Risk Free Rigs

When he decided to make Shanghai,director Dibakar Banerjee was well-aware that the film’s budget will be higher than any of his previous films.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: April 20, 2012 1:41 am

When he decided to make Shanghai,director Dibakar Banerjee was well-aware that the film’s budget will be higher than any of his previous films. It made him conscious of the fact that there was a greater risk of losing money in the film. So he set out meticulously planning Shanghai to ensure an air-tight budget and recover the film’s cost before it releases.

“Today,we are in a position where we can sell the film’s satellite,distribution,music and digital content rights at a premium. We will be able to recover more than the film’s cost well before it releases,” he asserts.

Banerjee’s strategy is a trend that is now commonplace in the film industry. However,to be able to recover a film’s cost by sale of rights depends on various factors. Amrita Pandey,UTV Motion Pictures’ senior V-P,International Distribution and Syndication,feels that the number crunching depends hugely on the film’s budget. “A small film,under Rs 15 crore,will usually not be able to cast a star. In this case,their pre-release revenue depends only on distribution and music rights since many small films do not even see the light of the day. So,the satellite rights are almost always purchased later,” she explains. Thus a medium-budget film,priced between Rs 20-50 crore,usually stands a higher chance of recovering its cost.

While Pandey is unwilling to share the details of UTV’s upcoming release Rowdy Rathore,the trade is abuzz with the news that the Akshay Kumar-starrer,with a budget of under Rs 70 crore,has probably recovered all its investment. “The star cast plays an important role,” asserts trade analyst Vajir Singh. “The three Khans,Hrithik Roshan,Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor in a big-budget film can ensure that it finds a good distributor for both the domestic and international market. This can take care of close to 30-40 per cent of the film’s budget,” he adds. The alternative,he says,is a multi-starrer with several second-rung stars,such as Shootout At Wadala,with John Abraham,Anil Kapoor,Tusshar and Kangna Ranaut.

The big-budget films take on a greatest risk. “We pay a premium when dealing with production houses of repute,such as Dharma Productions,Red Chillies,Eros,Nadiadwala & Grandson and so on. The Bhatts’ Vishesh Films are also included in the lot since we can be sure that their films will have good music,” explains Bhushan Kumar,Chairman,T-Series.

More recently Agent Vinod,which was pitched in the market as a desi Bond-meets-Bourne spy thriller,tanked at the box office and also lost a chunk of its Rs 70 crore investment. The numbers provided by the trade reveal that the film’s domestic and international distribution rights helped it recover only 30 per cent,while the music fetched close to 15 per cent revenue. The sale of digital rights further added another 10 per cent. The dependence on the fickle audience to cover up the remaining numbers,which amounted close to Rs 30 crore,hit the makers hard.

However,a good strategy can cover such issues. Shah Rukh Khan recovered the Rs 150 crore that was invested in his dream project Ra.One. For close to Rs 65 crore,he sold the exclusive rights to telecast the film’s mega music launch and partnered on gaming and branding with several companies,apart from the usual satellite,music and distribution deals. “One has to look at these fresh possibilities more carefully,with growing demand for mobile and online content. Also,if a studio or a production house of repute,such as Dharma Productions,is involved,then multi-film deals can also be done,” says Pandey.

Banerjee seconds Pandey as he talks about how he planned Shanghai beforehand. “We got a crackling script in place to attract the stars. Then we ensured that the casting generates ample interest. In this case,the combination of Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol with diametrically opposite images,playing unexpected characters,worked wonderfully,” explains Banerjee,who has co-produced the movie with PVR. Quality production lent this political thriller the look of a big commercial film and music by popular duo Vishal-Shekhar also added to Shanghai’s value. “All these aspects,with a sound plan in place for the film’s promotion,have put us in a comfortable position today,” he adds.

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