweets below:
In response, Aamir Khan’s so-called fans started bombarding Twitter handles of everyone who questioned the big collection claims. See, for example, when Moneylife’s managing editor, Sucheta Dalal saw empty seats at Regal theatre in Mumbai during a PK screening and tweeted about it, she was targeted by an army of such “fans”.
These are all bots as they are called in tech parlance. All of them have the exact same tweet. They aren’t real accounts of users.
According to Sandeep Khurana, an occasional columnist for Moneylife, the film industry rides on blockbusters. “In terms of budget of box-office (BO) collections, the film industry works due to blockbusters. Much like the US pharma industry, which survives on blockbuster drugs like Viagra, the film industry needs a booster dose of some mega success stories, to feel secure,” he had said.
Khurana wrote, “This sets in motion a sequence of desirable and undesirable actions. A lavishly mounted movie also needs a lavish marketing budget in order to recover costs. Distributors demand item songs, which make cash registers ring and every cog in the wheel from stars to cinema hall owners work at making it succeed; and the first week is make-or-break time. With stakes so high, it also needs friendly reviewers to tailor ratings to suit the industry rather than the cine-goer who forks out just Rs200 for a ticket. The mantra is simple—after the shoot, take what you can in the first week and scoot before word-of-mouth reality sinks in.”
Coming back to the ticket price hike issue, according to a report from Hindustan Times, Aamir khan and Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the producer, had demanded an increase in ticket prices by about 100% for PK shows at Bandra’s G7 Multiplex.
Manoj Desai, the owner of the theatre told the newspaper, “I am running the theatre with tickets priced at Rs80 and Rs100, and they are asking me to raise the price to Rs250 and Rs300, which I cannot do, so I withdrew.” There was hardly any question of hiking the rates since the film is hardly drawing any crowd – even on holidays like the 25thDecember as this picture shows.
Even Mumbai’s famous Maratha Mandir theatre had decided not the screen PK due to the demand to hike ticket prices. In a report at that time, Financial Express had said, “The ticket prices have been hiked up across all multiplexes and single screen theatres. Vidhu Vinod Chopra on one hand has promised transparency as far as box office numbers are concerned but at the same time, such arm-twisting is in bad taste. What is shocking is that Aamir Khan on one hand has espoused so many wonderful causes through Satyamev Jayate but at the same time in a quest for breaking records he is becoming part of this race for monetary success.”
Even the controversy that always accompanies an Aamir Khan movie did not help. Demanding a ban on PK for lampooning Hindu Godmen, activists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal attacked theatres screening the film in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Bhopal.
What is surprising is another movie, ‘Oh My God’ starring Paresh Rawal (now a Member of Parliament) and Akshay Kumar exposed more misdeeds that are going on under the name of religion. However, there was hardly any adverse reaction to this movie.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Dr Subramanian Swamy also had raised several question on the funding of PK. Dr Swamy tweeted, “Who financed the PK film? According to my sources, it is traceable to Dubai and ISI. DRI must investigate”.
DRI is the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and ISI stands for Pakistan’s infamous Inter-Services Intelligence. No need to guess what Dr Swamy had to face from the bots on Twitter after this tweet.
Financing of Indian films has always been shrouded with mystery. More so, since the entry of underworld dons in the film financing business. In the 1960s, Mastan Haider Mirza, popularly known as Haji Mastan became the first underworld mobster to give money to directors and studios for producing films. Later he himself turned producer.
According to a report from Daily Bhaskar, the underworld mafia gangs have been known for stopping release of films and threatening stars for money. The goons used to pressure filmmakers to give their overseas rights to their front companies. “Several Bollywood stars have been found having connections with the underworld. Sanjay Dutt has been sent to jail for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts masterminded by Dawood Ibrahim. Actress Mandakini was rumoured to have a relationship with Dawood Ibrahim and was spotted with the don at several occasions,” the report says.
According to media reports, the record for highest box office collections was held by Aamir Khan’s another movie ‘Dhoom 3”, produced by Yash Raj Films. This movie had collected about Rs284.27 crore till date. With PK reportedly surpassing this figure, fans of Aamir Khan are rejoicing and targeting anyone who questions the logic or accounts of this collection. This also highlights the need to have a proper system in place to account for the entire film business and deals that have so far remained shrouded in mystery. Be it the fees charged by stars or funding sources of producers, it has always remained opaque.