Noor Fathima Warsia
The Indian media and entertainment industry, in particular the film entertainment sector, is evolving and there is no denying the development. But growth today faces a two-way problem -- restrains in growth and the problems that growth brings along. Noted producer-director Shekhar Kapur, given his experience in India and evolved markets like the US, cautioned on these problems while Producer-Director Farhan Akhtar presented the India standpoint on the issue.
The big change today, according to Kapur, is that Asia is no longer a hub for ideas but a huge market. He cited that for many international releases today, where 80 percent of revenues were coming in from US box office, today it is only a third. “Two-thirds are coming from outside US markets and in future, this would reduce to just 10 percent,” said Kapur. “European economy today is middle-aged and it is India and China that bring in the young audience. This balance of 90 per cent will come from the young markets and people understand that,” he said.
Kapur pointed out that India is important for quite a few big names of the global M&E sector. However, conglomerates coming to India come with their drawback. “I don’t think ‘conglomerate-isation’ is really good thing to happen. They have rules and regulations that really just lead to standardisation. They are like these huge dragons that have to be fed and when you make anything for them, it really is a product, not art.”
Akhtar brought in the downside of working in a co-production arrangement. He elaborated, “When we were working with UTV for ‘Lakshya’, it really was more of tying down experience. For movies, you really have to be flexible sometimes and not everything can go as per an agreement. UTV didn’t have that flexibility and somewhere that affects the movie. After that, we really decided not to get into any co-production deals.”
Speaking on producers, Akhtar pointed out that the likes of Kapur have been luckier than most where they have had access to international players for financing, which is not what many Indian writers can afford. “There is a dearth of producers here. Somewhere you are working on creating something that would be successful and in the process, even as a great original content is waiting to happen in India, it is not happening.”
The gentlemen also discussed whether or not there was a need to look out of the country for any Indian filmmaker. Admitting that one reason why India did not leverage its global presence, as seen in the Raj Kapoor era, was because the domestic market was large enough and needed too much attention. Both producers opined that there really was no need to actively sought international markets. Akhtar said, “It really has to work in India first before it will work in any other market anyways. And you cannot make anything Indian for a non-Indian audience – so there is a drawback in that but really, there is no need to look out.”
“You have to also understand that the Asian culture is far too individualistic in comparison to western culture, which is more about organisations -- there is a misfit there. Conglomerates can expand business but then you have to ensure that they do at least that, otherwise what do they bring to the table? It is not very comforting to see 25 per cent of your pay check go to people you don’t even know and that happens in western markets,” said Kapur.
Technology and its emotional front – entertainment:
One aspect that Kapur emphasised on, and Akhtar has been seen doing with his movies like ‘Don’, was the comprehension of technology’s role and what it can do for a movie. Kapur stated, “Technology and entertainment are really the same thing today – entertainment is the emotional front for technology. Taking the discussion to another level, he said, “Today it is obsolete to not include the changes in the digital space – something like YouTube can really wake you up. What did Lilly Allen do – she put her song on MySpace, it became the number one there and then Sony BMG came to her, she didn’t go to them!”
The move very clearly hinted aspects of co-creation, consumer creation and multiple revenue streams. “There is not just a shift in consumption but in the pattern of media consumption. From being back office boys or doing ‘second hand’ work, Mumbai and Singapore are really the next hubs. We have the market here, a large talent base here and a lot going for us – it has to happen that way,” said Kapur.
Another point that Kapur made was that “Hollywood is on the decline”. He said, “The industry is going down -- partly because other markets like Asia are really picking up and partly because with all this conglomerat-isation, there is no flexibility. It is only a matter of time before a small movie, made well, takes over. New media is democratic and there are revenues there.”
Citing another example here he said, “If Steven Spielberg had to make Jurassic Park 6 today, and he said that tonight for 15 minutes you can download something from the movie for 10 USD, I bet you anything that he would have earned 3 billion USD in 15 minutes and despite that he still would have the theatrical release and other revenues waiting to happen!”
“The spread of technology is so far and wide today that a maker is going to soon beg that ‘please protect my copyright for a day’. After that, he knows, everyone would’ve have access to it,” added Kapur.
The whole idea is to use this technological growth for the movie. And Akhtar did that for ‘Don’ with the release of the music on iTunes and releasing a Don game as well. Both experts deliberated on the point further. Said Kapur, “What really works is the ‘modular’ in which you can enjoy the movie or the music. Look at what Manmohan Shetty did. There were many little things in his movies that were entertainment pieces in itself. So you create modular content and then if you want you can weave it together. Then we called his movie ‘Variety Show’ and now we realise that it was much ahead of its time.”
Akhtar also is of the opinion that a film-maker can adapt to technology. “It is not long before movies and content is made in a big way for mobile or the Internet -- these just are things in the offing.”
“The move is already to nano-technology,” stated Kapur, “digital technology is soon a thing of the past.”
Surely movie makers have a lot going for themselves and there is so much more in the folds that they can still toy with. As for movie making itself, as Kapur puts it ‘Film banaate nahin hai, ban jaati hai…’