#BigStory: Corona effect on Bollywood

#BigStory: Corona effect on Bollywood

Thanks to Coronavirus, the world is changing and Bollywood is just a small part of that change. But this small part runs thousands of homes and feeds the fantasies of millions. Amitabh Bachchan had said in 2017, “There’s so much happening here, there are so many opportunities for people that live in smaller towns. It’s been said that if you come to this city (Mumbai, where Bollywood is based), you won’t spend a night without a meal or you won’t be hungry. There’s always something to do, some job to do where you can survive.”
But is this true, today? Not in entirety. COVID-19 has brought about several changes in how films are being made, and like every coin, even this one has two sides.

In our #BigStory this week, we are presenting a 360 degree, in-depth report of what’s happening on the sets and inside the boardrooms of Bollywood biggies, which will reveal what’s going to change in the film industry and what will remain constant, determining the good and bad fallouts.

Work culture is changing for the better
A source close to a film, which is soon going to start its final schedule, revealed to ETimes, “Actors, producers and directors used to entertain guests on sets but now that will end. The long lunch breaks and tea breaks will soon be over. Plus, earlier there used to be far too many people on the set, some of them part of an actor’s entourage. But now, only the serious-minded in the film fraternity will sustain. Those who are here for time-pass will have to pack up.”

Slower pace, increased cost
However, producer Kumar Mangat, who is backing Ajay Devgn-Sanjay Dutt’s forthcoming film ‘Bhuj’, tells ETimes, “I don’t think abhi tak kuch bhi achcha hua hai. If 150-200 people were required on the set, now 100-110 are being employed. There is a lot of focus on sanitisation and COVID-19 tests and rightly so, but all this has slowed down the filmmaking process. This, in turn, is increasing the cost.”

Financiers don’t want to invest heavily

Naturally, ‘Tread Cautiously’ is every money lender’s mantra now. Leading financier Narendra Hirawat, who has lost a lot of money in films like ‘Tubelight’, ‘Begum Jaan’ and ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’, says, “Look, financiers are telling the producers that actors should reduce their fees. But most actors are not yet agreeing to do the same, baatein chal rahi hai. Besides, some actors are not even ready to shoot as COVID-19 is not yet over and you surely can’t force them to report on the sets. It’s a tough time.” He further adds, “I will continue to back big films but I would like to reduce my risk factor. If I was investing Rs 10 back in the day, I would ideally put Rs 7 now. Else I will burn my hands.” Hirawat lamented also about the fact that a lot of financiers are in doldrums as their money is stuck in films which stopped in March and haven’t resumed yet. “In such a scenario, the lender’s inventory is only rising because the interest he would’ve received if he’d lent the same in some other business would’ve yielded some returns, though of course there’s no guarantee about that as well.”

However, film producer Rahul Mittra, whose next ‘Torbaaz’ starring Sanjay Dutt-Nargis Fakhri-Rahul Dev is releasing on OTT, defends the actors who continue to charge big money. “It is the actors who bring the crowd in, so we can only request them to reduce their fees when we have to reduce the cost of a film.” Will he bargain with actors for his next film after ‘Torbaaz’? “I won’t say bargain, let me say I’ll engage with them,” he adds, but not before revealing that he had locked the deal of ‘Torbaaz’ on OTT before March and engaged with Dutt to explain him that the subject of their film was more suitable for OTT and they would acquire a global reach. “Dutt understood, he is a friend and I am glad that I have his ear,” Mittra shares.

Actors will have to take pay cuts
Instead of pay cuts, it seems like actors are changing their demands. A source says, “An actor who leads a very stylish life has been demanding 20 per cent more than his normal fee if he’s signing up for OTT because he feels the producer is safely tucking a lump sum in his pocket before release and should hence make the actor’s pocket heavier too.”

