Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Asin the best ever?

By Anant Mathur (August 31, 2011)

It wasn't too long ago that Ghajini became the first Hindi Film to cross 100 Crores in nett collections. No one was surprised that it took an Aamir Khan (arguably the best actor in Hindi cinema) starer to achieve this monumental task.

But few may be aware of the fact that only one actress has ever had her first 3 Hindi films collect over 270 crores in nett collections - her name Asin Thottumkal. Asin is also the only Indian actress to have two films that have collected more than 115 Crores nett each (Ghajini = 117.48 Crores and Ready = 130 Crores) - something that Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and Kajol haven't been able to accomplish has been made possible by this ethereal beauty.

So what's so special about this young talent?  
Well, you only need to watch Ready to realize the sheer potential of this actress. Not since Juhi Chawala has an actress done justice in a comic role like Asin has done in Ready - but that's not the limit of her talents. She can do romance, drama, tragedy and she dances as well as, if not better than, any other actress. As Salman Khan mentions in Ready she can be Khurrat, Kaminy and Honhar also. She looks just as stunning in Western outfits as she does in traditional Indian wear - not many can stake that claim in Bollywood.

Here's wishing this wonderful bundle of talent, much more success in the future.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Producers vs. Distributors vs. Exhibitors

By Anant Mathur (August 24, 2011)

I'm constantly being asked about the difference between a Producer, Distributor and Exhibitor, so I thought I would write about that in this post. In order to explain properly, I must first tell you the functions of the three bodies.

A Producer is, perhaps, the most important person involved in the making of a film. There are three stages when a film is being made: 1) Pre-Production, 2) Production and 3) Post-Production.
  • At the Pre-Production stage, the Producer finds a script or hires someone to write one based on a book, article or an idea he may have. When the script is ready; the budget is prepared and the Producer looks for Investors to invest in his film. Also, at this point, the Actors, Director and Production Manager are hired. When the money is secured from Investors - the Producer, Director and Production Manager hire the other staff for the production of the film.  
  • During the Production stage, the Director instructs the Actors and confers with the Cinematographer and other technicians in order to get the best possible shots. Once the entire script has been shot, the film moves to the Post-Production stage.
  • In Post-Production, the actors finish dubbing (if required) plus Special Effects, Background Music and Sound Effects are added to the film. Once Post-Production is complete the Producer sells the film to a Distributor for a profit (a sum greater than the cost of the budget).
The Producer usually earns a salary (included in the budget) and a percentage of the profits from the sale of the film which is divided between the Producer and his Investors. In some cases, If the Producer sells all the rights of his film to one Distributor, the Producer is entitled to a share of the Distributor's profit. 
A Distributor is the one who has everything to lose in releasing a film. In India, Distributors purchase a film from a Producer - based on Star Cast, Director, Producer, Lyricist and Music Director - and pay the Producer the amount of the budget + some profit. The bigger the Actor(s) the more the Producer will earn. For Example, if a Salman Khan film has a budget of 40 crores, the Distributor will easily purchase it for 45 crores giving the producer and his investors 5 crores in profit, the Distributor then has to pay for the cost of Prints and Publicity which would add another 5 crores to his cost of the film. In this scenario, if the Producer keeps the Satellite Rights he makes more money from that, but the Distributor doesn't get a share from it. So, if the Producer of a 40 crore film sells its Satellite Rights for 15 crores all that revenue goes into his pocket in addition to the 5 crores profit he received from the Distributor. Plus there are also Music Rights, if the Music Rights are sold for another 5 crores, the Producer has already made a profit of 25 crores before the film is released. The Distributor on the other hand is in the hole for 50 crores and can only recover it from a successful theatrical run where the film generates more than 110 Crores (more on that later).

An Exhibitor is the multiplex chain or single screen theaters where the film will be shown. The Distributor makes arrangements with Exhibitors to showcase a film in as many of their screens as possible and the Exhibitors earn a share of nett collections (the revenue after tax has been deducted from the gross collections) based on an agreement decided upon after the 2009 strike. According to the agreement, In the first week the Exhibitors and Distributors divide the nett collections 50/50. But things change after that because in the second week the Exhibitors share goes up to 57.5% and Distributors share drops to 42.5%. In the third week, the Exhibitors get 62.5% an Distributors earn a 37.5% share. In the fourth week and weeks beyond that, the Exhibitors earn 70% and Distributors share falls to 30% of nett collections. The reason for this arrangement is... since most people have seen the film in the first week the collections start to drop after that, but the Exhibitors still have to keep staff around in case the film runs for more than one week. The Exhibitors don't have anything invested in the film itself. The Exhibitors' cost are the cost of hiring staff for each show, cost of food, drinks, electricity, etc. 

