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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Don’t want to take advantage of Rhea Chakraborty’s situation for Chehre’s benefit: producer Anand Pandit

Producer-distributor Anand Pandit spoke about the postponement of Chehre due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, Rhea Chakraborty being part of its cast and how Abhishek Bachchan reacted when The Big Bull went for a digital release.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: April 21, 2021 9:06:25 am
rhea chakraborty chehre anand panditAnand Pandit's recent projects include films like The Big Bull, Chehre and the upcoming Thank God. (Photos: PR Handouts and Rhea Chakraborty/Instagram)

As films again get postponed amid a surge in Covid-19 numbers and new set of restrictions by the government, makers of Hindi films are working hard to keep their head above water. While OTT is one solution, they are also working their hardest to bring films back in theatres once situation improves. Bollywood producer-distributor Anand Pandit accepts, “It’s a very challenging time to release a movie in theatres, not only business wise, but also in terms of marketing.” Pandit should know, his upcoming project Chehre got delayed a few days before release.

Chehre, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Emraan Hashmi, Annu Kapoor, Krystle D’Souza, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Rhea Chakraborty and others, was set to release on April 9. But the makers announced its postponement on March 30.

During an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Anand Pandit opened up about why Chehre needs to be seen on the big screen and Rhea Chakraborty being a part of its cast. He also got candid about his other recent outing, The Big Bull having a digital premiere, apart from the new business model post the coronavirus pandemic.

Excerpts:

Was postponing Chehre’s release, a tough decision?

Chehre is a larger-than-life kind of a product, which we want to release in theatres. That’s our 100 per cent endeavour. But on the other side, we know the situation is going from bad to worse. So, we are keeping a watch. It’s a good film. As a producer, I’m ready to take that risk (of waiting for its theatrical release).

But then, the team will now have to re-build the buzz around the movie as and when it releases.

Fortunately Chehre is in the genre of thriller and suspense which doesn’t really get dated. We’ll plan a new promotional campaign because we have the advantage of people knowing about it. They’ve loved the trailer and the look of Emraan Hashmi and Amitabh Bachchan.

Rhea Chakraborty’s name missing from Chehre’s poster raised a lot of eyebrows. How do you see such stepping stones while designing a film’s promotional strategy?

I don’t see any reason for not mentioning her name. She is among the eight artistes in the film. We signed her much earlier and she completed her part satisfactorily. So, we are looking at her as one of the actors who’s done a good job. Also, I don’t want to take undue advantage of her situation for the commercial benefit of my film. That’s why we decided that for the second poster, we won’t mention her name. She’s gone through enough turmoil in her life, and we didn’t want to add more ripples. We got her into the picture, only when she was comfortable.

Would you agree that releasing a film has become a bigger challenge post 2020?

Definitely. In the last one year, the very strong emergence of OTT brought some solace. But honestly, nobody thought about this kind of arrangement. Decisions about which films going on which medium were being taken on a daily basis. There was no scope of planning.

Does that mean releasing The Big Bull digitally was also a difficult decision?

Yes, because we wanted to give people the experience of theatres. We make films for mainstream cinema. But there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Hence, we decided to experiment with an OTT release. Also this kind of film can be watched alone in your homes. Films like Radhe or Sooryavanshi, or even my own Total Dhamaal are preferably watched with friends and family. The Big Bull suited both theatre and web. Even though a theatrical release is always our first preference, but we were literally compelled by the situation.

Would you agree that there’s no say of the directors and actors in such decisions, but only producers’?

I’m not a dictator. I like to take the opinion of all the stakeholders of my projects – crew members, actors, directors, departmental heads and others, on what should be done with a film. Then I take the final call. Everybody should be comfortable with the plan.

How did Abhishek Bachchan react when you told him The Big Bull will release on Disney Plus Hotstar?

When we started the dialogue, he was hesitant about the OTT release as he thought situation will improve in a month or two, so we should wait. But when we saw no end to it, he agreed as our money was at stake. He was very cooperative. He’s a producer’s actor.

How prepared were you for comparisons of The Big Bull with Scam 1992?

Even my previous film Bazaar (2018) had the same subject. But, since we didn’t have many films on this plot then, nothing was said. Also, when we can have 20 films on the share market in Hollywood, why not in Bollywood? I would say Scam 1992 was like a trailer for my film. It informed people about everything that happened. The young generation did not know about this story, and that series prepared them to watch my film. So we got the advantage.

The beginning of 2021 brought in some respite with productions and releases getting back on track. But with the second wave of the coronavirus, it’s the same scenario again. What’s going to be the cost of curfew for the industry?

(Earlier) We were in a rush of shooting and releasing. But now, we understand the value of business. We have to take care of the daily wage workers, sanitisation of our crew members. We learned a lot of things in this new phase. A little more expenditure or loss is part of the business. This one year of mandatory pause gave an insight about life.

Going forward, what’s going to be the impact on the industry and what will change?

Any business is a roller-coaster. For 2-3 months, it’s a wait and watch situation. We aren’t declaring or finalising anything, but in the next two months when we stabilise, we’ll return with bigger projects. Though I don’t think any major change will happen. The south film industry, for instance, has been running continuously. I’m sure in 4-5 months, even Bollywood will bounce back.

And how do you see this new dawn of digital medium? At least there’s no race for box office numbers there.

It’s a new business. More edgy stories are coming up, more not-so-popular people are getting work. Small films are getting a space there. So, I’m very happy with the emergence of OTT. It’s a win-win situation for the industry.

As a producer, will you now decide which project should go for a theatrical release and which one to the web? What’s going to be the criteria?

Since we are on the threshold, we’ll have to do a pre-judgement of a project. That bifurcation will happen soon. Criteria will depend on budget, storytelling, directors, actors, acceptance of OTT players whether they want that kind of film or not. Just like earlier we decided whether it is for satellite viewing or theatre, single screen or a multiplex, socio-economic Class A or C, it’ll be the same between theatres and OTT channels too.

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