Thursday August 22, 2019

Article 370 Stand Throws Bollywood’s Kashmir Plans in a Tizzy

In the recent times, films such as “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, “Highway”, “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”, “Fitoor”, “Haider”, “Tubelight”, “Uri: The Surgical Strike” and “Kalank”, were shot in Kashmir

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Alia Bhatt
Actress Alia Bhatt seen at an event. Wikimedia Commons

By Sugandha Rawal

Several top actors including Sanjay Dutt, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra were scheduled to shoot in Kashmir for upcoming projects over the next few months, but the repeal of Article 370 has put Bollywood’s plans to shoot in Kashmir on hold for now.

On Monday morning, Home Minister Amit Shah announced in Rajya Sabha that the government has decided to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The government also announced its decision to split the region into that two Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be without a legislature.

The abrogation of the Article has had a ripple effect on the shooting schedules.

Sidharth was supposed to shoot for Captain Vikram Batra’s biopic “Shershaah” in the Valley. Directed by Vishnu Varadhan from a story written by Sandeep Srivastava, the movie is backed by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions.

According to a source close to the actor, the shooting schedule has been pushed, with no new date given yet.

“Sadak 2” makers had plans to shoot an important segment of the film with Sanjay, Alia and Makarand Deshpande, who essays role of a godman in the movie.

The film marks the return of Mahesh Bhatt as director, and the filmmaker had planned to shoot sequences pertaining to the protagonists reaching the godman’s ashram. The shooting is on hold for now.

IANS messaged Mahesh and Makarand for an update. The query wasn’t answered till the time of going to press.

Without revealing the names, line producer Md. Abdullah of Hami Asto Productions, who arranges shoots in the Jammu and Kashmir regions, said that two to three Bollywood films and one big Telugu movie were slated to arrive over the next few months for shooting.

sanjay dutt
Actor Sanjay Dutt.

“There were some big projects in line — two to three Bollywood films and one Telugu movie. Now, we can’t say if that will happen because of the disturbed environment. Maybe they will push the schedule or maybe they will go to a different location,” Abdullah told IANS.

“We just wrapped up shoot of the Telugu film ‘Venky Mama’, which stars Venkatesh. They shot in Pahalgam and Sonmarg. The month-long shot was wrapped up in June. One big Bollywood film was supposed to start shooting in August-end. They all are stuck now,” added Abdullah, who is worried about what the future holds for local line producers like him.

“Yeh achanak se hua (this happened all of a sudden). Now, it has been done. Inshallah, things will get settled soon. If that doesn’t happen, it will be a big problem for us because this is our ‘rozi-roti’ (bread and butter),” added the line producer, who has worked on John Abraham’s “Romeo Akbar Walter”, Abhishek Bachchan’s “Manmarziyaan” and Arjun Rampal’s “Final Call” in the past.

The production houses might have to bear additional expenses owing to the shuffle of the schedule, although the amounts will probably not be exorbitant.

“There is some unrest and confusion going on in Jammu and Kashmir. The government has taken measures. So, all the planned shoots in the region will be delayed for a while. It will not have much negative impact in terms of cost escalation, because productions of these films were yet to start,” film and trade expert Girish Johar told IANS.

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“Cost would have been a problem had they started shooting in Kashmir, and were forced to come back. Now, there will be a nominal increase in the cost,” Johar added.

The love affair between Bollywood and Kashmir is long-standing. From Sharmila Tagore to Alia Bhatt, and from late Shammi Kapoor to Salman Khan, Indian actors down the generations have starred in blockbusters that saw filmmakers capture the beauty of the region in their films.

In the recent times, films such as “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, “Highway”, “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”, “Fitoor”, “Haider”, “Tubelight”, “Uri: The Surgical Strike” and “Kalank”, were shot in Kashmir. (IANS)

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A New Mindset: Need of Bollywood

Till the 1980s it was usually traders, merchants and traditional money lenders

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Every generation since the beginning of the Indian film Industry has seen a fresh set of people finance it. PIxabay

If the Industry has survived (thrived?) so many decades it is because of the influx of fresh capital from new, glamour struck players. Every generation since the beginning of the Indian film Industry has seen a fresh set of people finance it. Till the 1980s it was usually traders, merchants and traditional money lenders. Then the exhibitors and distributors started advancing money and a lot more of glamour struck venture capital came in. Of course, sine the 1930s the top stars of the time always set up their own production companies and the trend continues to this day. Every decade technology delivers a bonanza to the perpetually cash-strapped film industry.

