Sunday, October 31, 2010

Information makes critics of us all.

By Anant Mathur (October 31, 2010)

I think today we live in a world with everything at our fingertips - literally. I remember when we did research on an assignment for school, we actually had to go to a library and find books on the subject – not only that, then when had to write the much dreaded bibliography. A small 4-5 page assignment would take days, even weeks, to complete. But nowadays, there are no such headaches, with the development and popularization of the internet we have Google bhai and Wikipedia bahen to help with such assignments. We can access information with the click of a mouse or with the touch of our fingertips.

Doing research is not only easy, it saves time. No more going to the library and looking for books and discovering that the book is available at a library 1 hour away from where you are. Today, we can access everything on a simple device like the iPhone while watching our favourite TV program. Surfing the net has become more popular than anyone could have ever imagined. And instead of taking weeks to do a 4-5 page assignment, it now takes hours.

So, what do we do with the extra days we have earned for ourselves? We learn, we acquire more knowledge, watch more films, surf and learn. We have to spend all this extra time somehow. I believe that all this so called learning is making mankind more critical, everyone has an opinion today and you can read about it on their blogs, twitter or facebook. We’re critical about everything from why the boss was unhappy to why the bride wore a hideous dress at the wedding you went to last night.

Even the media today has exploded into gigantic haze of journalism. Even movies today are criticized to no end. Because information is so readily available, people today are able to watch more foreign films and programs, something which was not possible 20 years ago. So, critics who loved films are now comparing our desi films to foreign ones, because, well, they can. Filmmakers who used to be in touch with family values and culture are now looking towards the west for their next big idea, because they’re now more influenced by the west than their local counterparts.

Everything has its good and bad points. Having information at our fingertips is a great thing, but we must remember not to get carried away and loose our identity because we believe everything we read. We must continue to explore and ask questions and not seek answers via Google bhai and Wikipedia bahen, but find them out for ourselves.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tip # 12: Dialogues

By Anant Mathur (October 23, 2010)

When you hear good dialogues in a film, it makes it all the more enjoyable. A recent example of this is Dabangg, the dialogues are written and delivered so well, that it takes the film to another level. From the past, we are all familiar with the incredible dialogues of Sholay, which even today are echoed by every man, woman and child that’s seen the film.

Dialogues are an essential part of any great film. Thus, it is extremely important to keep dialogue fresh and entertaining and not bore the audience.


                        Have you ever fallen in love?


        TRY THIS:

                        Ever fallen in love?

                        No. I've slipped many times, but never 
                        fallen in love.

When the characters are face-to-face or in the same room you don’t need the “Have you”, we know he’s talking to the other character. And instead of replying "No", give the character a reason along with it to make it more interesting. Simple things like this polish the dialogue and make it more entertaining.

In a badly written script, it is very difficult to see emotions playing out. In a well written script, the emotions are described in detail. Unlike stories, in screenplays you can’t write he said, or she explained, you just have the words:

                        I’m sorry about your loss, Raj.

Mandira’s emotions can be clarified with dialogue instructions, if required. For example:

        Mandira can empathize with Raj; she also lost a mother not too long ago.

                                (hugs him, warmly) 
                        I’m sorry about your loss, Raj.

It is a common belief among screenwriters that dialogues shouldn’t be too long. A standard line of dialogue is 3 inches long. Three lines is the most a character should say at one go. When a character speaks he/she should be brief and not go on for five minutes – long speeches will bore the audience. If the dialogue is longer, it is better to break it down with interruptions or other characters speaking/asking questions.  It must be focused and polished. The following example illustrates this very point:


                        Where were you? I’ve been worried sick.
                        Why didn’t you call? I’ve searched
                        everywhere. When I called the school, they
                        said you left hours ago. I checked with
                        hospitals, I was about to call the police. I
                        don’t understand why you did this. Aren’t
                        you happy with me? Is there someone else
                        you’d rather spend your time with?

