They say, “Never judge a book by its cover.” similarly, we should never judge a film by its budget. However, that is not the world we live in. Most film in our time boast about their blown off budget and the uber expensive star cast and VFX and locations to lure the audience in. But budgeting a movie is both a science and skill that is attributed to the specialists in their fields. And as the geography changes, the yardstick of this science also changes drastically. a 90 Crore film may be a big budget film in Mumbai and around, but in Bhojpuri circle, even a 3 Crore film can garner that same title. Whereas, in a Hollywood production, 90 Crore is nothing big. Lets see how the budget changes with the language in Indian cinema;
India is the only country where a star can charge upto 40% of a the total film budget. Nowhere else in the world do talent costs rise beyond 15-20%. This is a major reason why Indian films lack on the quality of script and other technical infrastructure. This fact is common across all the regions and language of Indian cinema; the stars of the said region charge a whooping chunk of the film budget as their fee. However, as more and more stars are turning into producers, they are letting go of their upfront fee and taking shares in the profit.
Thanks to the internet boom and easy access to new cameras and equipment, more and more filmmakers are opting to increase their technical budget because everybody wants their film to look good. However, a few directors are still lagging behind due to the budget constraints, and are left to use old cameras and indigenous technology to shoot their films.
A mainstream Bollywood movie has an average budget of INR 20-50 Crores. The major chunk of this budget (40-50%) is eaten up by the stars of the film and the rest is to be divided among the writers, crew and technicians. And since the production value cannot be negotiated (as its a unionised industry), writers and crew members end up getting a deduction in their prices.
An average Hindi film script writer earns INR 40,000 – 1,00,000 for a final draft. This doesn’t even comprise 10% of the total of an average movie budget. The figures are even more depressing in regional film industries like Bhojpuri and Bengal. Furthermore, small town films made in cities like Meerut (UP) have their directors and producers as script writers, as they have no money to spend on a writer separately. Thus, they end up writing their own films. Post processing can cost anywhere between INR 50,000 to 10 Crores for a film. There are small studios in cities like Delhi and Mumbai that provide an editor and editing table for a price of INR 1000 per hour. But quality wise, you get what you pay for.
Any decent film editor charges from somewhat INR 50,000 to 10,00,000 for a specific period of time to edit a film. Music can be arranged from a composer to write an original song/score for your film (the price depends on who you hire) to purchasing songs from various song websites that could cost anything between INR 15000 to 15,000 per song. And it goes without saying, that he VFX cost as per their quality.
A DSLR camera cost INR 3000 alone (without lenses or any attachment) per day on rental. The price for a professional film camera like a RED or BLACKMAGIC goes upto INR 10,000 per day (again, without any accessories). So by scheduling your total shooting days, you can come up with a budget for you camera (excluding the person who is going to operate it). Surprisingly, lightings are not as costly as they look. An average light set can cost around INR 5000 per day. But many new filmmakers are learning to do away with the artificial light unless they have to get them.
Where a big budget Bollywood film can cost around INR 90 Crores, a big budget film in Bhojpuri circle would cost around INR 2 Crore. The contrast of the condition between two regions can be seen by the fact, that these days an average Marathi film costs around INR 3 Crores. This figure, in comparison to a South Indian film would pale as their average films cost around INR 10 Crores.
The reason why regional cinema has such discrepancies in their average budget can be directly attributed to the state of the infrastructure of the said regions. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Multiplexes are still growing and Single Screen theatres rule the cinema scene. This in turns makes the expensive films harder to recover their cost and earn profit. And so, the producers in these regions have mastered a basic rule, “Less cost = More profit.”
Whereas in South and Marathi cinema, the filmmakers are fascinated with experimental techniques and new stories. Therefore, they are willing to take risks and invest more. But this is also because the audience in their regions are capable of buying tickets in Multiplexes (The Tamilnadu Govt has also limited the price of film ticket to a maximum of INR 120).
So where a producer in South is ready to invest INR 10 Crore for an average film, a Bhojpuri producer will only break his wallet for around INR 70 Lakh. The situation worsens in the Meerut circuit where the producer will only be able to cough up around INR 5 Lakh. Though as we warned in the beginning to not judge a book by its cover, its pretty common to see through a film’s quality by looking at its budget.
Amidst this confusion and complexity, many young filmmakers find themselves getting confused thinking “How much should my film cost?”
As a filmmaker, you need to take care of your costs while you write your script. Also, if you are a writer writing a spec script, you must understand that the producer (you are planning to sell your script to) does not have a tree in their backyard, that grows money for leaves. Every writer and filmmaker has a duty towards their producer/financier to get the cost under control. And this begins with writing the first draft. Trim out the unnecessary expense that you see in the scene. Think of a location that could be both creatively justified and pocket friendly. As a screenwriter, I always think before writing a scene, “How can I make this scene both interesting and budget friendly?”
Find a middle ground, and you shall get a moderately budgeted good film, no matter which language it is in.
Average Budget Ranges Required for Making Films in Various Indian Languages
- Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Malayalam Film Industry (Mollywood): INR 1 cr to 35 cr
Malayalam Speakers Count in India: 90,809,714
2. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Tamil Film Industry (Kollywood): INR 3 cr to 80 cr
Tamil Language Speakers Count in India: 1,87 ,55,411
3. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Kannada Film Industry (Sandalwood): INR 1 cr to 35 cr
Kannada Language Speakers Count in India: 80,809,714
4. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Telugu Film Industry (Tollywood): INR 3 cr to 90 cr
Telugu Language Speakers Count in India: 1,50 ,55,411
5. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Hindi Film Industry (Bollywood): INR 3 cr to 150 cr
Hindi Language Speakers Count in India: 20,50 ,55,411
6. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Bengali Film Industry (Tollywood): INR 1 cr to 5 cr
Telugu Language Speakers Count in India: 45,809,714
7. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Bhojpuri Film Industry: : INR 50 Lac to 3 cr
Bihari Language Speakers Count in India: 20,809,714
8. Avg. Budget required to make a movie in Odia Film Industry: INR 20 Lac to 3 cr
Odia Language Speakers Count in India:15,809,714