"Nothing is worse than a prospective (suitor?) audience-base, led up the garden path and left dangling …."
"Good –humor is goodness and wisdom combined." Owen Meredith
Against the background of India's rich tradition, Indian drama was reborn during British colonial interregnum in 18th and 19th centuries. The impetus came from two sources: the rich heritage of Indian drama and the exposure to Western dramatic classics through English. With the East India Company came European theatre to the educated Indian audience and Bengal being the epicentre, saw many Bengali actors performed English plays. Bombay on the other hand, had popular commercial theatres owned by rich Parsee entrepreneurs who later extended to Bengal too. Translations started appearing simultaneously of Sanskrit classics and Western classics, particularly Shakespeare. Till now drama had not developed as a major literary genre in Indian languages. Drama now began to flourish as a cherished literary genre alongside the modern genre of fiction, also a response to Western influence. There was corresponding unprecedented development in theatre: the rise of urban entertainment theatre. This arose in order to provide entertainment to the increasing population of big cities consequent upon industrialization. The new urban theatre is popularly known as Parsi theatre. This genre was an interesting mixture of Western Naturalistic drama, opera and several local elements. Spectacle based on huge settings and colourful backdrops was an essential part of it. The stage was normally divided into front and back for the staging of main and subsidiary action. Music was its life-breath. The actors of this theatre were also great singers. The acting became naturalistic and melodramatic in contrast to the stylized techniques of traditional Indian theatre. Parsi theatre productions chose their story-lines from diverse sources: popular mythological, folklore and contemporary life.
Before the establishment of indigenous ventures, Hindu mythological pictures were printed in Germany then imported to India via British firms. Their vast nineteenth century image manufacture transformed the nature of Hindu belief and worship but also through the illusionist work of artists like Ravi Varma (1846 - 1906) and several of his counterparts. In a sense 'classical' Hindu mythology was revived, romanticised and circulated all over the country. This set in motion a process of reconfiguration of the culturally heterogeneous Indian space into a more homogeneous Hindu space based on a commonly shared new iconic visualise. So the first popular Indian films were of historic or mythological kind about Gods and Goddesses, Kings and Queens. The very first Indian full feature length (Marathi) film was Raja Harishchandra was produced by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. Dadasaheb Phalke wanted to inspire Indian about their mythology as the west had done with films on Christ. Interestingly, the female roles in the film were played by male actors.
In the 20s J.F.Madan’s Madan theatres brought fetishizing of women as sex objects in Indian films. The studio kept Anglo-Indian and Jewish scantily cladded dance girls to provide “visions of transparent promise”. Kissing passionately in silver screen was common in those days. Sulochana who appeared in films like Anarkali and Heer Ranjha, became India’s first sex symbol.
The birth of Hindi films (and singing & dancing) came with the ‘talkies’ and the ‘’New Theatre” (and the orchestra disappeared) and regional films started. Talkies changed the world. Films were made by adapting popular western literature or popular Bengali novels and stories by Parsee writers who were well versed in Urdu. There were also adaptations of Western classics like Shakespeare and Lessing. Unlike traditional folk and tribal theatre Parsi theatre was acted out in interior spaces, now called proscenium theatre. Geared to amuse urban middle and working classes this theatre produces a pot pouri of melodrama, humour, romance and social criticism.
Zubeida started in the first talkie, Alam Ara, where she successfully portrayed innocence with eroticism. This was the era of famous Parsee playwrights and poets. These were Parsi theatre influences, which "blended realism and fantasy, music and dance, narrative and spectacle, earthy dialogue and ingenuity of stage presentation, integrating them into a dramatic discourse of melodrama. The Parsi plays contained crude humour, melodious songs and music, sensationalism and dazzling stagecraft."
This worked well as India has a strong folk tradition of narrating mythology, history, fairy stories and so on through song and dance; which became popular from around the 10th century with the decline of Sanskrit theatre. These regional traditions include the Yatra of Bengal, the Ramlilaof Uttar Pradesh, and the Terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu.
Prabhat's Sairandhri, which was processed and printed in Germany in 1933, became India's first colour film. However, the first indigenously made colour film was Ardashir Irani’s Kisan Kanya made in 1937 and directed by Gidwani.
Today India has got the largest population in the world and the huge majority, 70%, are a young, between the ages of 15 and under 35. There is money to be made here for sure. But another fact is that out of the 70%, half of them are female. So if you want a successful business, you have to cater the female audience equally or perish. This is the new reality and like history of product design has shown, this fact alone creates a new, better benchmark. Firstly, you need to change from top and bottom and middle. There is a huge demand of fresh bankable actors. These days the old superstars have enough money to pick and choose their films, (no more running to multiple production houses in the same day to churn out 2-4-5 films together) and no longer interested in the new competition. It’s about quality now, and no longer quantity. Till 20 years back, it was still popular to see 3-4 hours long films, but today with time being the most valued commodity, films have to be shorter and more focused on the plot and this leads theaters to screen 6 times a film rather than the normal 3 times a day.
