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Bollywood is a jolly good business

entertainment Updated: Jul 26, 2008 23:32 IST
Mini Pant Zachariah

Last week, UTV telecast Aamir, an offbeat film, within three months of releasing it in cinema halls. The reason, says Siddharth Roy Kapur, chief executive officer of UTV Motion Pictures, was to find new ways of making money in this iffy world of filmmaking.

Kapur saw the potential in the script — a Muslim NRI doctor visiting his family who gets blackmailed by fundamentalists to plant a bomb in a bus. “The average theatrical life of a film is two to four weeks nowadays,” says Kapur. The ever-hungry-for-TRPs satellite channels are willing to pay a good price for telecast rights.

No Biz like Showbiz

A recent report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and PricewaterhouseCoopers, estimated the Indian entertainment and media industry to be worth Rs 1,15,700 crore by 2012. With a compounded annual growth rate of 18 per cent between 2008-12.

No wonder, then, corporates that monitor growth stories across industry, are eyeing the film business. Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) is close to signing Hollywood biggies to produce some 30 films in the next four years.

Corporate giant Mahindra and Mahindra is sponsoring ‘Sankalan,’ a script-selection and development programme organised by Baiscope Entertainment, a non-government organisation for Indian films. Promising film scripts will be shortlisted and through this unique script-to-screen lab, these will be developed into screenplays and then made into films.

In the past, too, Applause Films of the Aditya Birla group had made the critically acclaimed Black and Tata Indicom burnt its fingers with the forgettable Aitbaar.

Partly because of the arrival of the big moneybags and partly because there are so many producers and such few creative talent, the actor’s and director’s fees have shot through the roof.

Sandeep Bhargava, CEO of Indian Film Company, a London Stock Exchange-listed company promoted by the TV18 Group, says: “Prices have shot up by 100 and 150 per cent in some cases. Till such time as one or two films do not flop badly, this madness will continue.”

Since the government granted it the status of an industry in 2001, financial institutions have entered filmmaking in India and brought with them accountability and transparency. George Thomas, CEO of Crossfire Films, says: “The Indian film industry is inhabited by the young who have not learnt the funny accounting habits of the older generation. In the last five years, we have moved from 40 to 50 per cent of dealings in cash to about four to five per cent now.”

Script is Kinng

A star cast, as in the case of Tashan, can ensure a good opening, but to sustain the tempo, the script has to be good. This explains why Mahindra and Mahindra is holding the scriptwriting workshop: to grab promising ideas.

And going by the projections for the industry, Indian films are likely to flood the market in the next three to four years.

The Sequel

Says Shailendra Singh, joint MD, Percept: “Corporates must jointly address issues like Intellectual Property Regulation, talent training, rural entertainment infrastructure and children’s and animation films.” Extracting value at each level will be the endeavour, he adds. “Integrated business models, though difficult to implement, will work in future,” he says.

As corporates eye Bollywood, there is a word of caution from those who have been in the business for a while.

“There should a clear divide between the creative and commerce lines of the business,” Singh maintains.