The film industry is today finally professional. The management system is replacing what was once the vocation of temperamental men and women, report Meena Iyer and Ketan Tanna
In simpler times, in the eighties and the nineties, when some actors used to sign up for more than 40 films a year, producer Prakash Mehra, in white shirt, white pants and white shoes, would reach his workplace in Juhu at 4 pm. And though he sometimes ran two hours late, people would be waiting for him. There would also be a regular melee of financiers and distributors and proposal-makers queuing up.
Today, Mehraâ€™s office and preview theatre Sumeet have given way to a restaurant called Bohemia. And the man himself has been reduced to being, well, just a man. His innumerable attempts to return to his old silver magic have failed. â€œMehra may never make a film again,â€ says an industry person. â€œNot only is his spirit broken, he can also never hope to pay stars the kind of money that theyâ€™re used to now.â€
Down the melancholy lanes of a generation past, the gloomy whispers are about how â€œthe corporates have comeâ€. Many among the biggest producers of a very recent era, are now sitting at home twiddling their thumbs, left behind by the changing times. The tusi-great-ho and the balleballe Punjabi culture of Bollywood producers is making way for the pinstriped executives of companies like Adlabs and the Birlas, and leading banks like IDBI. They are all moving in to replace independent producers, and traditional vehicles of dirty money. Corporate funds are beginning to call the shots in Hindi cinema. And the film community is being lured into this new order by the lustre of unprecedented earning potential.
Last week, Hrithik Roshan signed three films for over Rs 30 crores as a package deal with Adlabs. Akshay Kumar has a Rs 16-crore contract with the company for four films. Director Vipul Shah has reportedly signed a Rs 210 crore deal with Adlabs to make eight films and television software. But with such money comes accountability. Shah admits that if he overspends on any of the eight projects that he has lined up, he may be required to balance it in the next project. In short, Adlabs will definitely make Shah account for the money theyâ€™re entrusting him with.
Suddenly the screenplay has become a sacred tool. Till recently, films went into production without complete scripts. Films like Satya were written on the sets. But such luxuries are over. A film today is planned and budgeted according to the final screenplay. Actors are seldom given the power to change the script according to their megalomaniacal desires. Companies now also have inhouse script teams that look at the scripts and give views. â€œAnd sometimes we even suggest changes,â€ says a script doctor from Sahara One.
Also, the new economics of the industry is such that the collection between Friday, the time of release, and the Sunday, accounts for nearly 56% of the total revenues a film generates. And 40% of a filmâ€™s revenue comes from the 55 urban multiplexes in the country. This has made aggressive marketing in big cities targeting the 15-35 age group, the single most important element that decides the fate of a film. Accordingly, promotional expenditure has increased by nearly 70%. The publicity of Don, it is believed, cost nearly Rs 8 crore. The maths of the corporate structure today has made it clear that the life of a film in theatres is short. Never again will a film run for months on end. Every bit of revenue is extracted in that short period through television, music sales, and merchandise. Film production is now closely associated with the gaming and the mobile phone industry too unleashing various entertainment activities that bring in additional revenues.
Sunil Manchanda, who has produced seven films so far, including the super hit Salman Khan-starrer Tere Naam, says that change in film financing was inevitable. â€œIt was not unexpected. If you look at the United States and their studio culture, we seem to be heading that way except that here we will have corporate bodies and not studios.â€ He says, till recently the antecedents of some of the film investors were not known. It was leading to unlawful money entering the film industry. Now, all that has changed.
Film financing, till the beginning of the millennium worked on two models â€” big filmmakers whose projects would attract a lot of notice, like J Om Prakash, Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai, would invariably presell major territories at the onset of a project. They would use this money to make their films. The projects would generally consist of big stars, so distributors would be lining up to buy the rights of the film. The distributor would generally pay 40% of the money on day one and 60% when the movie was completed. The second option was to go to money lenders in the market who would give funds to filmmakers at a high interest rate (in the range of 25 to 34% per annum). This system put pressure on the filmmakers to finish the project in time. If star dates went awry, it played havoc with the economics of the project. And many a producer has been reduced to penury.
In the last six years, the new economy of the motion picture business has undergone a sea change. With the consumer markets opening up and the national economy getting healthier, the entertainment sector found investors looking positively towards it. An encouraging response from the financial sector prompted motion picture firms like Adlabs and Mukta Arts to go for public issues. Other firms like PNC and UTV followed suit. Today, major film companies are listed ones with deep pockets. Adlabs Films Limited is a Rs 3,000 crore company, a size that no film company would have thought possible few years ago.
Stars used to be remunerated in a surreptitious way. The era between the â€™60s and â€™90s saw stars opting for a substantial portion of their fee in cash. Today corporates insist on cheque payments only because they have to show their investors the balance sheet at the AGM. Also with listed companies, the balance sheet is a public document, and a consequence is that accounting ambiguities are not easily tolerated. TNN