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"The Rs 100 crore Bollywood film club is bullshit:" Mukesh Bhatt

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MUMBAI: The year 2014 will go down in history as one of the worst years for Indian cinema in recent times with poor box office collections. Movie economics were also adversely affected by dramatic reduction in demand for satellite rights by broadcasters.

In an endeavour to produce bigger and larger movies, is the emphasis on quality declining? Are studios misreading audience tastes? Are movie budgets bloated beyond control? These questions were raised in a session of FICCI Frames 2015 moderated by Sikhya Entertainment founder Guneet Mongia with Viacom 18 Motion Pictures CEO Ajit Andhare, Eros International MD and group CEO Jyoti Deshpande, film distributer Anil Thadani, PVR Pictures president Kamal Gianchandani, Fox Star CEO Vijay Singh and Film and TV Producer Guild president Mukesh Bhatt.

With a mere growth of 0.9 per cent, the film industry has reached its abysmal low. The panelists citied the major reason behind that as filmmakers getting carried away by big names and not sticking to the budget drawn.

Deshpande opened up the discussion by aggressively protesting over budgeting. “We should immediately stop chasing big names and stick to quality content in order to make the industry prosper. Before green lighting content, we need to tackle a number of issues and better research can help the industry grow. Simultaneously, we also need to ensure that the number of screens increases as more screens mean more money.”

Speaking on the shrinking number of screens, Gianchandani said, “While we are growing in some parts of the country, the fact is that there is stagnancy in some areas. The growth of multiplex depends on numerous factors, government and content being the two vital ones. We need to ensure that we have content that rejuvenates consumers and they reach the theatres.”

It should be noted that in China a new screen starts in every three days and the industry is growing bigger and faster, whereas India is witnessing the exact opposite. Addressing the issue, veteran producer Mukesh Bhatt asserted, “In this business, if you don’t have the temperament to take a risk then you are on the wrong ship and you will certainly drown. Playing safe is not possible in the film industry and the perception that only the Khans can earn you money is ruining the industry. The Khans are good but they are 50 now and people won’t accept them singing romantic songs anymore. We have to discover new stars and new directors. All studios need to back raw and new talent. Moreover, multiplexes should have different pricing for movies that star newcomers. My father advised me that all my spending should reflect in the frame. However, nowadays our spends hardly reflects in the frame but satisfies the ego and arrogance of big names. The media given Rs 100 crore club is absolute bullshit and make no sense. I thank Viacom for green-lighting films like Mary Kom and Bhag Milkha Bhag and hope they keep it up.”

Viacom CEO Ajit Andhare added, “I don’t recall when the film industry made profit or grew larger. The biggest challenge is to make people believe that spending more is not the key to success and one has to pay more attention to content and not green-light a movie going by the actor or director’s name.”

Great content like Aankhon Dekhi, Dr Prakash Baba Amte and Chatuskone find it difficult to stay in theatres where glamour and big names keep knocking. Similarly, the scenario where a common man finds it difficult to afford a ticket needs to change in order to ensure growth of the film industry.

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