Barely two films have done well this year, but as OTTs are bankrolling duds nobody seems to be worried. This, however, is the time for introspection and adoption of Hollywood model
Markand Adhikari | August 24, 2022
I recently met a music label owner of yesteryears who produces a movie once in five years. We were at a dinner and were discussing the recent trend of the OTT getting an upper hand in movie-making. He was not at all worried about it; rather he was happy with the development. He shamelessly told me: “Apna paisa toh OTT platform de deta hain. Theatre release toh sirf P&A nikal ne ke liya karte hain.” (My money is recovered from the OTT platform. The theatre release is meant only to recoup P&A – print and advertising – money.) I am still shocked to realise how lightly some people take their business.
Bollywood is in a tight corner, and a slew of OTT platforms are running the show. But the question is, how long will they bail out the Bollywood craps?
First let me show you where Bollywood is today, and then come to the OTT question.
In 2022, movies featuring almost all so-called big stars and produced by so-called big production houses have bombed, except ‘The Kashmir Files’ and ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’. The first did not have any “stars”, and the second had Kartik Aryan in the lead, who is comparatively a newcomer, not in the league of the lords like Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Tiger Shroff, who all have taken a beating at the box office this year.
The stars leave in world of delusion. They think of themselves as larger than life, as their vanity is promoted by an overdose of media publicity. Much of that publicity is also a hoax. The current paparazzi culture has spoiled the wannabe stars. Are people really interested in looking at their photos from fancy vacations abroad and even at the local airport? I have heard that some call up photographers themselves, go to the airport, have snaps shot and then coolly come back home.
Who exactly are they taking for a ride in this game? Add to that programmes like ‘Koffee with Karan’, which do not gel much with the larger audience with the pomposity of the stars talking about their lives on it. In a developing country like ours, where 80% people are living in hardship and cannot identify themselves with these Bollywood stars and paparazzi culture.
The pandemic has changed the whole world and people want to see the reality on the screen. They want to connect themselves via movies. In these days, there are no takers for the filthy escapades of the Yash Chopra and Karan Johar variety.
But that is exactly what Bollywood had been dishing out. No wonder it is repeatedly failing. The only saving grace has been from movies made in the South Indian languages and dubbed in Hindi. Some of them have done remarkably well all over India. But this only proves that there is something terribly wrong in the content of Hindi movies.
This should have provoked introspection. Leading lights of the industry should be putting their heads together to find a way out. But that is not happening, solely because the OTT platforms have thrown in the money to keep the sinking ship afloat. With money in hand, no one is worried and no one is taking in any initiative for course correction.
For OTTs, the downfall of Bollywood is only a good business opportunity. Bigger players among them have huge deep pockets, running into thousands of crores of rupees. They have business plans for next eight to ten years. So, they have started accommodating the Bollywood craps by shelling out huge money. That was new. Earlier, apart from theatre screening, satellite rights were sold to traditional TV channels to create an extra source of income that could also provide a buffer if a movie failed to recoup the expenses. But the OTT avenue is a completely virgin territory for filmmakers, giving them unprecedented prices which they do not deserve.
This trend should stop immediately and OTTs should consider buying movies only after seeing their box-office performance. That would streamline the errand film produces and they will stop living in an elusive world.
First of all, the economy is not what it used to be. The middle class audiences are not spending like before on movie-going experience. Earlier, their only alternative was TV, with limitations of an appointed time and commercial breaks. But now they have another alternative in OTT, on which they can watch their choice of movies, at their choice of time, and without breaks. To bring them back to the big screen, producers cannot afford to ignore the critical factor that is the economy.
The biggest item for a cost-cutting exercise has to be our star system. It is high time the “100 crore star club” was shut down. The inflated ego of the big stars needs to be punctured and their signing producers need to pull them back.
Instead of the tradition of offering fat figures just for the sake of supposedly big names, Bollywood should consider adopting the Hollywood structure. There, everyone – an actor or a technician – gets a basic amount on signing. This amount is obviously higher for superstars but it is still only a part of the deal. They get more as percentage of the revenues the film earns. The system is fair and rewards performance.
To recap, the current situation of Bollywood is not healthy at all. Producers should do a serious rethink instead of letting OTTs bankroll their sub-standard work. OTTs, on their part, should institute no-nonsense checks and balances and pay only after checking the theatrical performance rather than paying in advance on the basis of just the glory of stars’ past movies. Both sides together should bat for solidly good content, keeping the future of the entertainment industry in mind.
The alarm bell has already been rung with Netflix cancelling a deal for the rights of the Aamir Khan starrer ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, for which there are no takers now.
Markand Adhikari is Chairman and Managing Director of SABGROUP.
(This article was originally published on Exchange4Media.com)
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