The popularity of radio and records and cassettes saw music royalty bring in extra cash in the 70s and 80s. This was pattern was replicated by the coming of TV and home video in the 80s and 90s and now streaming rights. However, the big break was the spread of Multiplexes. Suddenly, box office exploded as these modern hangout cinemas pulled the young urban youth and families back to the cinemas. The overseas market, largely driven by large South Asian diaspora, changed another market dynamic. Some younger filmmakers realized this and tailored their films for this well-paying market segment.

A paradigm shift happened in the mid-90s when some young media professionals-turned-entrepreneurs set up the first fledgling studios (after the demise of the earlier lot in the early 50s). A few of the old timers reimagined themselves and stayed in the new sweepstakes. Some music companies too became quasi studios venturing into film production and distribution. By the turn of the millennium, Bollywood had become not only a global brand but a billion-dollar Industry. Entertainment was recognized as Industry making institutional finance available to film producers. Import of equipment was liberalized and foreign shooting became convenient. Slowly the disorganized mom and pop business moved towards professionalism and eventually corporatization. Bank finance, insurance, contracts, copyright came into play.

Mindset, Bollywood, New
If the Industry has survived (thrived?) so many decades it is because of the influx of fresh capital from new, glamour struck players. Pixabay

However, more change was to come in the decade that followed. The rise of the Internet following the mobile revolution changed the game altogether. Rising income and aspirations and changing lifestyles altered the media and entertainment landscape. Digitalization of cinema from pre and post production to distribution and exhibition has also contributed to a dramatic change in Indian cinema. Today you can make a film on your smartphone and commercially release it. Now there are film makers who are making films only for the digital space.

By 2010, major studios — Fox, Disney, Reliance ,Viacom and Zee had arrived and further changed the market dynamics. In the last decade, video-on-demand and Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms together with broadcast TV not only brought additional revenue but newer niche markets. Audience is consuming filmed entertainment differently across different screens. Now Amazon, Jio, Netflix, Hotstar, Zee 5, Alt, Apple, Facebook, Google et al are commissioning films and are the new financiers of the movie industry. Thousands of new and old members of this large fraternity are getting back into the creative mainstream. There are at least a 100 production companies all over India. There are more trained professionals than ever before and encouragingly a lot more women in power in Bollywood. Every year at least twenty first timers make a mark and many of them from small towns with no family connection. For a change the big potboilers compete with small, new age films.

There are many young, often first-time film makers who are making path breaking cinema which a substantial enough audience is loving it. Today’s top actors are also a lot more adventurous. In any case, even the most commercial of films are much more rooted in reality than before. Production design, cinematography and sound are now of international standard. Unfortunately, marketing costs have spiraled up but without the adequate research and media planning resulting a lot of wasteful expenditure. Star prices still remain abnormally high, often being 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the entire budget. Interestingly, after a gap of many decades, talent from smaller towns and even villages are coming to Bollywood and many are making it to the top. Also, a lot more films are set in smaller towns reflecting concerns of a new class of film lovers.

The most heartening development, though, is the influx of streaming services. Not only do they bring a lot of money into the system but also offer a far, far wider variety of films: shorts, documentaries, animated, real-life dramas but also all genres of features films. They are not hung up on stars or big names. Besides, in another welcome development, a number of big producers and directors and even top stars have ventured into producing content for these digital giants. Thankfully, all of them are also giving breaks to new writers and film makers and some exceptionally talented actors.

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There are some endemic problems which still linger. Paucity of screens and over production make it unviable for smaller, especially independent films to get a release. The obsession with big screen in an age where 80 per cent of all content is watched on TV and increasingly online is rather an archaic approach. It is estimated that half the world will watch content on handheld devices by 2025. With a multitude of leisure alternatives films, including those made by Bollywood, have to compete with texting, social media, gaming, sport, live events, streaming audio and video, adventure and even travel and dining out.

Writing largely still remains a weak link and is invariably derivative and mediocre. We need a more energetic and creative fraternity which is willing to experiment and is willing to move to newer platforms. This obsession with the big screen has to end. A few hundred cineastes and critics hung over on purity of cinema cannot let opportunities drift away. Film making is ultimately about storytelling and an audience. Why should screen size be a limitation? A new mindset is what is most required in the Indian film industry, particularly Bollywood. We can, in the next five years, double the size of the filmed entertainment Industry to $6 billion per year. (IANS)