Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sivaji gave highest income for black ticket sellers in North India

If you thought the mushrooming of multiplexes and their home delivery, tele-booking and e-ticketing facilities have brought about the death of black marketers, it’s time you checked out your neighbourhood theatre.

They’re mostly invisible through the week, but come Friday, they step out to cash in on the rush of a new release. When there’s a film like Sivaji The Boss, they’re out in hordes. “We’ve earned five times more than usual thanks to Rajnikant,” says 24-year-old Abhishek Singh, one of the gang. “Since he’s like God, the first day darshan is a must for many. They don’t mind paying even Rs. 2,000 per ticket.” This black marketer from Uttar Pradesh arrived in the city four years black looking for a job; he’s yet to find a real one but his weekend trade sustains him for the rest of the week.

For Sunil Deshpande, selling tickets in black is the main source of livelihood. “I used to earn Rs. 500 a month before I discovered black marketing. This doubled my income in the first month itself,” the 54-years-old says. A regular sight at a Bandra theatre, Deshpande keeps himself busy doing odd jobs throughout the week. But his weekends are devoted to the cinema.

Black marketing may ensure an easy buck, but it’s definitely not a cakewalk. One of the professional hazards is a police crackdown. Then there is an inconsistent income; a windfall like Sivaji doesn’t happen always unless it’s an Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan or Aamir Khan Film. Rani Mukherji, Aishwairya Rai Bachchan and Preity Zinta also ensure a decent income.

But these hurdles have not stopped many black marketers from passing on their trade tricks to the next generation. The city is also witnessing a surreptitious increase in women black marketers, who were a rarity a few years ago.

Deshpande, who by now knows the trade secrets, discloses, “Some of theatre’s booking counters display the ‘House Full’ sign to give the impression that the film is doing well and entice viewers even though tickets are available. After that we take over, selling tickets at triple the original price.”

On lean days, the black price dips drastically as soon as the movie screening starts. “There were times when we have ended up watching the movie as we could not get customers,” Deshpande adds.

For the last two years, 20-year-old Amit Shah has been juggling his time between attending college and selling tickets takes care of academic expenses. But these days, he’s considering other ways of making money. “Most films do not run houseful even on the first day as multiplexes release them in more than one screen,” he says.

Thus, the gang has moved to small theatres. “Black-ticket sellers are spotted mostly around theatres where tickets cost Rs 30-50. These days, thanks to home delivery and tele-booking, moviegoers confirm seats much before they reach the venue,” says, Devang Sampat, Cinemax.

But as the gang says, “So long as there’s a movie.”

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