Bollywood Hungama recently reported that Sanjay Gupta’s upcoming films will skip a theatrical release and premiere on a digital platform directly. We exclusively spoke to the popular producer-director about this, the box office scenario at present and a lot more.
EXCLUSIVE: Sanjay Gupta bats for REDUCTION of star fees in post pandemic times: “Aapko Rs. 100 crores lene hai toh lo, lekin aap Rs. 150 crores ka dhanda toh kara lo”
You recently announced that you’ll be releasing Fardeen Khan-Riteish Deshmukh starrer Visfot and your directorial venture, starring Harshvardhan Rane and Meezan Jafri directly on OTT. Could you tell us the reason behind it?
After the first lockdown, we all were wondering ‘Now what?’. Those six months were very tough. Then the second lockdown took place. I was clear that the cinema going experience is going to change forever. I saw it coming two years back. While that happens and while we figure out, which we are still trying to figure out, we had a bunch of stories and we developed them during the two lockdowns. Through video calls, I interacted with my different teams of writers. We created a lot of these projects and we were clear that it’ll go straight to digital. We shot those films accordingly. So, from day 1, it was decided that these will be OTT releases. But in today’s scenario, my producing partner might tell me that we might have to release the film in theatres due to contractual obligations. But that’s not happened at least till now.
Nevertheless, despite these films are for digital, they are very cinematic. A lot of the content created in India in Hindi which is released directly on the OTT platforms is not cinematic. Usme woh bade parde waali baat nahin hai. I don’t see these films and be like ‘I wish I had seen this in the theatre’. I am trying to bridge that gap in my films. When you’ll watch (Visfot or my directorial venture), you’ll remark ‘Yeh bade parde ki picture main chote parde pe dekh raha hoon’.
When will these two films be out?
It’ll be released in the first half of 2023.
A lot of films, even those starring big names, flopped at the box office recently. A section of the industry is hence asking for price correction and reduction in star fees. Do you think that it’s a fair point?
Yes, it is an extremely fair point. Paying a huge fee to the actor was not unfair as they used to guarantee certain footfalls. But if that is not happening now, it is unfair to ask for those prices. Somewhere, the correction has to take place. We are working out a mechanism where the idea should be that if you are getting the footfall, then you can take your money. But don’t take your money if you are not getting the desired footfall. So, in my opinion, the payment will have to be more performance-based. Aapko Rs. 100 crores lene hai toh lo, lekin aap Rs. 150 crores ka dhanda toh kara lo. Or else, if you want Rs. 100 crores as your fees, make sure that the film’s digital rights are sold for Rs. 80 or 90 crores. Then I am willing to bet. And most practical producers are adopting a simple approach – your COP (cost of production) should be what you earn from digital. It’s as simple as that. Because the theatrical scenario is quite unpredictable like never before and ever since cinema was born. I’d say that if the gamble pays off, actors can keep 80% of the share. No problem with that. Because you have earned it. But if the numbers are not there, then it’s unfair that the actor’s fees are coming out of the producer’s pocket.
Nowadays, it’s also said that the music is not working. Do you agree?
It’s a catch-22. Earlier, we were consuming music from the music channels. Now we are watching songs on YouTube and usually, it’s a one-time watch. Which was the last song that you went and saw for the second or third time? It might be for a rare hit song like say ‘Manike’.
But aren’t people still watching songs on TV? The BARC reports indicate that music channels have a lot of viewership…
I don’t know but what I do know is that we are not spending for playing on these channels. Also, we are not advertising as actively as we did. We are not promoting the film as we used to. And then we are saying ‘filmon mein music nahin hai’.
I guess the songs are there in the film but don’t have a shelf life. An exception is ‘Kesariya’ from Brahmastra, which became a big hit as it was a soulful number, a rarity in today’s times…
Yes, true. But the director’s last film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) had seven blockbuster songs. He’s now delivering just one blockbuster song. Shayad utni mehnat humne bhi karna bandh kar di hai. In my opinion, movies are remembered by their music. Nobody remembers actors or directors or stories as much as you remember songs.
Almost all your films have had some great songs which are fondly remembered even today…
Even my next film has some good numbers. We have worked hard on it. Visfot, however, has no songs (as per the requirement of the story). My directorial film has two young heroes and heroines and is based in Goa. It has youthful numbers. I can’t think of making a film without music. Zinda (2006) had no music but is one of my best albums. Dus Kahaniyaan (2007) had no songs, except for the title song in the end credits. But it has one of the best albums from White Feather Films. I used to always have a double disc, consisting of the club version and the lounge version. Dus Kahaniyaan had a triple disc. Besides club and lounge versions, there was one more CD comprising 10 poems, written by Gulzar and it was inspired by the ten stories. These poems were narrated by different actors from Shabana ji to Naseer saab to Sanju to Nana Patekar to Dia Mirza etc. And it had Bappa Lahiri’s music as well.
You have also announced Shootout 3. What’s the latest update and have you signed any actors?
That is a call Ekta Kapoor has to take. And no, we haven’t approached any of the actors yet. We are still finalizing the script. It was written during the first lockdown. Between then and now, a lot has changed. Ekta is also involved creatively and we are revisiting the script. As soon as the script gets updated, we’ll go ahead.
I believe in all you are coming up with 5 films, out of which you are directing 2 films…
There’s a lot that has been lined up for the next 2-3 years. White Feather Films is going to be extremely active as we are working with a string of directors and coming out with multiple films. One by one, we’ll keep releasing them. 2022 was busy as we completed 2 films. We want to keep the momentum going and hence, there’ll be a lot more happening in 2023.
More Pages: Visfot Box Office Collection
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