Trade analyst Komal Nahta says that the actors will have to take pay cuts, else the situation will remain grim, “Actors who feature in films which were almost complete before COVID-19 fall in this bracket. If they don’t comply in cutting their remuneration, their films will be hard to release. Even the technicians will have to decrease their fees. Bigger the actor, bigger the slash. Filmmakers too, will now shoot in places which grant them subsidies.”

New talent mushrooming in Bollywood
Tanuj Garg, producer of Taapsee Pannu‘s forthcoming starrer ‘Looop Lapeta’ which is a remake of the cult classic ‘Run Lola Run’, points out that a lot of shuffling and reshuffling on how to function post COVID-19 has led to the mushrooming of new talent, which is coming from the OTT sector. “Actors whom filmmakers never thought could be signed in films are being showered with offers! Today, the buffet of exemplary OTT actors who’ve found recognition for their work has given film producers the opportunity to utilise them in very defining roles,” stresses Garg.

Some multiplexes might shut down
Like Dutt, many other Bollywood actors may be welcoming OTT platforms because they fear that certain multiplex chains might go bankrupt. Trade analyst Amod Mehra says that many plexes are presently bleeding and the consequence might lead to their closure. “There’s a fear that they might close shop,” he discloses. Gosh!

ETimes also has it that many multiplexes have not received any rent since the past seven months (ever since COVID-19 struck) from their lease contractors. The people who are running it have thrown their hands up in the air and requested the multiplex owners that those rents be either brought down substantially or warded off.

Jayantilal Gada, who’s the presenter of the upcoming Sanjay Leela Bhansali film ‘Gangubai’ starring Alia Bhatt, hints that he would also like a slash in actors’ fees but at the same time he has openly accepted the new-age conditions. “Actors and even directors’ fees seldom decrease in B-town. Frankly, I didn’t even try it. I have enough experience, and let’s not forget that we have to work with them again tomorrow. Moreover, on a humanitarian level, we need to understand that they too have faced problems in their lives since March 2020.”

Big films like ‘Krrish’ have decided to ‘wait and watch’
‘Krrish 4’ was quite close to getting underway before the unprecedented times descended. Now, its wheels have somewhat slowed down. When we asked Rakesh Roshan, the creator and owner of the ‘Krrish’ franchise, if he is waiting for COVID to go away and then take the final call on the budget per se, the filmmaker quips, “Yes”. And, is he waiting also to decide whether he will make it or not? Roshan Sr said, “Be positive. Things will be better.”

Senior writer Robin Bhatt, who has been a regular in Rakesh Roshan’s films, says, “Let’s see how it pans out as films start to release. It is difficult to fathom right now about the public’s mood post COVID-19, which will decide what they want to see and what they reject.”

On the other hand, Yash Raj Films had planned to make a big announcement for Yash Chopra’s birthday on October 27, with a slew of films that they are going to come up with in the next 2/ 3 years. But the announcement was held back as they wanted to grandly reveal the details in theatres, which didn’t open on October 15 in Mumbai, unarguably the hub of Bollywood.

Films will be shot in a compromised state
Filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and others, whose celluloid presentations, wherein grandeur is an essential ingredient, will have to wait. This implies that Bhansali — the buzz about his extravaganza ‘Baiju Bawra’ with Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone notwithstanding — will have to wait. “We are strictly following the SOPs owing to which we cannot have crowds in any scene,’ says TP Aggarwal, President of IMPPA (Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association).”For such affairs, the maker in question will have to use the digital method to create people artificially. Say if you need to show some 100 people in the background behind the hero or heroine in today’s times, you can only digitally create a large fleet of people in the frame. Too many people on the set is an absolute no-no.” But will filmmakers like Bhansali who want everything real and spic-n-span bite the bait?

Add this to the fact that since the SOPs are being strictly followed, it won’t be humanly possible to shoot wedding scenes and war sequences with full gusto and kissing and lovemaking scenes (which have become common in Bollywood with the passage of time) may not be shot very intimately. Agarwal however says, “Bollywood might not do away with intimate scenes if the OTT shows (where they have become a norm) continue to have them in abundance. There is too much competition between these two mediums since the past few months.” But if the SOPs are being followed rigidly on a large scale, how is that practically possible?

