Snip! Honey they shrunk that Bollywood flick

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Snip! Honey they shrunk that Bollywood flick

What's common between A Wednesday, The Lunchbox and Masaan?

Apart from being Bollywood hits, they are all films with short runtimes

More in the story

  • How everybody -- filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors, viewers - stand to gain?
  • So are the days of long blockbusters over?

Shorter is the new trend. No, we aren't talking about shorter skirts or dresses (Read: Kya Kool Hai Hum 3 or Mastizaade) but instead of Bollywood movies trimming their runtimes. Trimming their runtimes to appeal to a whole new set of audiences. Oh, and also to garner some extra money on the side, for all parties involved.

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It all started with A Wednesday, directed by Neeraj Pandey, back in September of 2008. The drama-cum-thriller didn't have a single song - a rarity in Bollywood. The Lunchbox (2013) was another such example. Sure these had a background score, but none of the item-number nonsense Bollywood propels on its viewers these days.

Second, and more important, A Wednesday started a trend in Bollywood of movies coming with shorter running times.

This benefits both the producer of the film and the theatre showcasing the movie. Shorter runtimes means cinemas can pack more shows every day. That may translate to a lower per-screen average box office haul, but overall it leads to more profits.

A Wednesday had runtime of a mere 103 minutes -- something that Hollywood is used to, but not Bollywood. "Currently, the average duration of a Hindi movie is 120-150 minutes, while that of an English movie is 90 minutes" accordingn to a Business Standard report from 2010.

How it helps viewers?

Shorter lengths also means viewers have to invest less time in watching a movie. That helps particularly if you have a time crunch. Also, if the movie is bad, it is easier to stomach.

Making a shorter movie almost always costs less than making a movie stretched over three hours. It takes fewer days to shoot, less time to edit and usually does away with the excessive song-and-dance in lengthier movies. At a psychological level, there's less chance that people's patience will run out during a 90-minute movie versus a 150-minute film.

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According to unofficial figures, A Wednesday grossed Rs 34 crore worldwide on a mere Rs 5 crore budget. That's a healthy seven-time return and a model is carried all the way into 2016.

In the past few years, films such as Dum Laga Ke Haisha (111 minutes), NH10 (115 minutes), Finding Fanny (106 minutes), Masaan (109 minutes), Court (116 minutes) and The Lunchbox (105 minutes) have all come in under two hours and done extremely well in terms of profit margins. It also speaks volumes that all these movies have garnered critical acclaim.

Exceptions are just that

Yes, it is true that only two of the top-15 highest-grossing Bollywood movies of all time (with almost all releasing after 2010), come in at under 150 minutes. Those movies do well because of their star power: PK had Aamir Khan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan had Salman, Dhoom 3 had not one but two Aamirs and Krrish 3 had Hritik Roshan.

These movies bucked the trend only and only cause of their star power muscle. None of the top 15 got above average praise except two -- Baahubali: The Beginning and Bajirao Mastani. Okay, may be 3 Idiots to an extent.

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They did well purely because of the fan-following of the main stars, not at all because of their runtime. Salman's Kick would have done the same business at 180 minutes, if not more, as it did at 150 minutes.

With multiplexes coming up on a daily basis in this country and single screens refusing to go away, every show counts and if a movie can get that extra slot, then why not?

70 people attending a show versus 50 people each attending two shows: which one would you want? I'm sure the parties involved would want the latter.

We viewers wouldn't mind sitting in a hall for a little bit shorter having as much fun as earlier.

Edited by Joyjeet Das

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Sahil Bhalla

Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla