It took me ten years to realise that TV and cinema are not the same. What you watch for free and what you pay for are two very different things. I can be a big TV producer but it took five to six flops for me to realise that films are a completely different ball game. People have their favourite actors unlike TV where people follow concepts. At the same time, I wanted to create my own team in movies.
One thing I realised was that when you make movies, you have to think like a film producer. You have to think from the audience’ perspective – what would you want in a movie that you’re paying Rs 250 for? When you’re making TV, you have to think of slow poison; it’s not a one-time dhamaka. TV is about growing characters. TV is like sneaking into a neighbour’s house.
TV is more realistic, the characters have to be more likeable, believable. TV is daily dose of drama. You can’t spend too much on the sets. In films, if we pay Rs 250, it has to be an experience. It took me five to ten years to understand the difference.
We did TV first and then films. But we clearly didn’t understand the medium. We were already making so much money from TV so why think of doing cinema? So we did one-off films. Then, two to three years ago, TV began to yield only marginal profits. That’s when I decided to switch.
So the first thing I did was study. I would buy tickets and take ten friends to watch a film. One day, I realised that that was not how it’s going to work. I would never learn what films would work.
So I started taking my friends, some 18 years old, my college friends, businessmen, all my friends in various age groups. But I decided I wouldn’t buy anyone’s tickets. For people who are not from the industry and earn Rs 40-50,000 a month, it burns a big hole in their pockets to spend on popcorn, travel and their precious time as well.
At home, you can switch channels when the episode is boring or cook with the TV on. But in a movie hall, you are restricted to your seat.
You would be crying with your grandmother when you watch an emotional scene on TV. But while watching a film in the theatre, you are sitting with ten friends and hooting at the boring scene. Learning that, was quite an experience.
Now I never watch a trial show, not even for Tushhar’s movies. He asks me why I don’t come for his trials. I tell him I am going to buy a ticket and watch the film.
It’s all about entertaining the audience and getting value for your money. Everyone wanted to watch Bodyguard but no one wanted to watch the other two films that released the same week. Why should one pay to watch a boring film?
I always book my tickets for Saturday afternoons and so do my friends. When they watch a film and don’t like it, they say that their 200 bucks were wasted, and with it comes anger and frustration. It is so clear-cut.
Many intellectuals said Ready was crap but I was rolling with laughter. And when the whole cinema hall is laughing, you go with the flow. It’s communal viewing.
And films are conducive to communal viewing. I feel you should make films which you can watch with a hundred people in a cinema hall.
LSD was a clutter-breaking film that not many would have paid to watch. But I knew that the youth would watch it so I had to scale down the budget. I knew LSD would make more money on DVD.
All this knowledge has come from watching movies in a cinema hall. After doing TV, it took us a long time to establish ourselves as film producers because building a reputation is a problem here. No one wanted to work with us at the time as they thought that we only understood TV. And they were right.
We can still go wrong with films, no one knows. I think I can still make bad films. But at least when I am making a bad film, I learn something from the experience. I think, as a studio, I understand things better.
Now I have decided to make five shows and five films a year. When I make a film, I don’t think like a TV producer, likewise while making shows I don’t think like a film producer. When I make TV shows, I don’t wonder how I can add more masala. I think of how I could make my characters loveable. My heroes don’t do action, they become husbands.
The biggest switch for a producer is from TV to films and vice versa.