                        I was walking around. You know how I am,
                        Sometimes I need to clear my head. You’re
                        right I should’ve called, I’m sorry. You know
                        there could never be anyone else. I love you.

Raj replies to all of Mandira’s question, but it’s hard to believe Mandira would understand what he’s saying. Trying to say too many things at once complicates things. Have the characters say one thing at a time or responding to one query.

        HOW ABOUT THIS: 

                        Where were you? 

                        You know how I am, sometime I need to
                        clear my head.

                        Why didn’t you call? I’ve been worried sick.
                        The school told me you left hours ago, I was
                        about to call the police. 

                        I’m sorry. I should’ve called. 

                        Aren’t you happy with me? Is there someone  

        Raj walks over to her and kisses her forehead.

                                (holding her tenderly)
                        You know there could never be anyone else.
                        I love you, darling.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Profit Sharing or Marketing Strategy!

By Anant Mathur (October 22, 2010)

On several occasions, I have been asked how the collections of a film are shared among the exhibitor, distributor and producer. Some things to remember before we begin:

               Gross Collection:
The total amount generated at the ticket counter

               (ticket price x number of tickets sold).
               Nett Collection: The amount left after the deduction of the 
               entertainment tax. This is the amount that will be available to exhibitors.
               On an average, entertainment tax across India is assumed to be 40%.
               Nett collection is not the profit of a film.
               Share: The amount an exhibitor forwards to the distributor after 
               deducting their cut (as rent) from the nett.

Although there are various scenarios for who gets what percentage of the nett collections - on average, most exhibitors-distributors-producers follow this breakdown for each film:

Exhibitors' Cut = 45% of nett (single screen and multiplex combined average)
Distributor's Share = 55 % of nett (divided equally with producer after distributor's expenses are deducted).

Producer's Share = 50 % of distributor's profit from nett collections.
So, let’s assume a film with a budget of 25 crores costs the distributor 30 crores (with prints and publicity) and does a business of 100 crores nett. The exhibitors' cut is 45 crores, the distributor subtracts 30 crores from his 55 crores and splits the remaining 25 crores 50:50 with the producer (12.5 crores to the distributor and 12.5 crores to producer). The producer sold the film to the distributor for 30 crores and also earned a share of 12.5 crores from nett collections for a total income of 42.5 crores if we subtract the 25 crores cost of production (budget) we get the producer's profit which is = 17.5 crores.

That being said – It’s the distributor who assumes the risk of every film. Let's say a film has a budget of 50 crores. Upon completion of the film, the distributor buys the film for 55 crores from the producer and pays for the prints and promotion out of his own pocket. So if he spends 10 crores on prints and promotion, the distributors cost is 65 crores and he needs to earn 65 crores to break even. Following the above mentioned scenario, if this film goes on to collect 100 crores nett, it may be declared a hit, but the distributor loses 10 crores (earning 55 crores of nett collections - 65 crores cost). The exhibitors earns 45 crores nett and the producer earns 5 crores (55 crores from distributor + 0 from the nett collections - 50 crores budget). Because the distributor earned a loss producer doesn’t receive any profits from nett collections and yet makes 5 crores profit because he sold it for 5 crores more than the cost of the budget. Similarly, the exhibitor earns a huge income of 45 crores, while the distributor is the only one who earned a loss.

In most cases when a film flops, it's the distributor who looses, the producer and exhibitors are rarely affected. Also, most of the time it's the producers who sell satellite rights, so any money made from satellite rights goes to the producer and the distributor doesn't get a penny from it. 

So, again in the above scenario if the satellite rights of the film are sold for 25 crores, the producer earns 30 crores (55 crores from distributor + 25 crores Satellite - 50 crores budget), while the distributor loses 10 crores.
In some cases, the distributor owns the satellite rights of the film, in that scenario, our distributor would’ve earned 15 crores profit (earning 55 crores from theatrical release + 25 crores from satellite rights - 65 crores cost).

