2020 was an unprecedented year. The coronavirus pandemic wiped out theatrical releases, halting productions and forcing studios to pin their potential blockbusters in the long list of delayed films. With the collapse of the ticket window, the entertainment industry was thrown into disarray with studios finding new ways to connect with cine-lovers.
Now that cinema halls are reopening after almost a year, big-budget films are finding screen space despite the challenges and uncertainty about the future. Sharing insights about film releases amid the 'new normal', film producer Anand Pandit in an exclusive interview with India TV talks about rise of OTT, star power in current times and shares interesting details about working with the Bachchans -- Amitabh and Abhishek -- in upcoming releases Chehre and The Big Bull.
Excerpts from the interview:
The pandemic has changed the functioning of the film industry. Being a close observer, what changes do you see in this 'new normal'.
This was an unprecedented crisis so we did not have a reference point to deal with it. Yet we faced the curveballs as they came and thankfully their frequency is decreasing. We are beginning to hope for the old normal but along the way, we learnt how to go back to work with safety precautions in place. We addressed the issues faced by daily wage workers collectively and individually, though a lot more can be done still. We also understood how important it is for the industry, the exhibitors and the OTT platforms to work with each other rather than against each other to reach the audience. The losses have been many but the gains have been substantial too in terms of what we learnt about our resilience and also how important it is to prepare for contingencies and take care of our own in a crisis. In the new normal, what has changed is that we no longer take anything for granted and are focused on regaining lost ground rather than competing with each other at the box office for the next 100 crore hit.
You have big productions lined up for release do these uncertain times make you conscious about the financial returns of the films?
The most recent is ‘Chehre' but there are a lot of films including ‘Radhe,’ ’83,’ ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ etc are making their way back to theatres and the industry is hoping that this will be the beginning of the old normal and the audiences will return to theatres in big numbers. We cannot forever remain stuck in the fear that we will never regain the excitement of the first day first show. We are moving forward because that is the only way to go.
There's an evolution of cinematic storytelling from single-screen halls to multiplexes to OTT platforms. How each one has a place in the entertainment eco-system?
There is no single defining storyline today and a good film runs and is liked by the audience regardless of whether it is shown on OTT, a single screen hall or a multiplex. We have always had mainstream blockbusters, middle of the road cinema and truly avant garde films and now we are seeing a mix of it all on streaming platforms and in theatres as well.
In your opinion what draws the audience to a film, the star name attached to it or the story?
Indian films have made inroads in countries like Russia, China, Japan, Turkey, Australia and US, of course, has always been a big market for us and that is not just because the audiences over there love our stars. They love our cinema, our storytelling, our music, our dance sequences, all the colour and passion they see. Indian cinema is a force of nature and connects with viewers all over the world. Its uniqueness is its USP.
With OTT gaining popularity, some suggest that it can diminish the 'star culture' in Bollywood.
Stars and big screen entertainers will always exist but yes, multiple avenues are now available to those who just want to tell stories without the trappings of a mega-budget film that comes with its own constraints. There is a place for every kind of cinema and that is good and healthy for both art and for commerce.
Both are thorough professionals, have an impeccable work ethic, are team players and disciplined beyond belief. The only difference is that Amit ji naturally and effortlessly draws attention on and off screen while Abhishek is very understated in his approach towards his craft. He can be larger-than-life but likes to be low key. He is also extremely funny and playful but only a few people know that side.