Films to watch out for, the recovery from demonitisation, the responsibility of big stars towards the industry… MP distributor, AKSHAYE RATHI speaks on all this and more to SHUBARNA MUKERJI SHU.
How would you sum up the year gone by for the Hindi film industry?
The high point of 2016 has of course been SULTAN, then DANGAL was a massive hurricane at the box office. The year has been scattered with small victories like AIRLIFT, NEERJA, KAPOOR AND SONS… these films didn’t do the massive numbers but these are the films that got it right – putting in the right budget and getting the ROI (Return of interest).
In fact, I would go on to say that these are the films which will lead the way, as to how films will turn out in the years to come. I am of the belief that films don’t fail – budgets do! So if we get that right, costs can be recovered!
What is your take on this whole Rs.100 crore hoopla? Especially when so many actors want to do away with it, and make movies with more essence…
I personally believe we don’t have more than 10 big actors that have the capacity to draw in the big numbers. These are the stars that really bring in the big moolah every year. These movies really keep the hope alive in the long run. Let’s state the bitter truth: we are an industry which has 10% success ratio when it comes to ROI. The blockbusters keep the ball rolling. I recommend, these few stars who have it in them to get the big numbers, should really focus on that rather than get experimental. While I realise that each of them has to satisfy the actor in them, they have a bigger responsibility towards the industry and the economy of the industry. So as long as they keep giving back what’s needed, they can do the experiments…
…on their own time, you mean! So who is your fave when it comes to returns, right now?
I think you really have to appreciate what Salman Khan is doing. It is easy to dismiss him as a bad actor, making the same kind of films etc… but with all due respect, I don’t think anyone is harnessing his stardom like Salman Khan. It is not only about what money that film earns, it is a massive favour to the industry. One hit pumps in the money into the industry so that we can afford to make smaller films.
The Rs.100 crore money-spinners are evidently the lifelines of the industry. However, often these figures are contorted to suit the names associated with the film…
There are times when films which have made Rs.100 crore are flops, and films which have made Rs.20-30 crore at the box office, are a huge hit. You have to measure the net collection after you have taken care of the marketing, promotions etc. For instance, BANG BANG made Rs.140 crore but that doesn’t mean it earned money for everyone involved. DUM LAGA KE HAISHA is a big hit, on the other hand, because they didn’t spend too much.
How bad is the situation for movies… with demonetisation?
If we as an industry choose, we can look at the silver lining in the dark cloud and demonetisation might be just that. It is a tough phase, it will be tough for the fraternity with the cash crunch because, let’s face it, people would want to stack their kirana before they think about seeing a film. People would want to set their basics right before looking for entertainment.
But there is also the fact that we have surrounded ourselves in a bubble, we are spending more than needed. Yes, particular subjects need to be shot abroad – not all. Particular films need a certain treatment – not all. It is a fact that many actors, technicians and more are taking home more than they deserve. We are hoping that the slow-down will help us introspect and make some changes within. At the end, we should hope to come out smarter and stronger.
So who do you think will ace the box office in 2017?
Without a doubt, the first one that comes to my mind is BAHUBALI 2. It is one of those films which will have big numbers because it blends the art of storytelling with commerce. It has to be running at the top. Then there is Kabir Khan and Salman Khan’s TUBELIGHT. The first two films they have done together have been huge…this one has to bring in the numbers. Also, Aanand Rai and Shah Rukh Khan coming together will be a big one for all. Contrary to what Shah Rukh is doing of late, he is a guy with massive mass appeal. He should choose subjects accordingly. For instance, Shah Rukh doing a DEAR ZINDAGI might have been great for him, but it is an opportunity wasted for the fraternity. However, Aanand Rai is someone who understands the beat of the heartland. These two coming together will be really interesting.
And then there is the god himself, coming to give darshan on Diwali. Imagine, Shankar with A R Rahman, plus Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar… 2.0 will be a whammy! It doesn’t get better than that.
The Khans and Rajinikanth, we get it, but who amongst the new lot holds promise?
Two guys – Ranveer Singh and Varun Dhawan… right on the top. Others are promising no doubt but in terms of balancing the creativity with the commerce, these two guys really hit the nail on its head. Look at BAJIRAO MASTANI – great cinema and look at the numbers it touched. BADLAPUR is a great film and thankfully it has made money for the industry as did HUMPTY SHARMA KI DULHANIYA. It is all great to do experimental, arty cinema but not before you have established a massive fan following which will come to your rescue when your experiment fares adversely. It is they who will come and watch you irrespective of what you do. It has taken Aamir, Shah Rukh, Salman, Ajay, Akshay 15-20 years to establish that space for themselves. It is a long while before Ranveer, Ranbir, Varun, Sidharth should even be venturing in that zone. Right now, if they really want longevity in their career, they should work on entertaining people; they should work towards cultivating a fan following, wherein people will trust them to be entertaining. Ranbir Kapoor is a phenomenal actor, he is charming, and has everything working for him – but his choice of movies. I have met him, he is an intelligent guy, he understands what the business is about but he wants to experiment… He needs to do more work to showcase his stardom, showing off his potential. Of course, he has an insurance policy working for him right now – his Raju Hirani film. It is bound to be the biggest blockbuster whenever it releases.
So what would you advice filmmakers for 2017?
…To be responsible towards the value-chain. One has to stop overpaying people. Excessive promotions are not needed either. There is no reason for a Shah Rukh, Salman Khan to go for a ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’. That show is about creating awareness; they don’t need it. All this reality show hopping is not at all required. Just make a film with the right budget and you will never fail.