Fresh Take: Numbers too have a story to tell

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On May 7, 2017, epic drama Baahubali 2 became Indian cinema’s first film ever to gross Rs 1000 crore box office business worldwide within nine days of its release. Both the parts of Baahubali had collected close to Rs 1700 crore globally by second week of May 2017. This is historic and unlikely to repeat in the near future.

But what if I tell you that Vinay Pathak starrer comedy Bheja Fry (2007) is the most successful film in last 15 years and on the second position is Aashiqui 2.

Looking at Rs 1000 crore it would be easy to say that Baahubali 2 is the biggest film of Indian cinema in terms of business but is it the most profitable film? If we tweak the parameter of success a bit, we can get the real picture.

In the business analogy, it is often said that the success of the business does not depend on the money it earns but the returns it gives on investment. The same applies to movie business as well.

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The first part of Baahubali was made at the cost of Rs 150 crore and the second at Rs 280 crore. Against the estimated investment of Rs 430 crore, both the films together earned a little over Rs 1600 crore (by 2nd week of May) giving a return of over 372%. Remember Rs 1600 crore is gross collection including that of overseas and not net collections (still counting). Now consider Bheja Fry, the Indianised version of a French film earned Rs 12.6 crore worldwide and it was made at shoe-string budget of Rs 1.5 crore, giving a whopping return of 739%.

According to experts, judging a film’s return on investment (investment- return ratio) is the right way to look at the business. Bheja Fry is followed by Kahaani (658%), Aashiqui 2 (629%), Lage Raho Munnabhai (548%), Vivah (518%), Vicky Donor (513%) and so on. Except for Lage Raho Munnabhai, none of these films had a big star but gave huge returns to the producer.

In last five years, the Bollywood and audience have given big thumbs up to sensible, low-budget and content rich films. Kahaani, Neerja, Pink, Vicky Donor, Aashiqui 2, Queen and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR), each of these films have generated business at least four times the production cost.  None of these films had a top A-star actor as its lead but solely on the basis of strong storytelling, super music, and ensemble cast they did what big budget Bollywood films failed to.

On many levels, 2015 was a watershed moment for the Bollywood industry. As many as seven films- TWMR, Bajrangi Bhaijaan,Pyaar ka  Punchnama 2, NH10, Piku, Badlapur and Dum Laga Ke Haisha not only broke even but went on to give record returns to the producers.

Contrary to popular belief that 100 crore business means success, it’s the profits that decide which film is a hit or a flop. Let’s take the case of Salman Khan. In the post-Wanted (2009) renaissance, Salman Khan has given maximum 100 crore hits but guess what it was Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) which gave maximum ROI (256%) among all his films in last five years. The film neither had Bhai ripping off his shirt nor heavy-duty action but got maximum returns, even more than that of Sultan and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

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Recent films like Raees and Kaabil earned Rs 139 crore and Rs 130 crore respectively at domestic box office but were simply termed as ‘hits’ while Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya with collections of Rs 116.60 crore was declared ‘super hit’. Once again ROI (returns on investment) coming into play.

To be fair to the producers who put in huge money, the stars guarantee ticket sales and certain crores of business. Even if the film is out of theatre in 2 weeks, the producers stand to gain money if film has an A-lister, in most of the cases. Not to forget, films starring big stars gets the producer handsome deals for satellite, music and overseas rights.

Stars like Salman, SRK, Aamir and Akshay have huge and dedicated fan following and sometimes they save the film from failing, case in point SRK’s Dilwale.

P.S: Well, while you are reading this article, Baahubali 2 has become the most successful and profitable Indian film ever and Dangal has become most successful Hindi film ever. Dangal has added over Rs 300 crore from China box office in May 2017, taking its total collections beyond Rs 1000 crore worldwide. And unlike Baahubali, Dangal was made on budget of Rs 90 crore only (calculate the ROI yourself).

Note: The collections of Dangal and Baahubali mentioned in the article include both domestic and international box office.

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Published by

Piyush Mishra

Engineer, journalist, movie buff, & Sachin devotee! Previously worked with The Times of India & NDTV, now working as a Corporate Communications professional with an automobile major in Ahmedabad (Gujarat). This blog/website is a birthday gift from a close friend & I am trying my best to not to disappoint him. #Dreamer

6 thoughts on “Fresh Take: Numbers too have a story to tell”

  1. ROI is not the only success factor in the business albeit an important one. To grow 300%+ on a large base is much more difficult and hence higher in success. Absolute number and base also matters.

    A startup with million investment can make 1000% gain when sold but still can’t be compared with FB, GOOG, AMZN or APPL. Isn’t it?

    1. There are two aspects- volume (turnover) & ROI (profit). In terms of volume, Baahubali is the biggest film and in terms of ROI its Bheja Fry. You are right they way you look at it. If all the employees in an organisation get Rs 5000 raise per month, for the employee with the salary of Rs 25000, it will be 20% increment and for the employee with salary Rs 1 lakh, it will be 0.5%. I think this explains. We are both right in our own ways. However, more the volume, more the consumption and reach. Thank you so much for writing in.

  2. Soodhu Kavvum, a Tamil film was made at Rs. 2 Crores and provided a business of Rs. 50 Crores, giving a return of 2400%. I think it’s hard for any other film to beat that.

    1. In regional cinema, there are many such movies which have given record returns, for example Sairat in Marathi. The article talks about Hindi films and Baahubali.

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