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Gaining An Edge

We take greater and better risks, and the reward is an audience with higher standards

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It’s all about the art, the creativity. Over the past few years, the degree of edginess in films has changed dramatically. From what we used to make years ago to what gets released today, it’s a massive, positive change that viewers are readily accepting and encouraging.

The ‘multiplex audience’ has played a strong role in the changing face of content in Indian films. Audience tastes have evolved, Tier II and Tier III cities are adding multiplex chains, giving creators a sense of stability even in the risks they take.

The process of filmmaking has become a lot more professional too. There were times when small, independent production houses ruled the roost, in an unorganised, haphazardly funded market. Today, there’s a ‘Hollywood-style’ studio system; one that allows small and big mo vies to get released and distributed, making for more diverse offerings. The same studios are balancing the act o f big-budget opuses and small-scale films.

The role of the actress is no longer a supporting one; it’s move to the limelight, the lead. She has gone from being seen as someone who just ‘dances around trees’ to the one on whose shoulders the film rests. Women are being portrayed progressively and that’s something everyone’s responding well to too. Some examples of such films that have been critically acclaimed and commercially successful are Pink, Piku, Mom, Dear Zindagi, Mardaani, Mary Kom and NH10. A strong female lead is now as important as a male star front-lining a film.

Being one of the film industries to survive and thrive the longest, putting it all down as a roadmap can be tough. Producers were the key stakeholders, with all the power, when it all started. Eventually, the dominance moved to directors, audio and video companies, broadcasters and, now, digital platforms. In recent times, it has moved from the corporates leading it to the actors owning it.

As a process of creating art, filmmaking has changed too; and for the good. The process of bringing a story to life is a lot more planned and systematic. Today, if one makes a project on a budget of Rs 10 crore, one doesn’t need to have a contingency budget of more than 5 per cent (Rs 50 lakh, in this case). Budgets are frozen, planned and sustained a lot more effectively than they used to be. They used to say content is king, but in reality, content is the Godfather! Times have changed. Where it was once all about the faces, songs and cast, it’s now about realism, authenticity and creating relatable films for viewers. While Hindi Medium works, Raabta might not; Baadshaho may have not exceeded expectations but Shubh Mangalam Saavdhan did exceptionally well.

Star power isn’t all that films can live on; their shoulders have to be way stronger. Movies like Jab Harry Met Sejal (starring Shah Rukh Khan) and Tubelight (starring Salman Khan) haven’t done the kind of business that was expected, because irrespective of the celebrities associated with them, neither of the movies connected with audiences.

On the other hand, films like Dangal, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, Airlift, Baby, Jolly LLB 2 and Baahubali have worked because the films worked for people. The narrative matters and the content needs to be rich. Changing platforms have played a major role in the changing face of content as well, which has made the viewer more powerful than ever. A lot of folks blame these changing consumer patterns for their (or some of their) films not performing at the box office, but the reality is that people are not creating films that are good (enough) for people to spend their hard-earned money on in a theatre. Any and every film, while being created, needs to be treated like a journey and not a commodity.

– Changes that have happened but happened for the good

(Written by NR Pachisia, producer-distributor)

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