You may have noticed on many TV shows the host only speaks to the Exhibitors to find out how a film is doing, they hardly ever speak to a Distributor. Well, the reason for that is simple, when a film is released the nett revenue it earns are divided 50/50 between the Exhibitor and Distributor in the first week and if a 50 crore film earns 45 crores in the first week the Exhibitors are laughing, because they've recovered more than their cost of hiring staff, etc and are making a profit. But the Distributor only earns half of that and still has to recover an additional 27.5 crores in order to break-even. Now if the film is liked by the audience and gets positive reviews, it may earn another 35 crores in the second week but the Distributor earns 14.875 crores because their share drops in the second week leaving another 12.625 crores to be recovered. In the third week if the films business is 20 crores, the Distributor earns 7.5 crores. By the fourth week and beyond the film will likely earn another 10 crores at most in it's life time which gives the Distributor another 3 crores. But, even after a successful run, the Distributor falls short of making a profit - earning only 47.875 crores of the 50 crores cost. So, even though the film made 110 crores nett at the box office, once the revenues are divided, the Distributor is in a loss. In this case it's the budget that killed the Distributor even though it made a huge profit for the Producer and Exhibitors. If the film cost the Distributor 40 crores he would have made a huge profit and the film would've been a hit instead of falling into the flop category.
There are some rare situations in which the Distributor owns the Music and Satellite Rights as well. In these cases they're able to recover their money even if the film is a box office disaster. Take the recent flop film Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara. Even though the film has had a decent box office run and made lots of money for it's Exhibitors and Producers, the Distributor (Eros Entertainment) won't recover their 55 crores cost from the theatrical run. Luckily they own the Satellite and Music Right (24 crores and 7 crores, respectively), which will get them to the break-even stage and perhaps earn them a couple of crores in profit. But without the Satellite and Music rights the Distributor of Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara would've faced a loss of atleast 25-30 crores.

Very few Hindi films ever earn more than 100 crores at the box office. At the time of this post only 3 Idiots, Ghajini, Dabangg and Ready have crossed 100 crores in nett collections. Since only two stars Salman Khan and Aamir Khan have crossed the 100 crores mark it's stupid for the Producer and Distributors to believe that any film with a big star name attached has the capacity for doing the same - these films were exceptions. In India, 10 films in a year won't cross 100 crores, so it's a dumb idea to have budgets over 50 crores for every Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Abhishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar film that comes out.

So far there's been 1 film each year for the last 4 years that has managed to cross 100 crores in nett collection. Until Filmmakers and Distributors understand the economics of the film industry, films will continue to flop and it's not necessarily the content that causes a film's failure, it's usually the budget, the market isn't large enough to support films with such high budget. Hrithik Roshan has been suffering the wrath of big budget flops for the last few years. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Kites, Guzaarish, Jodha Akbar all would've been huge hits had they been sold for a reasonable price. It doesn't seem fair that Producers and Exhibitors make huge lumps of money while the Distributors and the films suffer.

I hope this explanation gives you a better understanding of how the Producer-Distributor-Exhibitor structure works in the film industry.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ready For Some Comic Relief!

By Anant Mathur (August 17, 2011)

For the last several years you may have noticed that the Lead actors of a Hindi film have also been doing a lot of comedy and their rise in comedy has killed the need for comic relief characters. Not too long ago, comic relief characters were part of every film they brought about light moments in an otherwise dramatic narrative. Early on these characters were played by the likes of Johnny Walker, Mehmood, IS Johar, Utpal Dutt, Om Prakash, Prem Nath, Bhagwan, Kishore Kumar, Keshto Mukherjee, Asrani and Jagdeep. Later came Kader Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Satish Shah, Javed Jaffery, Jaspal Bhatti, Tikku Talsania, Ashok Saraf, Johnny Lever, Rajpal Yadav, etc.

It's good to see that it's actually a comedy film that has revived the comic relief characters. The film I'm speaking of is of course the recent Salman Khan hit Ready. The reason this film stands out is because there is not one not two but several comic relief characters including Manoj Joshi, Manoj Pahwa, Mahesh Manjrekar, Paresh Rawal, Mohit Baghel, Hemant Pandey, Sarat Saxena, Akhilendra Mishra, and Sudesh Lehri. These actors are the butt of many jokes and are the heart and soul of the film.

Many times filmmakers forget that it is just as important to have good characters in a film as it is to have a prominent lead actor. Certainly, Ready wouldn't have been as great as it is had these characters not been a part of the story, in fact, it would've been a different story altogether. Yes your hero can do it all - but the audience doesn't want him to. Good filmmakers keep in mind what the audience likes and not what they themselves like. It's not enough to just keep the audience interested you need to give them characters that they can relate to.

