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After the 100-CRORE club, the 1000-CRORE Blockbuster?

Bollywood's obsession with the '100-Crore- club has been more than justified in recent years but one of India's most formidable filmmakers says the industry should aim even higher.

"We are not far from achieving the Rs 1000 Crore mark at the moment.  In fact, I think we are limiting ourselves with that figure", Karan Johar told a panel program - appropriately titled "Planning and Making a Rs 1000 Crore Blockbuster - in Mumbai Wednesday.

The event, organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), is exploring new frontiers for the Bollywood film business, as the industry expands into previously untapped markets, particularly overseas.

Once the preserve of a handful of movies backed by industry heavyweights and featuring Bollywood's biggest actors, the 100-Crore (Rs 1 Billion or approximately £11.5 million) blockbuster has become ever more ubiquitous.

In 2008 there was a grand total of TWO Billion Rupee blockbusters whilst in 2012 a total of EIGHT films crossed the magic mark at the box office; interestingly enough, it wasn't just the hackneyed masala films with the conventional song and dance routines that did well at the cash counters.

Referring to India's greatest Box Office champion, Johar said: '3 Idiots’ did so well…it had a subject based on education.  It was a feel good movie. ‘Sholay‘ was a masala film and ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun!‘ was a family film.  So you can’t pick a specific theme.  You need to make a good film, which is universal. There is no science to pick a theme,” he said.

Johar was joined by a number of industry experts - including Siddarth Roy Kapoor, Managing Director of Disney UTV and Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox Star studios - who were unanimous in their view that a few issues needed to be resolved to fulfil Bollywood's Rs 10 Billion blockbuster, the first of which was an insufficient number of screens.

Kapoor said: “The maximum width is 3000-3500 screens. Places like Uttar Pradesh (the most populous state in India) has just 150 screens and Bihar has 300 screens. We are an under screened market,” said Kapoor.

“Also, there is a cap on ticket prices in the South.  The entertainment tax is also huge.  If we make a universal blockbuster like it was made in the 1980s and 1990s, then this dream might be possible,” he said.

Vijay Singh from Fox Star said more investment was required in creating good films rather than churning out formulaic films made with a box office figure in mind: “Ang Lee took four years for his film ‘Life of Pi’.  We need to have an approach to filmmaking that ensures that a lot is being invested in a film.  Directors want to make a film every four-six months, then how can you deliver a blockbuster?”

- Staff Reporter

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