LESSONS TO LEARN FROM ‘SURAJ PE MANGAL BHARI’ | 20 November, 2020

It’s a nightmare for a producer if his film underperforms at the box-office. An even worse nightmare is when a producer’s good and meritorious film underperforms. Of course, the golden rule is that each film gets at the box-office what it deserves. It the film is good, it WILL perform. But this rule was for normal times. These are extraordinary times that we are living in. The rules have, therefore, changed. Even a good film can fail at the box-office. Not because people did not like the film but because people never came to the cinemas to watch the entertaining film. That was Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari for you.

These are extraordinary
times that we are living in.
The rules have, therefore, changed. Even a good film
can fail at the box-office.

Information spoke to hundreds of people who saw the film at the cinemas. 90% of the people either liked it or loved it. If such were the reports of a film released in normal times, the producers and everybody else associated with the film would be jumping with joy. But in the case of Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, Zee Studios is not happy with the box-office outcome because the film has not done even 5% of what it merited to do.

That people are still wary of visiting cinemas is a given. The fear of the coronavirus is still prevalent in people’s minds, which is prompting them to refrain from frequenting enclosed spaces like cinema halls, But this is not the only reason why Diljit Dosanjh’s latest film underperformed at the turnstiles. There are other reasons too for the dull performance of the film at the ticket windows.

Lakhs of people are still not aware that cinemas in their vicinity have reopened. Since the reopening was staggered in the various states, awareness about the restarting of operations is low. Besides, cinemas themselves have not publicised their reopening. Even in the states in which cinemas have been allowed to reopen, only some have reopened. For instance, in a city like Pune, while many multiplexes are functional, single-screen cinemas, except Victory, are still to reopen. In Amravati, single-screen cinemas like Prabhat and Priya are open but the multiplexes are still shut. That’s another reason why people are confused about the reopening of cinemas in their locality. What’s worse is that the publicity of the film which opened on 15th November was also low-key. One can’t even blame Zee Studios for the lack of ad spend because it was already taking a big risk by being the first film to release in the cinemas after the reopening. Since nobody could predict whether the public would come to the cinemas in large numbers or not, a producer would, quite understandably, try to keep his promotion cost minimal. However, the importance of publicity and marketing at the time of a film’s release cannot be gainsaid. More so in today’s times when people need to be told loudly and clearly that a film has finally released in the cinemas!

Lakhs of people are still not aware that cinemas in their vicinity have reopened.

Another reason is that since the film is not a big film with big star names, the media support it got was also below the mark. Unfortunately, where the media support for Zee Studios should have been more than normal if only because the studio exemplified courage in releasing the first film after the lockdown, the fourth estate almost gave it the cold shoulder. It had a lot to do with the star cast too. Had Laxmii been the first cinema release after the lockdown, the media would’ve gone bonkers over it and would have given it all the free publicity and push. But since Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari did not star any of the Khans or Akshay or another top star, the media did not open its heart to support the film or the studio. Rather, a national newspaper actually carried a story about how a couple of cinemas in Bombay city had to cancel shows of the film due to absence of audience. Was that news at all? What did the newspaper expect? That every show would be packed to capacity or that people would murder one another for tickets? Did the newspaper think that it was reporting about normal times when cancellation of a show could be said to be newsworthy?

Had LAXMII been the first cinema release after the lockdown, the media would’ve gone bonkers over it and
would have given it all
the free publicity and push.

The case of Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari should be a lesson for all producers planning their releases now. They need to earmark a budget for promoting their film. They need to send publicity materials to the cinemas for them to display the same so that the public gets attracted to the cinemas. The cinemas themselves need to be doing business on the front foot, not as if someone had put a gun to their heads. The media needs to be supportive of the new film releases at least insofar as educating the public about them is concerned. No producer should expect favours in the reviews but the press can at least be more generous in propagating information about a new film release. The industry people have, generally speaking, been very kind to the media; it’s now payback time.

They need to earmark a budget for promoting their film. They need to send publicity materials to the cinemas for them to display the same so that the public gets attracted
to the cinemas.

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