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Mumbai Film Festival 2017 – Change or face decline, leading Indian filmmakers argue…

Mumbai Film Festival 2017 – Change or face decline, leading Indian filmmakers argue…


Three filmmakers who have all made successful movies and bucked the system somewhat are in agreement that the industry is changing…

BOLLYWOOD has to ‘up its game’, show more courage and invest in new talent, if it is to meet the challenges of filmmaking in future years, agreed a panel of highly successful Indian movie producers.

Three of them appeared in a special talk at the Mumbai Film Festival, known more formally as Jio Mami with Star 2017*, yesterday.

In a highly entertaining and informative session chaired by Mumbai Film Festival director and film critic, Anupama Chopra, the full house at PVR cinema in Infininti Mall in Andheri West, heard from Vikramaditya Motwane (‘Queen’, ‘Udta Punjab’, ‘Mukkabaaz’/‘The Brawler’), Nikkhil Advani (‘Airlift’, ‘Lucknow Central’ and Prernaa Arora.

The trio also shared their insights working both within the Bollywood studio system and outside it.

Mami talk: Vikramaditya Motwane, Nikkhil Advani, Prernaa Arora and Anupama Chopra

Arora is co-founder of KriArj Entertainment, which was one of the backers of the recent Bollywood star Akshay Kumar hit, ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’.

Her company has more than a handful of productions greenlit and being made over the next year.

Arora very much represents a new breed of producer in India and while her company works in partnership with established stars such as Anushka Sharma (who sometimes produce films as well act in them), she shared some of the same concerns as Motwane and Advani, who are both more independent producers.

Motwane and Advani are also both directors too, and have worked with Bollywood star auteurs (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar, respectively) in the early part of their careers, before branching out and making their own independent movies that turned into hits.

All three agreed that stars had too much power now and the demands some were making was not helping the industry develop.

Moderator Chopra referred to them as “demigods”, while Advani said the industry revolved too much around six key actor figures.

He said too much emphasis was placed on the success of their previous films.

“The numbers are always based on their last hit film, it should be based on the film itself,” he opined.

Advani humoured those stars who came with a complete entourage who were also on the film payroll.

“A personal trainer, a stylist, a yoga instructor?” he bemoaned jokingly.

Arora said that her company did say no to actors if she felt their demands were not in keeping with her company’s ethos.

“We are cautious,” she declared, saying her company was very careful in its investments and had a developed disciplined business strucutre.

“We like to make money for everybody, the producer, the writer, the distributors, the music company, everyone involved,” she explained.

In response to a question from the audience about new music talent coming through – all agreed it was hard but Advani said he was keen to push new voices and continues to battle to do so – against the music companies which have money to throw in marketing and publicity for a film where their talent is deployed.

Both Motwane and Advani felt Bollywood especially was in danger of being left behind both by Hollywood and regional Indian cinema.

“You have to see ‘Baahubali’ and ‘Jungle Book’ on the big screen,” Motwane argued.

Baahubhali’ is one of the most successful of all Indians films of all time. It is a South Indian film, made in the Telugu language, in Hyderabad and had only star names from that region in it.

Despite all this, when the first edition released in 2015 it did well all over India and abroad, and the multi-million budget was re-invested in special effects for the second instalment.

The 2017 ‘Bahubhali:The Conclusion’ (which had a special British Film Institute screening) smashed records both at home and abroad; while ‘Jungle Book’ had a Hindi language version for India, which proved hugely popular.

Chopra pointed out that while cinema receipts had gone up, the number of people actually going to the cinema had gone down.

The spectre of streaming services and filmmakers being able to make long form content also surfaced during the audience Q&A.

Earlier this year, Netflix announced that it is investing in celebrated novelist Vikram Chandra’s ‘Sacred Games’. Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan is set to star in the first Hindi language series of its kind for the global streaming content powerhouse.

Motwane said its success would determine whether foreign players such as Netflix would change the landscape of Indian filmmaking in the future.

“It might just be a passing phase,” he warned, if the series was not a success.

In conclusion, the three agreed that change was necessary if Bollywood was to arrest a certain decline.

Actors were demanding too much, producers and distributors were not making enough money and talent and strong content had to be put at the centre of the filmmaking process.

Advani said: “You have to have magic.”

Motwane added that a great buzz had attended the film, ‘Lipstick under my burkha’ and it was that kind of excitement that made people want to go to the cinema.

Shown in the UK at the London Asian Film Festival in March, it was banned in India initially around the same time, before enjoying an autumn release in India.

Both ‘Lipstick under my burkha’ and ‘Newton’ – India’s entry to the Oscars, (which screened in the UK at the London Indian Film Festival in June) have outperformed bigger, more commercial Bollywood productions.

The panel agreed that these examples showed there is much life beyond the Bollywood star system and new and established producers should pay more attention to it.

*Both Jio (a mobile phone network) and Star (a media company) are both sponsors of the festival, which is organised by Mami, Mumbai Academy of Moving Image.

*The seven-day Mumbai Film Festival continues until tomorrow (October 16)

* More from us on the festival this week…

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture