Hindi filmmakers need to pull up their socks if they want to sustain competition
A producer of an upcoming film called me up this week to tell me about how he was in a dilemma to fix the release date of his film and was completely at a loss about the best time for releasing it. His first criterion like all other producers is not to pitch his film against the big and mighty star-studded extravaganzas, not because they draw a wide response but because exhibitors prefer them any day over the other films. Lately he has been increasingly anxious about the renewed market for dubbed Hollywood films. In fact after the tidal wave of The Jungle Book recently swept the audiences off their feet, he is also trying to ensure that the release date of his film does not clash with the release of any Hollywood biggie, this despite the fact that not every Hollywood film can match up to the expectations of the Indian audiences.
However his biggest concern of late is the tough challenge posed by the emerging Marathi market, with some recently released Marathi films receiving a thumping response at the box-office be it Katyal Kaljat Ghusli, Natsamrat or the just released, Sairat. I am told that Sairat, a simple and intense love story about two young people hopelessly in love based against the backdrop of rural Maharashtra, is on a record breaking spree at the box-office and has swept the audiences off their feet. More interestingly, even those viewers who are not familiar with the Marathi language, are connecting excellently to the visuals and the English sub-titles. The exhibition circuit seems to be completely taken up with the film especially in Maharashtra completely undermining the other Hindi films in the fray. From the way things stand at the moment, the market for tax-free Marathi films has grown considerably and these content-driven films are generating a huge interest among all kinds of audiences. The tax-free status definitely makes the admission rates more affordable for audiences but that is hardly the reason why these films with little known stars are finding their way into the hearts of the audiences. It is obviously their content that is scoring above everything else.
I totally empathise and understand the insecurity faced by this producer. While Marathi films may not have the same market all over India, it may not be long before they get their due following all over. Even if that is far-fetched, a good number of Marathi films are making a significant dent in the collections of Hindi films especially in the two major territories of Mumbai and C.P Berar, in places like Nagpur and Amravati. Instead of worrying about the stiff competition posed by various other films, I think we producers need to pull up our socks and do some brain-storming session about the content of our films. The marketing and release strategy can certainly follow once the content is unique.
The Benegal Committee has left a lot of questions unanswered
Producers who have often found themselves trapped in censorship woes are keenly looking at the recommendations of the Shyam Benegal committee and how far they would reduce the agonising time they have in clearing their films at the time of release. While it is a welcome suggestion that there would be increased categories of certification and the CBFC’s job would be restricted to certifying films, some major concerns still remain, especially those pertaining to the archaic 1952 Cinematograph Act. The most contentious issue is the one that gives the CBFC the authority to decide the fate of a film under Section 5B (1), which states, “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of (the sovereignty and integrity of India) the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.” Filmmakers who make socially relevant films or those will political undercurrents, besides those that are politically sensitive, fear that their films are unlikely to see the light of the day, if this clause prevails, since it will be entirely the prerogative of the CBFC to decide what is “politically correct”. These concerns definitely need to be addressed if we have to look at a trouble-free process of censorship, lest filmmakers will find themselves going around in endless circles once again, in order to get their films certified. Apart from that, we will have to wait and watch how the I & B Ministry interprets the suggestions of the committee and whether this long exercise eventually pays off and gets implemented in practice.
Blockbuster reaches yet another milestone
That reminds me that Blockbuster has completed another milestone in its long and eventful career with this being our 200th issue. We started the magazine with great dreams for the cause of the entertainment industry and we have never looked back ever since. Our mission continues week after week with a renewed
zest and determination
With so many limitations around and writers already complaining about a saturation of ideas, filmmakers will be left with little options other than making silly films, which have nothing to offer. Ideally such films go unnoticed but sometimes even such films meet with opposition, which is the case with the latest release.