Sachiin J Joshi, Actor-Producer
I guess we lack conviction and, on a more practical note, the piracy market affects us big time. In contrast, in the South, the audience is totally committed and honest and doesn’t support piracy. Coming back to having conviction… we do have filmmakers who exhibit courage like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who make big-budget movies, but the others are not confident enough as they think it doesn’t make business sense. So there are many reasons the South is able to make movies like Baahubali. Also, maybe we should join forces with Robot 2.0 leading the way, as this film is an amalgamation of South and North, with Akshay Kumar and Rajinikanth featuring in the film. Let’s see how that goes.
South Indian film producers and directors who helm big-budget films always target the pan-India market, so their films are crafted in a way that draws in crowds from different parts of the country. We cannot deny that Bollywood hasn’t succeeded in fully exploiting one of the largest movie markets in the world – India. Until Baahubali happened, people hadn’t woken up to the sheer size of the domestic market. Even the large production houses in Bollywood were blissfully unaware of these possibilities.
While Bollywood films enjoy a wide appeal, all that is about to change, with even big-budget Hindi films now eyeing the entire Indian market, not just the Hindi-speaking belts, as is the case now. I anticipate a steady flow of mega-projects that will enthral audiences across the country, à la Baahubali.
Unlike Bollywood, the film industries down South have always strived hard to grow the market, never shying away from experimenting. As a matter of fact, India’s first ever 3D film was born in the South, with a clear intent to cater to the Indian masses, as a whole. Titled My Dear Kuttichathan, this South Indian film took shape almost 35 years ago and achieved the unprecedented feat of appealing to the entire nation, thereby becoming a runaway box-office success.
Amole Gupte, Filmmaker
We have our own style of working. If it is a sustainable thing, that’s good enough. It’s not that we lack the resources to make films like Baahubali. Most of the work on that movie was done by VFX studios in Mumbai, so we have no dearth of talent. Things will change in time ek raah banata hai us se kafila banta hai. All we need is a start, someone to take that leap. We have the stories, we have the talent and soon we will grow with time.
Abhishek Pathak, Producer
The South audience is very loyal to their films in the regional market and they make sure they go to cinemas, whereas the Bollywood audience is very unpredictable. In the regional markets, the moment a good film releases, even if it features newcomers, it notches up great numbers. Take Sairat, from Marathi cinema, for example. Then Rangi Taranga became the top-grossing Kannada film of 2015. Kumari 21F is a Telugu film that became an overnight success.
But, in Bollywood, we have to spend so much money on marketing to make people aware of the films that are releasing. We are clearly a star-struck industry. The Bollywood audience needs action, songs, romance, sex… everything. The moment you give them good content, the film’s opening slows and, yes, these films pick up very well due to word of mouth but they don’t get the numbers like films do in other markets.
Our successful films, on average, earn an ROI of 20-30 per cent and I am not talking about project selling. Looking at new trends, I am hoping that big actors will support films with great content and take a risk on subjects that push the envelope. Then maybe we can talk about big numbers. Imagine Dangal without Aamir Khan, but let’s not get carried away with budgets. Budgets only define scale, not success.
Zeenat Lakhani, Writer
I don’t think that’s true. We have all kinds of cinema and I like that diversity. If everybody starts becoming like everybody else, where’s the fun? I like the fact that there is a certain kind of cinema in the South and Hindi cinema has its own identity, scope and range of films. I think filmmakers are in a great space.
Bollywood is very scared of taking risks. After we did Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, we had few concepts in mind but we could not work on them as people said those subjects needed a big production budget and no one was willing to take that kind of risk. This limits our vision as writers. Also, sometimes, producers tell us that they need more realistic ideas, which is the new flavour of our Hindi films. Sanjay Leela Bansali is the only one open to taking big risks.
Manoj Muntashir, Writer
Scaling up budgets to astronomical heights will not guarantee mammoth success. I don’t buy the argument that the humongous box-office figures that Baahubali attained were only because it was made on a certain scale. Cinema has always been a content-driven medium; money always comes second.
I believe Bollywood has not yet found the correct subject to invest that kind of money in. The Hindi box office is no smaller than the Telugu or Tamil box office. The day we get the right subject, one that justifies a monumental investment, money will flow in and I am sure recovery won’t be an issue.
The best lesson we should learn from Baahubali is that we should start making films that appeal to a larger audience, breaking language barriers. At the end of the day, we are all Indians. We have similar value systems. Why can’t we tell stories that combine Hindi and the regional box office? Baahubali has shown that it’s possible. Let’s break our compartmentalised approach and take our cinema to a wider audience.
Tinku Singh, Group President & Chief Strategy officer (CSO), SRS
Indian cinema had its origins in the fertile lands of Bollywood, with celebrated movies like Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah symbolising the opulence and glamour that this land is known for. But, in recent times, it seems as if movies from the South have been trumping us in terms of budgets and grandeur. Yet, fear not, as Bollywood has stumbled upon the golden concept of ‘simple is beautiful’. Here, small-budget movies, with great acting and stories, are creating ripples across India and foreign lands. In fact, big houses such as Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions are warming up to the idea of small-budget, power-packed movies. Hence, Bollywood doesn’t seem threatened and, in fact, accepts Southern films with open arms.