‘Bombay Velvet’ debacle adds to Bollywood woes

May 22, 2015


It’s being called the biggest debacle in recent Bollywood history. Anurag Kashyap’s “Bombay Velvet” could not have come at a worse time for an industry that has been struggling to find some magic at the cinemas for more than a year.

The film, made on a stated budget of 800 million rupees ($12.5 million), made around 160 million rupees ($2.5 million) in its opening weekend, a dismal figure for a film that had A-list stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Karan Johar and Anushka Sharma in lead roles and a huge publicity campaign behind it.

“The losses on the film will be of the magnitude never seen before for a Hindi film,” the trade website boxofficeindia.com said in a report.

The report estimated that the 149-minute period film would struggle to earn 250 million rupees ($3.9 million) in total revenues, including from domestic and overseas theatres, resulting in a loss of nearly one billion rupees ($15.7 million) for stakeholders.

Produced by Fox Star Studios, a joint venture between the Rupert Murdoch-owned 20th Century Fox and the Star Network, the failure of “Bombay Velvet” is a huge setback for the industry.

It might not be as colossal a disaster as Disney’s “John Carter” or Universal’s “47 Ronin”, but Kashyap’s film is right up there with the biggest Bollywood turkeys of recent times.

“It’s bad – far worse than anyone had imagined. We thought it would at least open well, but on the first day, shows were being cancelled because of lack attendance,” Girish Johar, a trade analyst, said.1unnamed

A spokesperson from Fox Star Studios refused to comment and calls to Phantom Films, which co-produced the film and is co-owned by Kashyap, went unanswered.

“Yes, it is a matter of concern, the way the industry is heading. We have not had a good 2014 and the failure of “Bombay Velvet” doesn’t come at a good time at all. We have been concerned with peripheral expenditures for a while now, and we will be meeting Guild members and independent producers to discuss this situation soon,” said Kulmeet Makkar, CEO of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India.

According to consultancy KPMG, domestic theatrical revenue increased by just 0.1 percent from 2013 to 2014 despite of the addition of 102 screens all over India.  The scenario for this year doesn’t look promising either. In spite of some well-reviewed films, not many have managed to make a profit at the box office.

“The only recent debacle that even comes close to ‘Bombay Velvet’ might be ‘Kites’, and that was five years ago. Audiences just didn’t want to engage or consume ‘Bombay Velvet’, right from the time the first trailer was released,” Johar said.

The film attracted negative publicity more than a year before it released, with news periodically surfacing of Kapoor being unhappy with the film and Kashyap being asked to cut the movie’s running length.

Despite a publicity blitzkrieg, “Bombay Velvet” opened to lukewarm reviews, with critics praising the detailing and set design but faulting the inconsistent and overcrowded script.

“Also, the big problem was that Phantom kept talking about the budget, about the scale, about the money being spent, which created huge expectations. No one is asking about ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ or even ‘Piku’, and how they are doing, because the budget was not a talking point here. Thanks to the build-up, the scale of failure is even bigger with ‘Bombay Velvet’,” an industry source said.

Trade estimate of the production budget was over one billion rupees, although Fox Star pegs it at 800 million rupees.

People buy tickets at a counter in a multiplex movie theatre in MumbaiWhat is also of concern to the industry is that despite having an A-list star like Ranbir Kapoor in his first full-fledged film in one-and-a-half years, the film didn’t manage to get a decent opening on the weekend, something that is almost a given.

Kapoor, 31, was at one point considered the biggest star after the Khan trio in Bollywood, but three consecutive flops later, his star billing is in serious doubt.

“Ranbir still has the acting chops to do it, but perhaps his choices don’t mirror his talent,” Johar said.

Kashyap, in a long post on Facebook, said he was “enriched” by the experience of “Bombay Velvet”, and remained committed to making films in India, and about India. Media reports have said Kashyap is moving to Paris for a while.

For now, Bollywood is hoping that the second half of the year, which includes two films by the industry’s blue-eyed boy, Salman Khan, will revive the industry’s flagging fortunes and reverse some of the damage done by “Bombay Velvet.”

(Editing by Robert MacMillan. Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Robert @bobbymacReports | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission.)

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