Shyam Benegal: The old star system doesn’t work anymore, there’s nobody in film industry today who’s presence itself can draw audience
Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal doesn’t take any sides when asked about the ongoing OTT vs theatres debate. Having witnessed several changes the film industry has gone through, the 85-year-old, says, “Everybody has got a point tragically. It’s a lot to do with the fact that nobody is in full control. Let’s see how things settle down. I hope they get better; they’re already so bad that we can only hope they look up now.”
It all started after a host of direct-to-OTT releases were announced recently, and theatre owners sulked while seeking support from filmmakers expecting them to wait for cinemas to reopen.
But since OTT releases offer a level playing field to all films big or small, is that going to change the star system that has been prevalent? Benegal says “naturally” it will.
He reasons, “Nothing can remain the same. Why should we only think of India when it has changed worldwide! The old star system doesn’t work anymore. You can’t say so and so is a star and drawing power is great. Who’s there in the film industry today who can claim that? Nobody! We don’t have a Dilip Kumar or Amitabh Bachchan in his heydays, nobody who’s presence itself is enough to draw audience like a magnet.”
The National Award winning filmmaker adds that unlike the big screen, television doesn’t create stars. “It’s a larger than life personality, no? You’ve to see that also. Everything is evolving. You don’t have stars like in the older days, where there was no way he or she could walk on street without creating a riot,” he says.
Asked how does he look at this Covid-19 induced phase where films aren’t releasing on the big screens for which they were originally made, Benegal says the film business has gone through so many changes due to cinemas closing down, as the business hasn’t been doing well.
“So today, when you make a film, you’re not thinking in terms of it getting revenues only from cinema halls, people paying money to buy tickets and go. You’ve to think how it’ll maximise audiences and revenues. The methodologies have changed to an extent that doing a single film may be a liability today, unless you’re sure you’ll be able to draw huge audience willing to spend on tickets. It’s no longer how it used to be,” he concludes.
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