Now let’s put our formula to work on some recent hits and see what happens.

Dabangg – at a cost of 40 crores – has, thus far, collected 140 crores nett. Arbaaz Khan (producer) kept some of the distribution territories of the film, so the distribution cost was approximately 30 crores for the territories the distributor held.

Out of the 140 crores nett:
Exhibitors’ cut = 63 crores (
Distributor’s share = 77 crores (
55%) – 30 crores cost = 47 crores/2 = 23.5 crores profit
Producer’s share = 50% of 47 crores = 23.5 crores + 30 crores (sale to distributor) + 20 crores (revenue from self-distribution) + 10 crores (satellite rights) - 40 crores (budget) = 43.5 crores profit

Another recent hit, 3 idiots was sold for 35 crores. It collected 202 crores nett.
Exhibitors' cut = 91 crores
Distributor's share = 111 crores - 40 crores cost = 71 crores/2 = 35.5 crores profit
Producer's share = 35.5 crores + 35 crores (sale to distributor) + 35 crores (satellite rights) – 30 crores (budget) = 75.5 crores profit
The latest blockbuster Enthiran, was sold for 160 crores. Enthiran is being made out to be one of the biggest hits ever. But the numbers tell a different story. The first weeks collections of Enthiran were 105 crores nett (probably because the average ticket price was Rs. 500, while the average ticket price of Dabangg and 3 idiots were Rs. 100). The total nett collections for Enthiran for week 1 and 2 were approximately 125 crores nett. At most the life time business of Enthiran will be 150 crores nett.

This means:
Exhibitors' cut = 67.5 crores
Distributor's Share = 82.5 Crores - 170 crores cost = -87.5 crores loss
Producer's share = 0 crores (from nett collections) + 160 crores (from distributor) – 150 crores (budget) = 10 crores profit

So, when a distributor makes a loss of 87.5 crores, it’s hardly correct to declare the film a hit. 

In order for Enthiran to be declared a hit, it has to collect over 310 crores nett. It needs to collect 310 crores nett just for the distributor to break even. This is where Indian filmmakers/ distributors make their mistakes. 

If a film costs 170 crores it has to earn twice that amount in order for the distributor to make a profit and since no film has ever done that much business in India, it boggles the mind to think how filmmakers can make films at such high budgets. Indian films should not be made for more than 30-35 crores if they intend to make a substantial profit for their distributors and producers. At budgets over 100 crores the only one with any hope of making money is the exhibitor, everyone else loses out.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Enthiran is NOT the Biggest Hit!

By Anant Mathur (October 13, 2010)

Over the last week, I have heard many people suggesting that Enthiran - The Robot is breaking box office records all over India.

It may be true that the collections of the movie have reached close to 117 crores in the first week, but let’s make it clear that it is not the biggest hit.

During the first week, average ticket prices for Enthiran - The Robot were Rs. 500 and tickets sold for as high as Rs. 1500 in certain regions. The average ticket prices of 3 Idiots and Dabangg (which currently occupy the top two spots of highest grossing Indian films) were Rs. 100. In the Hindi circuit, Robot (dubbed in Hindi) has managed to collect only 7.59 crores in the first week. If the ticket prices of Enthiran - The Robot are five time greater than Dabangg and 3 Idiots we must divide 117 crores by 5 to get the actual figure - which comes out to approximately 23.5 crores. So going by the number of tickets sold - Enthiran - The Robot has collected less than 30% of what 3 Idiots and Dabanng collected in the first week.

Another thing to remember is that Enthiran - The Robot opened on 2200 screens. A big film is usually released on approximately 1200 screens in India. Dabangg was released on 1400 screens in India and 3 Idiots on approximately 1200 (almost half of Enthiran - The Robot).

