Tanuj Garg has been a renowned behind-the-scenes name in the Indian media and entertainment circle for 14 years. He has released/co-produced more than 34 celebrated films during his tenure at UTV (Disney), Viacom18 and Balaji.
He recently set up his own production company, Ellipsis Entertainment, with prolific photographer; brands man and talent mentor Atul Kasbekar.
We seek Garg's perspective on what has changed in Bollywood in recent years:
Are biopics in?
That's too much of a generalisation. We have a habit of forming trends in a jiffy. If one analyzes the kind of films that have worked in the years-gone-by, what is evident is that real, uplifting and inspirational material is in. That doesn't necessarily need to be a biopic, though stories about iconic real-life characters tend to find relatability with the audience - Mary Kom, Milkha Singh, Aarushi Talwar and Neerja Bhanot are examples.
This is also symbolic of the fact that the audience's tastes and profile are rapidly changing. There is the emergence of a new young cinema-going breed, which has become receptive to new genres and formats of cinema. Content is in, set-ups are out. A package comprising big director, big stars and big banner is no longer the magical formula.
Any word of caution to filmmakers?
The scary part is that suddenly everyone thinks it's cool to make a biopic or a film featuring a real anecdote. Everyone wants to jump on to the 'reality' bandwagon. Many will do it for the sake of doing it and make a mess of things and then we will all say that biopics are not failure-proof. Simply making a film about a particular person or episode does not equal success. It has to be well written, researched and directed. A powerful subject is no guarantor of box-office success though it is a good starting point.
Does that mean that the popularity of fictional cinema is waning?
Not at all. Look at Kapoor & Sons - a film that's not just well told but incredibly real and identifiable. Both nuclear and joint families have connected with it. Cinema has to strike a chord with the audience. At some level, we have to connect with the sensibility and cultural accord of the cinegoers. When a film is non-fiction and real, it obviously connects more easily.
What is the most important attribute for a filmmaker these days?
Whatever be the genre or subject, it has to reflect someone's belief and conviction. A couple of years back when Atul Kasbekar heard the story of Neerja Bhanot from his writer, he saw potential in it and believed that Sonam (Kapoor) could pull it off. He was just as convinced about his friend and exemplary ad film-maker Ram Madhvani, who had directed one feature film before. He got Fox to share his belief, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The point I'm making is about to listening to one's inner voice and taking a leap of faith provided that it is a calculated risk. Those who do that, work. Conning yourself into backing something you don't believe in is a disaster. The final product will invariably smack of dishonesty.
What kind of directors are you working with?
We are working with a mix of established and emerging directors. There is some incredible talent in the market with a great body of non-film work - ad filmmakers, for instance. Their time has come. We are even tapping into the lot of talented associate directors.
What does today's cinema-going audience want?
Content that makes you cry, laugh, trigger a debate or discussion is content that will work. The rules of the game have changed. The audience is not interested in watching a film that resembles an assembled jigsaw puzzle. They want to invest their hard-earned bucks in cinema that they can relate to, feel connected with and get moved by.
Which are your favourite released films about popular figures?
Rajkumar Santoshi's The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Ram Madhvani's Neerja are my all-time favourites. I also enjoyed Guru, Bhaag Milkha and Mary Kom. I am looking forward to Sarabjit and Rustom.
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