Think of the Blockbuster Sholay, can you imagine how dull the story would've been if Asrani, Jagdeep, Viju Khote and Keshto Mukherjee and Leela Mishra weren't in that film. I'm not suggesting that you stop giving funny lines/scenes to the lead actors, even Salman got to show his comedy in Ready, what I mean is sometimes when you add comic relief characters it gives the screenplay a new dimension. Having said that, comic relief characters shouldn't be added just for the sake of having comic relief characters, they should be added only if the scenes and screenplay work - if a screenplay is better with the comic relief characters so be it.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shammi Kapoor No More :(

By Anant Mathur (August 14, 2011)

Shammi Kapoor passed away on Sunday (August 14) morning in Mumbai. His health went down severely last week and he was admitted at Breach Candy hospital where he was on ventilator support. 

Kapoor was suffering from chronic renal failure. The veteran Bollywood actor and director, 79, was admitted to the Breach Candy hospital last Sunday, where he ultimately passed away. His condition was very critical on Saturday (August 13) night. Hordes of his well-wishers and fans had made a beeline for  Breach Candy hospital on Saturday.

He had been suffering from renal ailments for many years. He used to undergo regular dialysis sessions. In fact, in one of his last messages on Twitter, on November 13, Shammi has said, “Back from Dubai and 2 dialysis. Beautiful trip despite wheelchair. Missed wishing you all Happy Diwali and New Year. God bless. Love.”

Shammi Kapoor debuted in Bollywood in 1953 with the film Jeevan Jyoti and went on to deliver several hits. He was one of the biggest and most celebrated stars of the 1950s and 1960s known mainly for his romantic films like Junglee, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Deke Dekho, Professor, Kashmir Ki Kali, An Evening In Paris, Brahmachari, Tum Se Achcha Kaun Hai and many more.

Shammi Kapoor was known for his unique style and high energy. He was also undoubtedly one of the best dancers of his generation and brilliant comic timing which can be witnessed in most of his films.

The veteran actor recently shot with his grand-nephew, Ranbir Kapoor, for the latter’s upcoming film Rockstar.

With the death of Shammi Kapoor, Bollywood has lost a gem today and the ‘Yahoo’ star will be missed by millions.


© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tip # 24: Loose Ends

By Anant Mathur (August 10, 2011)

I've seen many films which had the possibility of being great only if the filmmaker remembered to tie up all the loose ends. Sometimes filmmakers add so many characters to a story that they don't care to write them out properly. Countless times I've seen some prominent characters just disappear from the story without any reason - they're included in the first half but disappear in the second half or miss the entire climax.

It is important to write a script which shows growth not only with each character but with the storyline as well. One of my favourite shows was 24 for the simple reason that where it started and where it ended, each season, were miles apart. Unlike other shows, you can't watch the first and last episode of each season of 24 and figure out what happened in the other 22, it's impossible. That's exactly how you should be thinking when you're writing.

If nothing else I'm grateful to the film AISHA only because I can keep using it as an example. AISHA stars off at a wedding and ends at a wedding, in terms of story there's no growth - it ends where it began. Now if it started with a funeral and ended at a wedding it would say something or better still if it started at a wedding and ended at a funeral it would be a more interesting graph.

Language plays a key role script writing.
If your story takes place in a particular Village or City, it is important to know how the people of that area speak - New Yorkers speak English differently then people of Texas or South Carolina or Delhi or Mumbai. As much as I love the film Yamla Pagla Deewana there is one thing that bugs me every time I watch the film - the character Paramveer (Sunny Deol) is suppose to be from Vancouver, Canada - well, in order to be Canadian he speaks like a Canadian. However, having grown up and residing in Canada I can tell you that the things he says are in the wrong context. Like when he says "Now, can I have a minute of your time, Eh". It's known by all who are familiar with Canada that Canadians use the word "Eh" frequently while speaking. But the fact is, we don't just throw it out there, it's used as required by the conversation. No self respecting Canadian would ever say "Now, can I have a minute of your time, Eh". We usually say things like "I know, Eh" or "It's really far, Eh, so I usually go by car". Had the makers spoken to a Canadian for 15 minutes they'd have known exactly how we speak and been able to use it properly (or even faster they could have done a Google search - information regarding what context Canadians use "Eh" in is available online).

All successful writers/filmmakers have learned the art of tying up loose ends. Anyone can write a script, but very few can write a masterpiece. Like each note of a great symphony, every word you write must have a reason for being there. If you have a character who disappears half way through the story, a reason must be given, he/she can't just disappear and never be heard from again.

