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No Guarantees

It’s a fickle and unpredictable industry. So don’t kid yourself – there are no sure-shot blockbusters

Whenever a producer or director who is looking to cast me is explaining the concept or narrating the screenplay of their film, the phrase most used – before, during and after the narration– is, ‘You should definitely do this film… it is a sure-shot blockbuster!’

Well, filmmaking is inherently an emotion-led business and obviously I appreciate the optimism of these producers and directors. But I wonder, how can anything in this industry be ‘sure shot’?If there is, then I am not aware of it despite having spent more than 20 years in this profession!

Whether we like it or not, film making is a high-risk commercial endeavour,with literally hundreds of variables that can make or break the prospects of your film. You can do extensive research, you can pour over box office numbers, you can follow the trends of the last few hits… BUT, despite your best efforts, preparation, planning and execution, sorry friends, there is no such thing as a ‘sure-shot hit’.

There are many reasons for the unpredictability of the film making business but the main one is that, when you are making a film you are trying to second guess the public’s mood. And the public mood is a very fickle thing, with so many competing factors impacting it. The state of politics, the state of the economy, the law and order situation– all these and so many other factors beyond a filmmaker’s control impact the movie-going audience’s mood.

Not only that, what you call the ‘public mood’ is also not one uniform thing, but rather varies widely between people of different territories, age-groups, economic status and a thousand other things. Forget about audience tastes of, say, people in Chennai matching those of people in Chandigarh… even in a city like our Mumbai, what works in Nariman Point doesn't necessarily work in Andheri or Mira Road!

And even if by some miracle, you do manage to figure out the national public mood, the mood in each location, age or income group moulds your project. And let us not forget that film making is a time-consuming exercise.

From the time a film idea is conceived to the time it actually hits the screen, is easily a period of one year at the very least. Often, much more than that. It is not only possible, but rather probable, that the public mood will change – even take a total U-turn – during the process of film making. To give you a very simple example: you could have started making a film to cash in on the euphoria of the Indian cricket team’s World Cup win,but by the time you are ready to release the movie, the national affection for the cricket team has been replaced by anger, as indeed happened during the course of the past year.

Then, what do you do? Take a national opinion poll before shooting each scene,or keep re-shooting the film infinitely?!

That’s not all! You may have the next Mughal-E-Azam or Sholay in the cans, and you may have spent a bomb promoting the film, but a totally unforeseen event like a flood or a health scare or a curfew could affect the collections of your film. And, as we all know, we are living in an age where a film’s theatrical run has a very short life span. So even a couple of days being wiped out due to external factors can ruin a film.

What it boils down to is that ultimately you have to back your own instinct, leave no stone unturned to deliver your very best and then leave everything to ‘public’.

That is the way it has always been, that is the way it is and that’s the way it will always be. That is the only ‘sure shot’certainty of our industry! No Guarantees

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