It’s been ten years since we made Dil Chahta Hai (DCH). They called it slightly more evolved. But the audience was ready for it. If Farhan (Akhtar) could write a script like DCH, obviously there were people who could understand this journey. They could relate to the three boys, whether Akash, Samir or Sid.
It’s the same with ZNMD – three guys. But it’s a different journey. At that time, we did not have multiplexes. DCH was a movie that targeted the type of audience that was not used to going to cinemas. It was not cool enough to watch films in cinemas. I used to watch in Gaiety-Galaxy.
Only the other day, someone told me they were remaking Sattte Pe Satta... Sanju mentioned to me that he was doing the remake, and I remember as a kid I went all the way to Maratha Mandir to watch the film. We were always film buffs; it’s just that there was no such thing as a ‘weekend for people to go out’.Multiplexes introduced the weekend culture, where it became an ‘event’, to go out and watch a film at the cinema. Great sound, great picture quality, good ambience, good food, everything became available. So, before multiplexes, the movie-going audience did not increase. Today, look at Metro and Inox. They are both running to full capacity. You have PVR in Juhu, Fun Republic and Fame. But the biggest dearth is in Bandra, which has no multiplex. If one opens up there, it will be huge.
The minute a multiplex becomes accessible distance-wise, you find people going there. People do not sleep early any more. They return late from work and unwind at 10.30 pm. It’s difficult for someone to travel from Khar to Juhu. But if there’s a multiplex in Bandra, they will go. This adds numbers to the movie-going audience; it doesn’t take business away from another multiplex.
With more screens being added, ticket sales are going up. There’s transparency too as multiplexes are now run by multinational companies. Some single-screens still do not have electronic ticketing but that number is growing smaller. Earlier, there was little data available but now there’s transparency.
Multiplex tickets cost way too much, though. They should cost less so that people in the lower-middle class category can afford them. There are families who cannot afford Rs 250 a ticket but also don’t want to go to single-screens even though tickets cost Rs 50 to 60 because they are not well-maintained. This gap needs to be filled. There are many families who can afford Rs 150 but cannot afford Rs 250 to watch a movie. We need to subsidise rates. Some shows also need to be subsidised. If this happens, you will find a huge volume being added. Rates are higher on weekends and they decrease on Tuesdays. Morning shows are subsidised but working people cannot take advantage of them. Overall, prices need to be streamlined.
Then there’s content to consider. In the West, a big franchise film costs more to watch. It’s about value for money and the assumption is that a big franchise movie offers more value. So does 3D, for that matter. Our prices are steep anyway. This is a call that must be taken by distributors and producers.
Digitisation of multiplexes reduces the cost of prints. It makes the logistics easier. It brings down all that and also delivers better quality. Digital prints give you the same quality for three to six weeks at a stretch.
During DCH, we were told to send the guys to check on cinemas. I still remember some cinemas were showing house full but the collections suggested 50 per cent occupancy. I was told that in Punjab, ticket sales exceeded capacity and people would be sitting on the ground. This still happens in smaller towns but it should stop. That would also help curb piracy.
We have to formulate a policy where we do not distribute prints to cinemas that do not have computerised, digital screens. Look at the piracy law. The other thing that is harming us is DVDs. These pirated DVD clubs, which screen films privately, charge Rs 25 a ticket. This is happening in Mumbai too. Sad indeed!