Kids rule the roost as Bollywood woos audiences

August 30, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Mumbai resident Gopal Das doesn’t usually go to the movies. It’s the children who drag him and his wife to the cinema to watch the latest Bollywood film.

Das’s 8-year-old son Shubham insisted on watching Shah Rukh Khan’s “Chennai Express” on his birthday this week. His teenage sister had recommended it.

“They both said they don’t want a cake or dinner out,” Das told India Insight as he waited with his children at a city multiplex. “We usually don’t watch movies, only the ones they want to watch.”

Das is not alone. As Bollywood tries to bring in ever more movie watchers, producers and filmmakers are finding that it’s worth marketing to children as much as they can, even for films that are meant for adults.

“They are connected, up-to-date with what is going on, and very sure of what they want, even at such a small age. We have to consider them while making a film and selling it, and ensuring that nothing we do should put them off,” said Nikhil Sane, of Zee Marathi.

For Shah Rukh Khan’s “Chennai Express”, producer UTV estimated that at least 10 to 15 percent of the audience would be children below the age of 13, children who are determining what movies their parents will take them to see.

In an interview to Reuters last year, director Rohit Shetty, who has the unique distinction of directing the most billion-rupee blockbusters, said kids were his biggest audience.

“They loved ‘Singham’ because there were so many cars, and that’s why there was no blood, because I knew they will come to watch my film. I don’t want them to get uncomfortable, that’s why the heroine isn’t in a bikini. It wasn’t a planned thing, but now I know they are my audience,” he said.

Most movies that are classified as “family movies” try to cater to a mass audience, and directors cram their films with as many crowd-pleasing elements as possible.

“You have to make sure that you cannot alienate the kids. We make sure we should not put anything in the film which parents would disapprove of. Films which are vying for the 100 crore (1 billion rupee) mark, are very very conscious of this fact,” said Manish Hariprasad of Disney-UTV.

UTV’s “Himmatwala” or “Chennai Express”. which is on the way to becoming India’s highest-grossing film, or even Salman Khan’s range of hit movies, don’t have nudity or swear words, or anything that will put off kids.

“It is the youth audience – mainly college-going kids in the age bracket of 18 to 25 that are the first audiences for any film. Families only go if there is good word of mouth. However, for films like ‘Krissh 3′ or the ‘Dhoom’ franchise, we’ll see a mix of both, because they cater to a much larger segment,” said Shailesh Kapoor of research firm Ormax Media.

Actual children’s films remain a small market in India, with few studios or producers putting in serious money to make films exclusively for under-13’s.

(Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay)

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Nice article Shilpa. What I think Bollywood has missed copying from Hollywood is the super-hero franchise to bring in the younger audience. In Hollywood, you have Avengers being one of the top grossers of all time. Iron Man has been a major hit with the kiddies, not to mention the evergreen Amazing Spider man.

Apart from Krishh, I have not seen any superhero films recetnly targeted at kids (Ra-One – retrograde amnesia). In fact if you check out the list of superhero films – lywood-superheroes/ – you will notice that apart from Krissh, Shaktiman and Mr India – the last 30 years have not produced anything worthy of Stan Lee. This is a huge opportunity lost by film producers.

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