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  • Tanveer

Tollywood Movie- Hit or Not?

I spent a lot of time analysing the factors that influence success of a movie, especially in the Telugu states. I am sure there is nothing drastically surprising in my findings, nor did I uncover an unknown secret ingredient. However, when you take these attributes together and understand their influence, you can plan and execute various activities better, thereby significantly raising the chances of success.

During my study, a wide variety of attributes had surfaced, but I think the following ten are especially important (in no particular order):

  1. Story and screenplay: A well-written story and screenplay can be crucial to the success of a Telugu movie. Movies with engaging and well-written stories tend to perform better than those with weak or unoriginal plots. For example, the Telugu movie "Arjun Reddy" had a compelling and well-written story that helped make it a hit.

  2. Punchy dialogue: A key component of any comedy film is the dialogue, which should be clever, witty, and fast-paced. Avoid cliches and aim for dialogue that is authentic and that reveals something about the characters. In the 1980s and 90s, Mohan Babu rose to prominence predominantly due to his dialogues and delivery. Same can be said for Balakrishna. Who can forget “...any time, any centre, single hand”? When anyone speaks of the Hindi film Sholay, the first thing that comes to mind is Gabbar. Why? His dialogues, of course.

  3. Star power: In the land of crazy hero worship and loyal fan following, having a strong cast of popular actors and actresses can be a major factor in the success. For example, movies starring actors like Mahesh Babu, Jr. NTR, Pawan Kalyan, Anushka Shetty, and Samantha have consistently performed well at the box office. Decades after their debut, Balakrishna and Venkatesh still pull quite a crowd. According to data from the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, movies featuring top actors have a higher box office success rate. For example, in 2021, movies featuring actors Mahesh Babu and Allu Arjun grossed an average of INR 50 crore and INR 40 crore, respectively. However, star power is a function not just of their presence but also alignment to their image and expectations from their fans. Also remember, several movies did well without star power (1990s film Money and more recently, DJ Tillu come to mind, but there are several)

  4. Director: The reputation and track record of the movie's director can also impact its success. Movies directed by popular directors such as SS Rajamouli, Shekhar Kammula and Anil Ravipudi tend to perform well at the box office. Even if it is not a very popular director, or if he/she is a debutante, the Director’s impact is huge. What kind of credibility do they bring to the table? Who did they assist in the past? What other works have they done? Even if the audience may not know a newcomer, their pedigree is critical from the perspective of other stakeholders like producers, distributors and so on.

  5. Music: Music is an important element of Telugu movies, and a movie with catchy and popular songs can help drive its success. Experts believe that a movie with hit songs can see a bump in box office collections of at least 20-30%. Even the epic Telugu movie "Baahubali" had a blockbuster soundtrack that helped contribute to its success, apart from VFX, star cast etc. The 2021 movie "Bheeshma" grossed INR 100 crore, in large part due to the success of its songs. Shekhar Kammula’s 2017 release, Fidaa, is remembered for songs like Vachchinde and Hey Pillagaada. The impact of good music and memorable songs is still crucial. This is increasingly becoming true of web series too. Talking of Hindi projects, for instance, “Scam 1992” had great theme music by Achint Thakkar. In “Monica O My Darling” too, Achint gave hit songs, contributing to the success of the web series. And the list is ever increasing.

  6. High visual appeal - cinematography and production values: A movie with high production values, including good cinematography, sets, and special effects, can help draw audiences and increase its chances of success. Not just for Baahubalis and Pushpas of the world, but also in smaller movies. DJ Tillu, Raju Gari Gadhi, Ee Nagariniki Emaindi all had excellent visual appeal.

  7. Release date: Releasing a movie during a time when there is less competition can increase its chances of success. Several well made movies failed to generate revenue at the box office because films with huge star cast, large promotion spends and so on came out at the same time. Audience usually has to make a choice which film to watch, and if there are others out there that are more attractive to them, then your project may fall flat on its face. Therefore, check out release lists and make a call accordingly.

  8. Marketing and promotions: A well-executed marketing and promotions campaign, online and offline, can help build buzz and drive audiences to the theater. That’s why a good PR and advertising agency is crucial. Everything from conducting events, appearing on talk shows, running online ads or social media campaigns to influencer marketing need careful planning and focused execution. The cast and crew should also engage with public using online platforms. Even negative publicity helps, to be honest, most of the times.

  9. Good reviews: A movie that gets good reviews from critics can also see a bump in box office collections of around 30%. This is because good reviews can help build buzz and generate interest in the movie. Encourage reviewers to write about the movie and generate buzz among their followers.

  10. Create a memorable experience: Creating a memorable viewing experience can help encourage positive word-of-mouth in the industry as well as the audience. This could include incorporating interactive elements, offering special screenings or events, or providing unique perks for audiences.

By considering these attributes and incorporating them into the production of a Telugu movie, filmmakers can increase their chances of success at the box office. Several other factors, like producing merchandise, also contribute in general. But Indian markets, specifically Telugu movie markets seem to value the above more than others.

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