This is the trouble with having so many careers; you end up being a juggler. Whole time film producer, part time actor ( 90 films acted in, 10 films where I was paid, the rest was all in friendship), part time teacher, part time foodie, part time theatre and film consultant, and now part time feature writer!
And every week we have to think of a topic to write about, and that is the difficult part. Once the finger hits the keypad the words flow, but what’s the topic? I am not Suhel Seth and I cannot have a fashionably cynical world view; I am not Shobha De, I have no clue how to make varan bhaat fashionable, I am not a trade pundit, who is inside the industry, who has access to inside information and scoops and who is privy to how the mandarins and movie moghals make decisions. I am, therefore writing from the point of the audience, the viewer, the outsider, the person who keenly follows the industry and the trade on Facebook, on Twitter, on other social media, and comes to certain conclusions. My job here would be to demystify things for the ordinary film buff.
The first thing that struck me in recent times was that collections of films were being made public; in my days they were published only for the trade and the producers and the ‘aam janta’ did not have access to the trade and the figures. Today the collections are being made public and every ‘aam aadmi’ has become a trade expert.
The second thing that struck me was that in my days the figures were released weekly, today they are being released daily, by the hour almost, as if films are in a race with one another.
The third thing that struck me was that there are at least three separate figures of the daily collections of each film giving rise to speculation by not just the public, but by assorted self-crowned trade ‘experts’ who, by virtue of the numbers of followers that they command over the social media have suddenly got the authority to be the final word on whether the film is a hit or not, and the figure that they are publishing are the right figures. I have seen on Twitter, five figures from five sources for the first weekend of a recent film; my opinion is that all would have been wrong.
Should not the collection figures of a film be sacred? Doesn’t a producer have the right to see, study, analyze his figures and strategize what to do with his film, before they are bandied all over the place by any Tom, Dick or Harry? Are the daily sales/collections/figures of a corporate company like Maruti or Shoppers Stop made public? And if they were, would the company not try their best to prevent it from happening, if only to protect themselves from fraud, corporate politics and competitors? When a multiplex chain gives the figures for a film to the distributor, it also gives the figures to the trade organs and journals, who publish it, as has been traditional. But since today it’s all on the net, and the net is very much a public domain, that’s what the new era of social media is all about. And actually I am pretty sure that most companies, if they were to give their figures to their trade organs and journals on a daily basis would also get them on the net. Nothing would be private anymore.
But the public knowing how many Scorpios were sold in a day by Mahindra and Mahindra would actually not either harm the Scorpio or the company. Going public with the figures of a film and labeling it a failure less than 24 hours after its release damages the film, the producer, the distributor and ultimately all of us who have stakes in the trade. The bystanders are just that; bystanders. They can say what they want, and they do. Their loose words harms the film industry no end. Then why do we give then the weapons, on a platter to harm us? At a time, when everyone knows we have to tread very carefully, why oh why are we allowing outsiders and self-styled commentators with no stakes to have the power to damage us beyond repair?
In the old days, it was the critic who would write about the film. Manmohan Desai finally declared that he was critic proof; that only if a critic praised his film would it flop. He disdained them because their job was to comment on aesthetics. His film’s job was to sell tickets. But now, real critics, fake critics and every person on social media has the right to become an expert.
Not only with our permission, but with our blessings!