Monday, December 31, 2007

Children are calling shots at Bollywood Box office 2007

In 2007, the Hindi entertainment industry embraced the new-age marketing mantra of selling to and through children the most glaring example of which is Taare Zameen Par.

Never before had the industry taken films about children as seriously as it did this year. After decades of avoiding children's cinema, the dream merchants of Hindi filmdom did a complete turnaround and audiences were treated to nearly a dozen films about children and even one about a baby.

The most remarkable difference was that none of these films were funded by government bodies entrusted with the task of promoting children's cinema. They, instead, had big industry names associated with them.

The biggest was Aamir Khan 's directorial debut ‘Taare Zameen Par’ that not only drew standing ovation from critics, but also touched moviegoers and made the cash register ring.

Even Bobby Deol found himself charmed into doing a film about children and importance of education titled Nanhe Jaisalmer . Then there was Vishal Bharadwaj 's Blue Umbrella and Rahul Bose starrer ‘Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii’ and a box-office dud ‘Apna Asmaan’.

The Akshay Kumar starrer Heyy Babyy may not be exactly ideal for children to watch, but it was a laugh riot and a good watch for wannabe parents.

Moreover, there were a slew of animation films including ‘Bal Ganesh’, ‘My Friend Ganesha’ and the recently released Hanuman Returns directed by Anurag Kashyap .

Never before have so many films for children competed simultaneously with big-budget potboilers for the attention of producers, distributors, exhibitors and cine-goers.

Despite the fact that children have a major say in consumption patterns of Indian households and hence contribute to the success of a movie, the Hindi film industry has traditionally shied away from peddling children's films.

While the idiot box has been quick to grasp the value of catching them young and is inundated with channels dedicated to children and the advertising world routinely relies on children to sell products, Bollywood has been rather slow to learn the new marketing mantra.

In spite of successful children's films like Makdee that grossed over Rs.7 million and Hanuman that mopped up Rs.30 million, the industry prefers not to invest in films that feature children alone and instead go for films that appeal to children as well as adults like Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish that made Hrithik Roshan an icon among children and earned over Rs.180 million and Rs.410 million respectively.

The commercial success of ‘Taare Zameen Par’ in which Aamir has taken a backseat and child actor Darsheel Safary emerges as the star, gives hope that more such films will be churned out in the future.

Given that the usual rules are not working, filmmakers are turning to lesser-explored genres. And children's films are no longer seen as risky.

So it can be said that children are calling the shots at the box office.

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