"The possibilities of 3D Plus technology are endless...": Dheeraj Kumar Television and film producer

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With one foot planted firmly on the mythological and another on the social, production house Creative Eye has slowly and steadily climbed its way up the commercial ladder. From a nearly 100 per cent dependence on Doordarshan for telecasting its shows, the company has curbed its relationship with the pubcaster and is reaching out to satellite channels as well.

Despite a few wrong moves like announcing feature films that never got made, the company is moving along steadily, confident in the belief that while the days of the soap and the thriller may wax and wane, the mytho is eternal. Promoter Dheeraj Kumar, who wisely moved from an acting career to that in production, is now sitting pretty on a patent for an indigenously developed 3D technology that he says can also be applied to Indian television. Excerpts of a chat with indiantelevision.com's Aparna Joshi:

Why has Creative Eye launched into a 3 D feature film at this juncture?

We have been working on this technology along with FX Factory for the last two years. The result is 3D Plus technology, which does not require remodifying screens or putting special polaroid lenses in front of the projectors in the theatre. This spells tremendous savings for the entire industry as it can be applied to any theatre in any part of the world, with the glasses being the only extra application needed. In fact, we have patented both the technology and the camera monitors and plan to lease out to whoever is interested in using it.

Is Creative Eye's focus then moving away from television to cinema?

Not at all. In fact, the technology we have patented can be applied to creating software for analog television sets, which is what we have in India, which has 98 per cent analog TV sets and just about two per cent digital TV sets. Also, we plan to extend this technology into merchandising as the 3D Plus technology can be applied to paper too…we will be bringing out a 30 page book to coincide with the launch of Aabra Ka Dabra too.

Is it feasible to supply all the glasses which would be required for viewing 3D television programming?

Assuming there are 220 million DD viewers, we can still supply the glasses, which are currently procured from the UK and cost between Rs 3 and Rs 5 per set. These glasses are different from the ones currently used for 3D viewing and use analglyphic gels and digital filters. It can be done by tying up with advertisers of certain products, and even the ads inserted within the shows can be made using the same technology. The possibilities are endless…

"The technology we have patented can be applied to creating software for analog TV, which is what we have in India, which has 98 per cent analog TV sets"

Why did you choose a magical theme for Aabra Ka Dabra, a theme that has already been taken up in 'Chhota Chetan' and 'Chhota Jadugar'?

A children's film is something that has universal appeal. There are 40 children in the film, five of whom are major characters. Besides, we have also cast a half Punjabi Cambodian model, Tiara who is appearing for the first time in an Indian film.

How much of the budget has been taken up by the technology used?

Of the total cost of Rs 80 to 90 million that will be spent on this movie, one third is being taken up by the technology employed. There is no big star cast in this film, the technical marvel itself is my star cast. The two hour film will have more than one hour of digital visual effects. We are planning to wind up shooting by October, post production will be completed by February 2004 and we hope to release the film by April next year.

Are you worried that the implementation of CAS will push down production budgets?

With CAS coming in, margins will definitely be affected. If that happens, the quality of content as well as artistes' pay could be affected. But in the long term, say 10 to 12 months from now, CAS will turn out to be a boon for everybody, after the initial hiccups. That is because no one can remains without their staple diet of TV fare. The world over, pay channels earn more through subscription. It's only in India that they have been relying on advertising for revenues. Once everyone realises that CAS affords a proper viewership record and viewers find that they can buy the set top boxes in instalments, things will settle down. And consequently, production houses will bloom again.

Of course, the FTA channels will benefit in the meantime. And everyone will try to put in more creativity to come up with original programming.

What is the current ratio of shows Creative Eye has on DD and satellite channels?

We have now stablised at a ratio of 60:40, with the major chunk on DD. This ratio should stay constant in the coming days. We have around seven shows on Doordarshan currently, includingGhar Sansar and Kamyabi. We plan to have three more shows on DD in the current fiscal, including two which will be on prime time. On the satellite front, we have four shows on Vijay, two on ETV Hindi and Shree Ganesh and Om Namah Shivay which is running on Sony currently.

Last year, Creative Eye announced that three feature films would be launched. None of these materialised but you have now shifted to the making of a 3D film.

We did announce the three films, the first of which, Tum Jo Mil Gaye, was to have been a 'social romantic' film with a medium budget of around Rs 30 million. But along the way, we realised that unless we make a film that stands out in its genre while at the same time maintains its cost, it would not make sense to commercially exploit it. So, while the film has been kept on the back burner, we decided to go ahead with the 3D film, which we had anyway been working on for nearly two years now.

While your mythologicals and socials have been popular on television, why have you not ventured into the telefilm arena?

Telefilms simply don't have a market in India. The minute a film gets a 'tele' prefix, it loses all its impact, charm and market. That is the reason why none of the telefilms made here have been a success. It's better to concentrate on your strength, in our case the mytho - which has an eternal run and an assured market not just in India, but also abroad, where we have brought out most of our shows on DVDs and are now also packaging the music. Creative Eye has in fact entered the Limca Book of Records for having produced the maximum number of mythological programmes.

"Telefilms simply don't have a market in India. The minute a film gets a 'tele' prefix, it loses all its impact, charm and market"

What was the point of having an ideation cell within your set up?

As we are growing, it is not possible to keep a hands on check on everything. The ideation cell that we created last year, is headed by Roopa Das, who was formerly at Sony. The cell explores new genres, ideas and keeps the regular flow of concepts and stories flowing.

Do you feel the heat if channels interfere with your working style or suggest changes in your storyline?

We need to credit channels too with some intelligence. They are the ones clued into what's being demanded by the viewers. Channels have clearcut concepts and since they deal with a number of producers, they have a fair idea of what is needed to be seen on screen. If they can convince me of the changes, I definitely don't have a problem.

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