Basically I believe that hits and flops are emotional terms, without any comprehensive meaning. I say this because film in a true sense is a one-to-one experience between the filmmaker and each individual viewer. A film is made because the filmmaker has a story which he desires to tell and film business is about carrying the film effectively to as many viewers as possible and in the process to make money out of it. There is the hardware which is the hundreds of theatres in existence and hundreds still being built cross the country and they need software to play.
And then there are thousands making a livelihood – actors, technicians, producers, distributors, suppliers, etc, etc, and that’s why it’s called an industry. Now the industry needs to fill in the theatres to make ends meet and it doesn’t care as much about the quality of the film as it cares about the turnover. Quality is there only from the filmmakers’ perspective and the individual viewer’s perspective as it is a very subjective word. You can’t generalize it because each individual is very specific in his taste, sensibility, and intelligence, etc.
We keep hearing that 90 % of films are flops and nobody even attempts to understand what it really means. How can any industry run if it is losing money 90 % of the time? In reality this is how it happens. Let’s say a producer spends 10 Crores in making a movie which goes in payments to various artistes, technicians, suppliers etc. Then let’s say somebody buys it for 12 Crores. The buyer further retails it to various others lets say for a sum total of 13 Crores and the film finally collects 15 crore. Now this would be a case of the film making money for everyone involved. Lets say now the producer spent 16 Crore but it was bought only for 12 crore because the sale price never depends on the cost price. It depends on the producers’ compulsion to sell to safeguard himself and the buyer’s perception and vision of its street value with the consumer. In the above case for the producer it is a flop but for the buyer it is a hit. This is as per the financial part of it. Coming to the creative part Darr is a super hit for Shahrukh and a super flop for Sunny Deol as far as their star branding is concerned.
In the year Satya released, a Salman Khan starrer “Bandhan” directed by Murli Mohan rao which released around the same time collected much more than Satya. But is it because they liked it better than Satya or is it because many more went to see Bandhan because of Salman’s pull? So the fact that there are more collections necessarily does not mean people liked it more. It only means that more people saw it. For instance Satya when it released was taken off from the theatres on the 2nd or 3rd day in parts of UP, Rajasthan for lack of audience. So it was registered as a super flop in those areas. But a year later when I went to those areas for some other work everybody recognized me as the director of Satya. How does that happen? It’s simply because when it was released nobody heard about it and did not go to see. By the time they heard about it, it was taken off the theatres. So they must have finally seen it on video or cable. Today I doubt that you can find a single individual who will say that he liked Bandhan more than Satya but the collections at that time told a very different tale.
Now coming to the individual’s point of view at best I will try to describe it in an example. Suppose you go to a crockery store to buy a dinner set. You will check out the various designs available and pick the one you like the best. You will never ask the salesman if it’s a hit or flop and neither will you ask a critic to review it. Anyone with a mind of his own will do the same with a movie. This was best illustrated by Abhishek Bachchan recently. When he was planning to see a movie I told him that many didn’t like it and he said he would like to make his own pinion.
Often you will hear about a film’s opening in terms of percentage. Let’s say a film opens in 10 theatres having a capacity of 200 seats each. On the first screening if all shows are full it will register as 100% opening meaning 2000 people saw it. But if the distributor opens it in 20 theatres and it registers 50% opening then it is considered below the mark. But the bottom line is that still 2000 people saw. Fair enough that the additional theatres will incur extra theatre rentals and print costs but that decision will always be with the distributor of the concerned circuit on his perception and vision of how many people will watch it and has nothing to do with the filmmaker but eventually it is the filmmaker’s branding which will suffer on account of ignorance and of a decision made by someone else.
To sum it up strictly from a filmmaker’s perspective I would define a hit and flop in terms of what the film cost to the producer and how much he could recover on the first immediate sale. Any further trading of it is strictly subject to various individuals decisions of how and how not to market it which cannot be controlled by the filmmaker.
If a book is written by Ayn Rand and a wholesaler or retailer tries to sell it to a Mills and Boon reading audience, he is bound to be unsuccessful. And I really don’t think Ayn Rand could be blamed for the failure and the same thing goes in reversal of trying to sell a Mills and Boon’s book to an Ayn Rand reader.
From his sensibility a filmmaker will make a film which some love, some hate and some ridicule on an individual level which is perfectly all right. But to expect the filmmaker and the actors to be responsible on print deployment decisions to occupancy percentages to box-office figures etc, is absolutely unfair because they will be truly ignorant and unaware of that side of films, namely the film business, as it cannot and will not be ever in the purview of creative people.
To further illustrate this point I am giving a certain input here taken from http://www.ibosnetwork.com/newsmanager/templates/template1.aspx?articleid=21411&zoneid=4 for you to understand and ask queries.