Knowing full well that the first weeks collections are crucial for any film; the makers decided to charge a higher price for the tickets of Enthiran - The Robot. Citing high cost of production (state-of-the-art special effects) they were able to get away with the higher ticket prices. But when we take into account that the film has only managed 20 percent of the tickets sales of Dabangg and 3 Idiots, it's easy to see why Enthiran - The Robot can not be given the title of the Biggest Hit of Indian Cinema.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Baghban Rehashed?

By Anant Mathur (October 12, 2010)

Approximately 7 years ago, prior to the release of Baghban (2003), I remember an interview with Ravi Chopra the director of the film. In the interview he said, his father, B.R. Chopra "got the film's concept in his mind thirty years previously, when he paid a visit to Copenhagen, Denmark. He came across a retirement home, where he met a woman who sorrowfully told him how her own children left her there and hadn't even paid a visit to her since."

Thirty years earlier would suggest his visit to Copenhagen was in 1973. Well, in 1976, Ravi Tandon made a film titled "Zindagi" with Sanjeev Kumar and Mala Sinha. Now, Zindagi has the exact same storyline as Baghban - does that mean Ravi Tandon went to Copenhagen three years later and spoke to the same woman?

According to Ravi Chopra, it took the Chopra's 30 years to make Baghban due to other commitments. In countless interviews they made it sound like Baghban was B.R. Chopra's dream project, something that was very unique, original and had never been showcased on Indian movie screens. The truth of the matter is, by the time Baghban did make it to the screens, this storyline had been offered to the audience a countless number of times. In fact, both Baghban and Zindagi are a rip-off of the american classic Make Way for Tomorrow which released in 1937, decades before either of these films were conceived.

Baghban, is a good film. But instead of suggesting it was something original, the makers should've said it's a good story and not make it seem like it's the most original work ever produced. Then at least the audience won't be disappointed when they realize it's another remake.

I suppose if Indian filmmakers were as good at conceiving storylines as they're at marketing them perhaps we would get some interesting stories to see on screen. But, until that day comes, I guess we're stuck with rehashes and remakes of old stories.

In case you're wondering why I'm writing about this now (7 years after the release of Baghban), it's because I recently saw Zindagi and it reminded me of Baghban.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Autograph Phenomenon!

By Anant Mathur (October 09, 2010)

When I was a child my brother went on a school trip to a hill station in Northern India. While they were at the hill station, he got to meet Dharmendra who was shooting for a film there. I was a huge fan of Dharmendra at the time.

When my brother returned he told us how he met Dharmendra and got his autograph on a 10 Rupee note. I was extremely excited until he revealed that he accidently spent the 10 rupee note the next day. Understandably, my excitement turned to disappointment.

It was a different era an autograph was worth something (not monetary but on the emotional level). If it happened today, I don't think I would care. At that time, movie stars were stars in the true sense of the word and not self promoting machines like they are these days. Now you can find your favorite star at a function, catch them on TV, chat with them online or even converse with them on Twitter. They’re everywhere!

Movie stars used to be as distant from fans as the stars in the sky are from our homes. On the off chance you were able to find your favorite star somewhere; you would get their autographs and perhaps talk to them for a couple of minutes. And if you were really lucky you might even get to shake their hands and not wash yours for many days after that. Then you would inform your friends about it and be the envy of everyone.

It was a time when fans would line up for hours to get an autograph and one couldn't wait to read their latest interview in the latest issue of FilmFare magazine. Sadly, that era is coming to an end. With the advent of the internet and social networking sites, the star power doesn't hold the same meaning. In the past, a film could run on a stars name alone and not just for a couple of weeks. Today, no matter how big the star is they have to promote a film through every possible outlet - be it Twitter, Facebook, TV shows or the hundreds of other media schemes.

Nowadays, even if the minutest star wears a hideous pink dress, it’s the talk of the town. Everyone knows about it!

Today’s fans have changed too, no longer are fans just interested in an autograph. With technologies like digital cameras and cell phones, fans now want a Photograph with their stars instead. They still tell their friends but now they're able to post a picture on Facebook to gloat even more. As they say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and I guess that’s much more than the few words in an autograph.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.