At the launch of HT Cafe broadsheet in Mumbai, here’s what the panelists said …
Karan Johar, Filmmaker
On the current filmmaking scenario
I think the bigger films today don’t suffer as much as smaller films in terms of getting into cinema halls and attracting ticket sales. Small films have been lost in the world of mainstream films, 80 per cent of which are terrible. But at the same time, not all small films are great.
The corporates entered in 2006 and messed it up because they pumped in ridiculous money without checking on the business viability of the projects. But we’re in a corrective space now. So, 2011 will have fewer films.
On deconstructing SRK
I love to see Shah Rukh Khan do bhangra on screen because he brings a lot of energy to it. But while filming a sequence for Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, I felt terrible because there was nothing new about it. I was bored of my own stuff. So, I wanted Shah Rukh to play an autistic man, Rizwan, in My Name Is Khan. I did it to make myself happy.
On making ‘different’ films
I want to be like Dibakar Bannerjee and have [that] niche audience too. But I can’t praise all of his films in public despite loving them, because I’m looked at as if I’m not supposed to like a film like LSD.
Vidya Balan, Actress
On promoting films
I promoted Ishqiya continously for over a month and a half, because when one does a good film, one also wants everyone to see it. You always hope to get good work and reach it to as many as possible.
On Amitabh Bachchan in Paa
Casting a 14-year-old child as Auro would have diluted the impact the character made when Mr Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan) played it. When you see your favourite star doing something extraordinary, the experience of watching the film gets even better. In a film like Taare Zameen Par, you needed a 12-year-old boy to play the lead character.
On No One Killed Jessica
We’ve taken a lot of cinematic liberties in the film. It’s a thriller that is based on the Jessica Lall murder case. It’s the director’s vision of the entire episode coupled with a lot of fiction.
R Balki, Director
On monetary investments
Bollywood has discovered the art of marketing and reaching out to as many people in the audience as possible. Obscene amounts of money are spent to ensure that a viable film makes a lot of noise before it comes. On not making Paa without the Bachchans It’s not a question of whether I could make the film with him or I couldn’t. I didn’t want to make it without him. I write films with the stars in mind. I don’t write the film and then start casting. Paa, I’m glad, appealed to every section of the audience. When I was writing Paa and Cheeni Kum, I only had Amitabh Bachchan in mind.
Dibakar Bannerjee, Director
On his next that two stars have rejected I’m making a political thriller that two stars have already rejected because it’s not the right time in their careers to work on such films. That’s a general statement that everyone makes. But I will not wait beyond a point. I will cut down the costs and make my film with relatively lesser-known names.
On box office verdicts
I think the quantifiable coordinate to measure a film’s performance is the box office verdict. LSD made Rs 9 Crore and it was produced in Rs 1.5 Crore. But the terrible big films that may have lost on the critics’ appraise have grossed a lot more. It just proves that people want big stars. If I had to make a magnum opus set in the 18th Century, I will need the stars and hence the money, to pull in the initials.
Anurag Kashyap, Director
On making Dev D without stars If I had cast some big actresses in Dev D, it would have diluted the impact of the film and I would have to spend four times the money. Without the stars, Dev D was easy on the pocket and on the senses too.
On shooting outside of the country
Today, it’s increasingly becoming difficult to shoot in any part of India. You have to bribe the police and extract individual permissions to shoot a single sequence. In any country abroad, you’re given blanket permissions. That’s why a lot of foreign filmmakers shoot India in Thailand.
On directors getting acceptance and the budgets
For seven years, I was praised and sidelined. Today, I am getting to do what I want to because cinema has changed. The films I make can release and can ask for certain budgets. Today, I am a conformist and not a rebel. And yes, there is a section of the audience that will watch a film because it’s made by Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibakar, Karan or any other director, not for the star in the film.