October 14, 2008

Multiplex Mania Pays Too


Thank god for multiplexes.

They have saved the day and created blockbusters this year for the Indian dream factory- Bollywood. Rock On!!, A Wednesday, Race, Mithya, Jaane... Tu Ya Jaane Na, Welcome to Sajjanpur are all surprise hits of 2008 and owe their commercial returns to multiplex audiences. Contemporary, sleek films with smart production values, intelligent scripts, small budgets created specially for a niche urban audience falls in the category of multiplex films.

In India, the multiplex industry is expected to grow more than 44 per cent to $220 million by next year, according to a recent report. No wonder then, leading multiplex players like Adlabs Films, Inox Leisures, Shringar Cinemas, Fun Multiplex and Cinemax India have moved to smaller towns like Darjeeling, Mangalore, Pimpri, Panipat, Allahabad, Latur, Agra, Thane, Lucknow, Nasik to Visakhapatnam. PVR Talkies plans to enter 70 cities - including Jalandhar, Amritsar and Moradabad in the next three-to-five years. Adlabs is slated to arrive at Hyderabad, Agra, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Indore and Allahabad. Inox has multiplexes in Vadodara, Darjeeling, Goa, Indore, Jaipur, Nagpur and Pune. Shringar - already operating in Kandivali, Surat, Nasik and Pimpri - is moving to Aurangabad and Thane.

Even with highly priced tickets, multiplexes are churning out their share of hits. Filmmakers like Madhur Bhandarkar, Karan Johar, Anurag Basu, Vishal Bhardwaj, Rituparno Ghosh, Rajat Kapoor, Farhan Akhtar et al, have managed to pull off box-office hits due in large proportion to their earnings in multiplexes. The off-beat, meaningful, small film industry which has now become a part of mainstream cinema is no longer visible only on DVDs and film festivals, but have wider reach. Independent filmmakers have found their audiences and proved to the world, that small (films) can be big.

Says filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar whose films have catered mostly to multiplex audiences, "Multiplex cinema is here to stay. However, even in this genre, people don't want to see realistic films at times. Traffic Signal, did not click with the multiplex audience. Sometimes the multiplex audience wants to watch films which have the right blend of glamour laced with realism." Audiences have become fragmented as never before. The multiplex film is a new genre, where stories are often told in a different format. Says filmmaker Govind Nihalani,"Today the filmmaker has a choice. Multiplex genre helps us experiment with a less expensive medium. We can speak our mind and the producer also recovers his money back."

Something that even trade pundits agree with. Says trade analyst Taran Adarsh, "It's because of multiplex cinema that distributors are ready to take risks with small films." In the end, however, one has to remember that films work when the audience gets something beyond the formula driven, larger-than-life cinema. That's why every genre of films are aiming to woo the multiplex audience. The small, different film - the multiplex film - is important not just for reasons of entertainment but also because it is doing something that mainstream Bollywood (which still peddles dreams) films didn't or couldn't do all these years. More often than not, multiplex films tell our stories, that need to be told, are more personal and mirror and interpret our lives. Box-office returns are of course the add- on that peps the joy of watching a good film.

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