Content can stop Indian film industry’s flops: experts


Mumbai : Flops, flops and more flops! The $2 billion Indian film industry is facing tough times with most movies falling flat at the box office. Experts say it is high time the industry focused on scripts rather than stars and frills.”We are the largest filmmaking industry in the world, releasing almost 1,000 films in a year. Yet, we are complaining that we are not doing the kind of business that we are expected to do. Every week is a disappointment,” said Anjum Rajabali, who has scripted films like “Ghulam”, “The Legend of Bhagat Singh” and “Raajneeti”.

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“Once in a month or two months, a film does well and connects with people. The rest fail. Some people say that stars make a film work…Stars by themselves in a bad film don’t work. With the help of promotions and advertisements they will make the audience come to the hall to see the film, but what makes audiences like what they see and guarantee a repeat audience is content,” he added.

He was speaking at the three-day FICCI-Frames, an annual conclave on the media and entertainment industry that kicked off here Wednesday.

According to a report released at the conclave, the Indian media and entertainment industry registered an 11 percent growth in 2010 to touch Rs.652 billion ($14 billion). But the year was a challenging one for the film industry.

Experts said only Bollywood suffered a net loss of about Rs.300 crore ($66 million) last year because most big-budget and big starrers tumbled at the box office.

Now the film fraternity feels it is important to put focus on content for the commercial viability of films.

Rajabali said the simplest definition of the film is that it is a storytelling medium and all other factors are secondary to the content.

“The film is a package that conveys the story experience to the audience in which they get involved and lost. All the other things – music, acting, production quality et al – are elements that draw them in the story experience, but eventually it’s the story which is being packaged,” said the scriptwriter.

Ramesh Sippy, director of blockbusters like “Sholay”, “Shakti” and “Shaan”, agrees that a star does not have the capability to turn a bad film into a hit with his or her presence. But at the same time, he argues they have the potential to change an average film into a hit.

“Stars have always been important. We are forgetting the era of Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. They were also huge stars and had a huge fan following. People were crazy to see their films. But they became stars because of good films. It’s always the film that makes the star, sometimes the other way round too,” Sippy said.

“Sometimes because of their charisma and star power, they get in the crowds and make an average film a hit. They do have that power. But if a film is bad, then no star can save it,” said the 64-year-old.

Sippy’s upcoming production venture is “Dum Maaro Dum”, which is directed by his son Rohan who has teamed up with Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu and Prateik Babbar to bring the crime thriller on story.

National award-winning director Shyam Benegal, known for making issue-based films, said: “Actually Indian films have no genres per se because Indian audiences need many emotions in the film. All kinds of chills and thrills, melodrama, comedy, tragedy, hope, love and family – all are needed. This is a very cultural thing about Indian cinema and other cinemas don’t have that.”

Rajabali said: “We have the longest tradition of storytelling in the world. Rich, valuable, incomparable heritage of narrations, where all kinds of stories, a whole spectrum of emotional situations, moral complications, dilemmas, love etc are involved. We are a population that has grown up on all that. That’s why we like that in our films.”

Rajabali concluded by saying in spite of knowing that content is the most important part of a filmmaking process, films are flopping. So filmmakers need to take cognizance of the matter and work on it.

“How much priority or importance as a business decision do we give to the main thing (story) that is actually making our product? We need to identify this. That is the most attractive aspect and we need to work on it. Maybe then we will have some breakthrough. We need to first identify with the story first and only then expect people to like it. That makes business sense,” he said.