The Indian ‘idiot box’ has certainly risen from the ‘step-cousin attitude’ it suffered for years, but is a long way off from the ‘screen’ battle that the global audience has witnessed.
The 75-mm celluloid will continue to garner the golden Bollywood releases here, although with entertainment channels like Zee and Sahara introducing slots for exclusive film premiers, the tube sees prospects of getting its “own share of stars and flicks”. The question that looms large is whether the Indian entertainment industry is mature enough to create ‘blockbuster television films’ or not?
“Any good initiative proves to be a good beginning,” explained Anuradha Prasad, MD, BAG Films. She said that Indian films made for television screens couldn’t be compared to HBO Blockbusters because “we are still taking the ‘first leap’.”
Prasad, however, pointed out that this move by the channels was significant because there was a big market for DVDs. “In the US, there are two avenues for films, the celluloid and television screen. Also, there is a big market for DVDs and a similar phenomenon is being replicated gradually in India. If executed well, the television films in India, too, can form a supply chain to the DVD market,” she remarked.
UTV Group CEO Ronnie Screwvala also doubts the viability of television films in India. “Movies made just for a TV window are not viable for India. Not yet anyway,” he said. “You cannot compare with HBO as it is a pure advertisement free, pay TV channel and, therefore, their product offering has to be different and premier in nature for subscription revenue to come in. They can give big budgets primarily due to their subscription revenue,” he pointed out. Screwvala added that if the pay model matured, then it was more viable.
In fact, most production houses see this only as an opportunity for the young talent to emerge. Nikhil Alva, CEO, Miditech, said that one could not even imagine India making films like the ones premiered on the television abroad simply due to the lack of revenue.
“Can you imagine a tele-series like Steven Spielberg’s ‘Band of Brothers’ being made in India?” asked Alva, adding, “The money that is spent for a Hollywood tele-film is the same as any theatrical release there. In India, mostly channels are the producers and the spending can never be as exaggerated as the amount that goes in for the big screen.”
Screwvala also pointed out that there was a dip in quality when the tele-series were low-budgeted.
On an average, most production houses are open to experimenting and see this as a new opportunity if implemented well. While BAG Films is coming out with two films for television, Miditech is also making one specifically targeting the TV viewers.
Asked if UTV was looking at this space, Screwvala said, “We are starting to script content that can premier for the small screen, but I don’t see this as a model for us where channels commission us. We prefer to create content and syndicate them to channels.”
Interestingly, the only hurdle is who gets the right content and can tell the story better? Alva said, “The storyline is very significant and narration makes all the difference on television screen.” Screwvala added, “From a creative point of view, you will attract quality only if the genre is such where locales and cast is not relevant like horror or a sexual thriller.”
The film kitty for the television space, however, is periodically getting filled with new projects. Sahara One Motion Pictures COO Sandeep Bhargava said that there were certain films in the kitty, which had a fairly decent star cast, which would be releasing on the tube.
Bhargava said, “This is an opportunity for the directors with good scripts who can’t spend heavily on marketing and promotions like big banners do.” Though Sahara Premier had been discontinued for a while, it would be coming out with its fresh bag of releases, assured Bhargava.
Meanwhile, Zee Network is starting Zee Premier by August-end. Elaborating on the rationale behind opening this slot, Ashish Kaul, VP-Corporate Brand Development Group, Zee, said, “Our emphasis would be on the storyline. The flaw in screening the film in smaller dimensions is that the technical prowess takes a backseat and it’s just the story line and narration that gets the viewer glued. The thumb rule of a serial, which is grasping content, goes for films too.”
While the channels and production houses are upbeat about this ‘new window’ of opportunity, what needs to be seen is ‘who clicks with the right flicks’.