SO YOU thought only cricket matches could be fixed? Here in Mumbai, even the box office collections of newly released films can be fixed. They call it “ticket phadna”. An insecure star, who is sometimes also the film’s producer, arranges to block-book the first week’s shows and, hey presto, the “House Full” boards go up.
In Bollywood’s scheme of things, a film’s first week’s run is often its most crucial phase. A dud of a first week at the box office and a film has very little chance of recovering. Hence, a desperate producer-star often feels the need to fudge figures by buying up tickets by the dozen and “tearing’ em up” (hence, ticket Phadna).
“Govinda does it. Ajay Devgan does it. Many heroes do it,” says Komal Nahata, editor of trade magazine Film Information. Nahata presumably knows what he is talking about. “Govinda did ticket Phadna for his “Had Kardi Aapne. He was the hero of the film and its distributor. He rigged his Anadi Number One as well. Ajay Devagn does it all the time”, he says. Neither Devgan nor Govinda could be reached for their reaction to Nahata’s assertion. “the practice of fudging box office collections was rampant a decade ago,” asserts Nahata. “Almost everyone did it. But these days, instances of this are fewer. Often it is done by a producer-star, who has deep pockets but has not had a hit for a long time. Hence, in desperation, he buys up tickets an bloc in the hope that word will get around that his film is a super-duper hit in its first week.”
This explains why despite a sold-out board hanging outside, many vacant seats can be seen in some movie halls. “it is usually done for the first week and in the city of Bombay”, explains Sultan Ahmed, film producer and director and former president of the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPAA).
Ahmed explains that film collection rigging in the long run is a dicey proposition and can boomerang. “How long can the producer of the star keep on buying tickets? One week? What next? A flop film cannot be made into a hit or voice versa. Also, rigging of the film is done almost exclusively in Mumbai. So even if one does ticket Phadna in Mumbai, what about the rest of India?” points out Ahmed.
Taran Adarsh who edits Trade Guide, another trade magazine, seconds Mr Ahmed’s view. “One hears of ticket phadna or feeling all the time. So, we do not believe the statistics of box office collection figures given by the producers or the distributors. We send our man inside the theatre. We keep tabs”, says Adarsh.
Adarsh also says that film feeding is done when the collection of the film has been luke-warm.
“Ticket phadna is good for films that have had 50 to 60 percent box collection and that too in the first week. Ticket phadna is just propping up the film. The stars and producers at times have a budget for “feeding”. Yet it is not sustainable in the long term”, says Adarsh.
And for those who would like to know whether any ticket phadna had been done for Josh, the latest Shah Rukh Khan movie, the answer is no.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna