From Celluloid to Digital
The first thing we notice in today’s times is that there is no celluloid. We used to have films that would be loaded as magazines into a Mitchell camera, and much later an Arriflex camera. They both had almost the same footage, of about 1,000 to 1,500 feet of film. Therefore, you had to finish the shot that you were taking within that. Otherwise, you had to cut and stop, and the entire big magazine would need to be taken out, reloaded with fresh celluloid and brought back again, by which time the lighting would have changed. It was a time-consuming process.
Actors, however, got used to working like that. And with a magazine of, say, 1,000 feet, you barely got a shot of one minute and 30 seconds. So, in a sense, it was quite convenient. Sometimes, artists felt, ‘I wish there was more film as they hoped to carry on with a similar mood. By and large, I think people were quite happy with it.
The fact remains that celluloid was not easy to import and it was also expensive. Hence, the director would quickly cut a shot if it was not working out or if it was taking too long. Often this would result in too many retakes. Then, jahan tak bola tha woh toh
theek hai par uske baad, we would start again.
Now films are being shot on a digital camera and there are no compulsions of time. In my latest release, Pink, for example, a large portion of the film is set in a courtroom. We used seven digital cameras and they ran at the same time, capturing 15 to 20 different artists. The artists have to be involved in a sequence in a scene that lasts for 15 to 20 minutes, and nobody stops. So I think their involvement in the scene is much greater, and you don’t have the limitation of time, as far as filming is concerned.
Promoting Films As Products
Indian films are now being marketed for the first three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Previously, there were very few advertising mediums. We just had newspapers and billboards. Now you need to do a lot more marketing. It has become almost corporatised, where specialists study your film and tell you how to market it. They design and execute the promotional campaigns, it is a lot like what they do to sell a product.
We also have to follow that system because the lifespan of a film in a cinema hall has become very short, and within that short span you need to get all your footfalls, eyeballs and money. To achieve that you need to market, you need to promote the film.
Shelf Life of Films Has Decreased
It’s been a few years since the shelf life of a film went from 25 and 50 weeks to just weekend numbers. Films used to run for weeks but now their shelf life is often limited to those initial three days. Therefore, the film must have the calibre to generate returns within those three days.
Enhancement of Film-Viewing Facilities
If you are going to pay a large sum of money to watch a film, you need to have a luxurious ambience. I grew up in a time when we would pay eight annas – 50 paise – to be able to watch a movie. Now you spend `500 or more to watch a film. You are trying to entice the audience to come and watch the film in an atmosphere which offers some kind of luxury.
I remember a time when it was amazing to go inside a cinema hall that was air-conditioned. I come from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Niranjan cinema was the only cinema in the city that was air-conditioned. Walking into an air-conditioned cinema hall for the first time was an adventure and an unbelievable event for us.
Now, you have reclining chairs and I have seen how the seat turns into a bed. You can watch a film with your partner – you have a pillow, you have a blanket — you can even eat your food there.
I don’t know when they get the time to watch the movie playing in front of them but these are the facilities available now. These changes benefit cinema owners, who want to make your viewing experience so comfortable that you go back again.
Single screens will always have their charm. Some of the really big, commercial and escapist films run in single screens. Sure, they have competition from the multiplexes now but I think they will continue to exist. A lot of people complain they had to shut their single screens, but that is a business decision. Some of the big stars like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan still fill up single screen cinemas.