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The Extra Mile

Commerce and art are not mutually exclusive. The secret lies in balancing your slate

It is very important for a studio to balance the slate of movies it produces, whether it comes to budgets, star casts or genres. At the heart of it the goal of any production house is to make great films that are profitable. Very often, some people think these two goals are mutually exclusive. I think not; IF-and that’s a very big IF- you find just the right mix of art and commerce.

At UTV, our intention has always been to build a production slate that ensures we have movies of all genres. We make blockbuster entertainers and, at the same time, we make films that push the envelope. The common factor we keep in mind is that they should all be commercially viable. For instance, the year we produced Rang De Basanti, we also produced Khosla Ka Ghosla. The year we produced Jodhaa Akbar, we also produced Dev D. And the year we produced Raajneeti we also produced Udaan. To put this in a broader perspective, with Raajneeti we did a political drama at a time when most people felt that political dramas would not work with audience. Jodhaa Akbar was a historical in an age of rom-coms. Rang De Basanti was the fourth Bhagat Singh movie in a row with all our heroes dying in the climax. No One Killed Jessica was a female-oriented film, based on burning issues of the day and with no romantic track. Typically, these are not considered movies that are sure-fire commercial blockbusters to start with. But with the right blend of art, commerce, marketing and distribution, they were able to bust myths and score at the box office.

This year has been a revelation of sorts. In a single month – July – we had diverse movies like Delhi Belly, Murder 2, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Singham – all rocking the box office. If you asked someone to take that one month and do an analysis of what “works with the Indian viewer”, they’d be completely flummoxed! These movies are as different from each other as chalk from cheese. If Delhi Belly was an expletive ridden, primarily English language laugh fest, Murder 2 was a Bhatt special with great music, sex, intrigue and a superb villain. If ZNMD was the urban new generation’s coming-of-age road movie, Singham was a raw action film with one cop from a small town taking on the might of the political establishment.

And they all worked! What does that tell us? The audience today is looking for entertainment in all genres. It is exposed to 24x7 TV channels from around the world and with broadband penetration increasing and mobile telephony going through the roof; it is able to access exactly the same content as anyone anywhere else in the world. It is hence our responsibility as studios to build a slate of movies to provide these audience with the sort of entertainment they are demanding – not sticking to just one theme or genre or subject – but giving them a truly satisfying experience at the cinema!

Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures

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