Promotional campaigns might not be extravagant
Agarwal and trade analyst Komal Nahata opine that filmmakers may spend lesser than earlier in publicity and advertising, for some time at least. Even those out-station tours which the actors trooped out for, before their film’s release, may be shelved. Komal Nahata says, “P & A mein farak toh padhega and interviews will be mostly on webinars, but once it restarts it will do so with renewed vigour.”

Tanuj Garg opines, “We all will have to think differently in the new normal. There will be rationalisation and smart thinking across the life cycle of the project — from its pre-production right down to its marketing. That might just be a blessing in disguise and we may get rid of some excesses baggage that we had all been carrying with us.”

Storytelling will change
The changing face of Bollywood also calls for really new and sharp content, courtesy the viewing habits of people during lockdown. According to Rahul Mittra, who produced the 3 parts of ‘Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster’, “A lot of people used to say that they don’t watch OTT, but things have changed post March. They are seeing a lot of web shows and English movies, so we will have to tweak the content. The storytelling will have to change if we want to thrive. I won’t say that the star system has been decimated but it has been definitely shaken up. Earlier, a big star sort of guaranteed a return of a certain amount over the weekend but that might not happen now. Kuch bhi dikha diya toh nahi chalega, sirf star ko le liya toh nahi chalega. The audience will have more power now and people will sharply distinguish between a good film and bad film. Movie is a celebration of mind and movie-making is a con artist’s job, we take the audience into a space where they are entertained by what we want to show them. That’s alright, but now they are going to compare your product with the best in the world, which they’ve closely seen and we need to respect that. Add this to the fact that social media activities have multiplied by leaps and bounds, of late. Your time to fool the people was for three days then, but now that time could be just three hours before various adjectives describing your product start flooding the Internet, in case it has not been appreciated.”

Big films will never become extinct
There is light at the end of the tunnel, and in Hindi the idiom for hope reads, umeed par duniya kayam hai. In an exclusive interview in the recent past, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ director Kabir Khan had told us that big films will always continue to be made. Gada shares a similar sentiment, “Big films will continue to be made. In fact films will now get bigger with time- but you will definitely need very good content in them to pull people from their homes and make them come to the theatres, in not a big, but regular way.”

Filmmakers will have 2 windows- cinemas and OTT
Komal Nahata argues, “While some might be celebrating that OTT is bringing the films to their dining halls, it’s all a stop-gap arrangement. Do you think Rohit Shetty would ever release his film on OTT? The other day, someone told me that people have got habituated to seeing movies on OTT now and I rubbished this thought saying that a habit formed since seven months cannot kill a habit of 60 years.” Mittra however feels that both, cinemas and OTT, will not just co-exist but will co-thrive. He says, “A filmmaker makes films for cinemas. However, on occasions, if the film is slightly edgy, he will opt for OTT. Tomorrow if an OTT platform approaches me, I am game. I have learned this from my film ‘Bullet Raja’ which did not live up to the expectations at the box-office but even today, it works very well on TV and digital.”

Chunky Panday, when contacted, tells ETimes, “At least I haven’t been asked to slash my acting fee.” Boman Irani adds, “It’s all so fluid out there.” Maybe Chunky and Boman are indeed not aware in absolute detail of what’s happening behind the scenes.
Would you like to make a career in Bollywood, today? As an actor/ producer/ director/ cinematographer/ dialogue writer/ line producer/ lyrics writer/ musician? It’s a huge challenge. Confused? Toss a coin!

The pros of the impact of COVID-19 on Bollywood have far exceeded the cons. This coin is undoubtedly heavier on one side. A big Bollywood bash on the cards to celebrate when normalcy returns? You bet!
Source From : Times Of India

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