Small wonders

The runaway critical and box-office success of Tere Bin Laden,Udaan and Peepli Live over the last couple of months has changed a few equations in Bollywood.

Written by PriyankaPereira | Published: August 20, 2010 1:31:55 am

The runaway critical and box-office success of Tere Bin Laden,Udaan and Peepli Live over the last couple of months has changed a few equations in Bollywood. From garnering profits to defying the star system,these films have come as a saving grace,especially after Bollywood witnessed a dismal first half,with big budget films like Raavan and Kites being rejected by the audience. Although it is reassuring to see big production houses encouraging independent directors and small-budget cinema,the timely releases of these films remains a matter of concern. From Planman Production’s I am 24 and Do Dooni Chaar to Pritish Nandy Communication’s Salunn,Fatso and Ek Tho Chance,Vipul Shah Production’s Kuchh Love Jaisa and UTV’s Peter Gaya Kaam Se,there are films awaiting release despite having been completed at least six months ago.

The reasons for the delays vary. “There is no point releasing a small budget experimental niche cinema alongside an Akshay Kumar or Hrithik Roshan movie. The film will not get any collection,” opines Ram Kamal Mukherjee,V-P,Pritish Nandy Communications,who feels that independent cinema speaks volume about the passion of a filmmaker,but then it has to be released at the ‘right time’ to garner maximum profits. “Although the wait is long,at times,it’s for the better. What is the point of releasing a film which no one would buy a ticket to watch? Finally,it boils down to DVD watch,” he explains,adding,“Also,we pick films which do not have time limit.” PNC is otherwise dedicated to supporting independent filmmakers and experimental cinema.

The obsession with Bollywood stars isn’t a new phenomenon in India,and that people opt to watch their favourite actor over a newcomer is but natural. But a film with a known face could also face consequences,feels Nagesh Kukunoor whose Aashayein saw a delay of two years because of a difference of opinion between producers Percept Pictures and distributors Reliance BIG Pictures. “They had differences over pricing and distribution. I couldn’t help the situation because I’m just the director who completed the film and gave it to them,” says Kukunoor.

The plight of independent films in India has always been a matter of concern,with little-known directors sometimes pooling in their own resources to release their films on time. Onir,who released his first,My Brother Nikhil,and Kukunoor,who produced his first two films—Hyderabad Blues and Rockford—are two such filmmakers.

Despite many examples of the success of independent projects,most producers believe that the release of a film also depends on how the multiplexes schedule the film and price the ticket. “The equation needs to change. For example,one would love to spend Rs 250 in watching Hrithik’s Kites,but I seriously doubt anyone would actually spend that amount on Peepli Live. I think the cost of the movie should be the judging factor for ticket prices. If multiplexes shows Peepli Live at Rs 80,the film is likely to run packed houses for weeks together,” feels Mukherjee.

Saurabh Shukla,the director of I Am 24,feels it is the marketing of small films that needs to be taken care of,which will then automatically put things in place. “Production houses are doing a brilliant thing by supporting non-star projects. But this is a time of confusion for the producers as well. One needs to find a strategy to market small films,” says Shukla who is positive that that small films will soon find their way. “Small films are a big gamble for producers as well as the audiences. Only if we market them well will people come forward to view them.”

Once marketing and distribution strategies for these films are sorted out,one definitely sees a brighter future for small budget films. Till then,filmmakers are ready to live with the situation. Rajat Kapoor,who has directed Fatso and plays the main lead in I Am 24,feels a good film does well any time of the year and is patiently waiting it out. Rajeev Khandelwal,who became the most sought-after face after Aamir,has been eagerly awaiting his second release Peter Gaya Kaam Se for almost a year now. But he seems undeterred because he realises that his choice of films are likely to face delays. “I choose scripts that appeal to me,followed by how passionate the director is about it. Peter’s delay hasn’t bothered me but disrupted my career plan. I am not insecure to start worrying. I believe absence makes the heart grow fonder,” he states.

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