The verdict is loud and clear. After all the hype and the pre-release excitement surrounding the film, Vidhu Vinod Chopra?s ELKLAYVA, has bitten the dust at the box-office with sorry distributors and exhibitors, now calculating the losses they have made on the film. The film was reportedly bought by Eros International the world-rights distributors, at a whopping price of Rs 35 crores, after which the all-India distributors acquired it at a ratio of Rs 2.5 crores plus per territory. The only territory distributors who were saved from losses were the Mumbai distributors because Vinod Chopra was said to have bought back the film from Eros at Rs 6.5 crores, so that he could release it himself. According to estimates, the film managed to gross only 60 percent business in its first two days run in all the major territories, including Mumbai, Delhi-U.P, Nizam, and West Bengal. ?It is clear that the film is a big disaster at the box-office. The Mahashivratri holiday at least fetched an opening day response for the film but it dropped immediately after. The reasons are very clear, it had no entertainment value and it was a heavy film that most people could not associate with,? says Sanjay Dalia, Vice-President, Programming Cinemax chain of theatres. Like most other multiplex exhibitors who got excited about the film?s prospects, Dalia admits to having scheduled the film in 12 shows. ?There was considerable pre-release chatter about the film. Also there was no other big film in opposition, so we decided to give maximum leverage to the film. Its 1.50 mins duration only facilitated greater number of shows,? he contends. However the film dropped sharply after the second day. ?It was truly disappointing,? Dalia reveals.
Dalia further points out that the pre-release hype generated by Chopra gifting a Rolls Royce to Bacchan misfired for the film in a big way. ?It proved to be a negative publicity instead of boosting the film?s prospects. The car went back to the garage the next day and the audiences obviously concluded that it was much ado about nothing. The makers should have atleast had the wisdom to return the car to the garage after the film?s release,? Dalia says.
According to Hyderabad-based Ashish Saxena, C.O.O. OF PVR chain of cinemas, it was the release strategy of the film that misfired with the makers overhyping the film and releasing it with too many prints. ?A film of this nature should ideally have a restricted release with the publicity being moderate. In this case, the hype and the number of prints were both too large for the film to sustain,? he says. PVR had released the film in 20 screens out of its 82 screens all over India but Saxena admits that it met with a disappointing response all over. ?We scheduled the film at a very large number of screens looking at its probable potential but it proved otherwise,? he says.
West Bengal distributor, Preetam Jhalan, who has distributed some of the best known films in the Yashraj banner in the past, also admits to being clearly disappointed by the film?s response. ?We definitely did not expect it to be such a letdown. We went by the name of the banner and the pre-release hype about the film, when we chose to acquire it. We went by the fact that the banner had given three big hits in the two MUNNABHAI films and PARINEETA. So when Mr Vinod Chopra told us that it was one of the finest films he had ever made, we totally trusted him. Besides the promos looked technically superb. but we soon realized that we were wrong in our decision,? says the bitter distributor. The fact that the chain of multiplex exhibitors in West Bengal did not co-operate, also added to the film?s post-release woes. However Jhalan has not yet removed the film from the chain of theatres, simply because there is no better option. ?We are continuing to run the film simply because there is no other major release and there is no alternative at the moment,? he says.
Veteran Delhi-U.P distributor and exhibitor, Sanjay Mehta of G.S. Films, who has a chain of 7 theatres in Delhi and U.P. was among those who chose not to release the film in any of his theatres despite the extraordinary reports it was carrying. 'That?s because of the unheard of terms that the local distributors were asking to book the film at theatres. They were giving the impression that they had a very prized film on hands, which was likely to reap big dividends at the box-office but I had my own apprehensions considering that it was a Vinod Chopra direction and not a production. If you look at the track record of Vinod Chopra productions, there were only two films (MUNNABHAI M.B.B.S and LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI) in his banner, which became big box-office successes. However none of the two was directed by him. In fact, none of the films directed by Vinod Chopra have succeeded well in the Delhi-U.P territory, whether it was PARINDA, 1942 or MISSION KASHMIR. Also it gave the impression of being a very dry film devoid of any music and entertainment, besides its duration of 1.40 mins. Vidhu is a stylized maker no doubt and personally speaking I am a great fan of his kind of films but business-wise, the audiences in Delhi and U.P. don?t go by the gloss, they look for content in films,? he says.
Like Sanjay Dalia of Cineline, Mehta feels that the pre-release hype only misfired for the film and gave the wrong impression. ?If one observes none of the pre-release publicity including the idea of gifting a Rolls Royce to Mr. Bachchan was content-driven. The film was never in the news for its content which gave the impression that the producers were shaky talking about the film?s content,? he says.
Trade numero expert, leading West Bengal distributor, Niraj Mancchanda, and trade analyst, who is a regular for all Rakesh Roshan films, including his last release, KRISSH, has a very interesting observation to make about the film. Says Mancchanda, ? I was offered the film at one point of time when it was open but I strictly buy only those films which are numerologically correct and consequently make business sense. I could see that the film had gone all wrong in its title. Moreover the steep price being quoted for the film hardly made sense and I was proved right,? he says.
According to Mancchanda, the film?s original title YAGNA, was an apt name for the film in keeping with its number equation. Later the title was changed to EKLAVYA, which represents the number 19 and gave an excellent vibration for all future dealings of the film. ?In fact it was this number that created an excellent pre-release hype for the film and fetched it an exceptional price for its world-rights distributors, including its overseas price. However the prospects of the film took a beating the moment the producers zeroed in on the number 63 by adding the tag line, ?The Royal Guard? along with ?Elkavya?. ?63? is not only a bad number but from what I know completely contradicts Vinod Chopra?s number and the results were there for everyone to see,? Mancchanda smiles.