For many films I've wondered if the writer even wrote a second draft, the films were so badly written, it was inconceivable how it even got produced. The advantage of writing and re-writing several drafts is that not only do you know your script inside out but you also start to see loose ends or things that cannot happen because of the way you left a certain scene or character. I once wrote a scene in which a man had lost his watch, well a few scenes later I had him looking at his watch to check the time. Now, if he had lost his watch he can't be looking at it, unless I explain how he got it back or change the scene so he finds out the time another way. If I always went with the first draft I wouldn't have caught that or many other scenes since then.

It's not just characters but also points you're trying to make in a story that need tying up. For Example, in the film My Name Is Khan there are several points which never get cleared up:
  1. Sam is 13 years old when Rizwan and Mandira get married in 2001, six years later he's still 13 in 2007 - How's that possible? Did he take some potion to stay 13 forever?
  2. We're told Sam is killed on November 27, 2007 because children in school are picking on him for being Muslim even though he’s a Hindu. Just because his mom is married to a Muslim man doesn't make the kid Muslim. We're never told that they converted. Unlike India, in America, you don't have to change your religion in order to marry someone.
  3. No one would riot in 2007 for 9/11 which happened in 2001 especially not in San Francisco which is thousands of miles away from the events site.
  4. Why does Rizwan need to go meet the president of united states, he's not going to make Sam magically come alive and he certainly can't help Rizwan.
  5. The time line just doesn't work. The only explanation I can think of for the time shift is the Hurricane sequence when we find Rizwan in Wilhemina, Georgia. Georgia is not known for hurricanes and there were no hurricanes in the state in 2007 or 2008, so even those details are wrong! Had Karan Johar and Shibani Bathija done an ounce of research they’d have known that.
It's loose ends such as these which should never be part of a script, My Name is Khan has hundreds of such lapses. The film would've worked if the story stayed in 2001 instead of moving back and forth between 2001 and 2007. Because of the back and forth nature of the script and the stupidity of Karan Johar and Shibani Bathija, the film is full of loose ends which could've been easily explained. If Karan Johar and his team did an ounce of research about the American culture, they would've been able to make a decent film.

The 1982 film, Gandhi was made by British filmmakers how would the Indian public feel if they got all the details wrong, I don't think they would've forgiven them for that. Research is very important in the films made by the west, how one wishes Indian writers would pick up on that as well, it will only help them tie up loose ends. Instead of copying the films Indian writers should copy the western work ethic, perhaps then we would start seeing some good films more regularly.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Like U Mr. Kalakaar?

By Anant Mathur (August 03, 2011)

A couple of months ago a blink and miss film called Love U Mr. Kalakaar was released by Rajshri Productions - makers of hits like Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye, Nadiya Ke Paar, Chitchor, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Maine Pyaar Kiya, etc. To quote a line from Ferris Beuler: "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!". In this fast world of today, it's nice to see a simple love story once in a while.

I recently caught this romantic delight and although the story of Love U Mr. Kalakaar is not the most original it's presentation is quite noteworthy. I don't think we will ever see an original story in films ever again, the makers just aren't interested and perhaps after 100 years of films they are out of new stories. As a fan of films, I understand it's not the story but presentation that I'm expecting from films today. As long as it's entertaining, I'll enjoy regardless of how many times it's been told before. Dabangg and Ready are great examples of recent films which don't have original stories but are extremely entertaining. I wouldn't say Love U Mr. Kalakaar is as entertaining as Dabangg or Ready, but it does have several positives and is worth watching once.

Most critics gave the film an average of 2/5 stars, but there were some who gave it 0.5 or 1 star ratings. While Love U Mr. Kalakaar is not the greatest love story every attempted, it's certainly not the worst, so these 0.5 and 1 star rating don't make sense to me. Personally, I would've give it 2.5 stars out of 5. I understand the reasoning for why it got such low ratings but unless a film is truly unwatchable, it shouldn't be given 0.5 stars. Love U Mr. Kalakaar doesn't fall into that category, it's definitely watchable.

I haven't seen any films in the last 10 years which didn't have a predictable story and ending. I have given up thinking that filmmakers today can give us something which is original and unpredictable, but that doesn't mean we can't like old wine in a new bottle. It's like reading your favourite book, you know the story inside out, yet you love it enough to read it again. There have been many incarnations of Robin Hood, Hamlet, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, yet we still continue to watch them today. You know in a Sherlock Holmes story that a crime is going to be solved by the end. In James Bond, Bond will save the world from some catastrophe. Robin Hood will marry Maid Marianne and defeat the evil Sheriff and Prince John. I have yet to see an version of Hamlet where he lives at the end. So why should we expect originality from a poor boy meets rich girl story, it's obvious he'll get the girl at the end, if not, one or both of them will die - there are no other choices. The key for judging films shouldn't be what the story is, it should be how entertaining a film is. In the case of Love U Mr. Kalakaar, I strongly feel some critics have missed the boat.

I may not Love you "Love U Mr. Kalakaar" but liking you is possible.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.