The idea of women portrayed in the World’s largest entertainment industry or ‘Bollywood’ has been slowly improving but with limited success. It has been a hundred years where popular films have expressed and changed over time in a country comprehending multiple identities. It’s been a challenge but within these years, a few films have been able to show us the changing face of Indian women enmeshed in their private world of inner turmoil and the external world of multiple challenges without ever being judgmental Hopefully, the baby steps led to bigger footprints. Art is slowly overwhelming commerce. Values and Indian society itself is in a flux. The large scale production of films with intricate network of distribution, advance technology and exhibition is exactly like any other capitalist industry. They are made for mass consumption. The exploitation of the female form did not start with films in India. The “workers” (artists & technicians) have become slaves to a medium that requires a lot of money. On paper, these distribution rights are sold for a much lower amount. After the film's release, the investor claims the box office returns as 'clean' profit i.e. white money. Hopefully, with low-budget digital independent films distributed over the internet (like mp3 instead buying CDs), the future holds promise. The commercial film industry has already introduced expensive 3D technology in films, combining it with high-end animation and visual effects; and even few 4D films.
Firstly the opening of television to satellite TV that created awareness, changed perceptions and give choice for the masses. 80-90% today's films end up in the red so films have to change too to keep up to this new change. When the success ratio of films is barely 20 per cent but more stars are turning to this risky business. Today new directors are making movies that boldly combine elements of realist parallel cinema as well as mainstream Hindi films. This alternate space was reborn and has merged into the mainstream created because of these events.
It is because of 5 reasons:
1) Of the 20 per cent films which click every year, 75-85 per cent are star-studded fares and so, it makes sense for stars to produce films with themselves acting in them. If one were to look at the ratio of flops to hits (80:20) every year, it is anybody’s guess that most of our stars get undeservedly high prices. For, even if a good script is the main reason why a film works at the ticket windows, the stars have a major role to play, especially the hero and heroine who work as magnets to draw the audience to the cinemas, initially at least. Considering that 80 per cent of the films bomb every year and 90 per cent don’t even open decently enough to justify the high prices paid to their lead actors. Only those actors should actually be considered worth every crore he is paid, who ensures that his film opens to bumper houses and also ensures that it offers entertainment to the paying public. It is due to this faith which the audience has in a star (that the star will offer them an entertaining movie) that the latter commands the price he does.
The number of films produced each year in Bollywood is around 140-150 but the saleable heroes or those who can be cast in lead roles are barely 14 or 15. Ditto for the leading ladies. On an average, therefore, each star should be working in 10 films every year, which doesn’t happen now. Ultra-selective heroes like Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh do one or two films whereas other A-listers like Salman and Akshay are seen in two, three or four films every year. There may be actors who have six to eight releases a year but they are very few in number. Like any other product, the price of a star is determined by the laws of demand and supply. The greater the demand and/or lower the supply (read availability of stars), the higher the price. If a script catches the fancy of a star or if he is keen to work with a director or producer, he doesn’t mind making a concession in his fees because, after all, stars need good scripts, banners and directors as much as producers and directors need top stars.
2) It is a fallacy to think that it is the producer who bears the brunt of the losses when a film bombs at the box-office. If a film is pre-sold to distributors or a corporate house, the producer can make a profit even if the film fails at the ticket windows as, in such cases, the loss would be the corporate’s or borne by the distributors. Examples of producers making money while corporates or distributors incurred heavy losses are aplenty. Omkara, Guzaarish, Tees Maar Khan, Kites are some.
5) Black money plays the same role in the film industry and in real estate. In what remains a largely unorganized business unaccounted or black money is clearly the preferred currency in which to do business. Up to 60 per cent of the money invested in a film is black money. When you want turn huge amount of black money as white, as loss or profit. Ghost investor buys the distribution rights of a film, paying mostly (say 8 crore in cash and 2 in check) in cash i.e. black money. . Even with corporate money now coming in, black money continues to play a big role in financing films as these corporates are exploited. Incomplete films are sold to these corporate firms and they pay in white money. This white money is given to these investors who now have got all their black money laundered (which is 35% of the profit). Actors too, prefer to be paid more in black money than white.
4) With theatrical earnings being only one part of the revenue stream of a film, a star-producer can make gains even if his film doesn’t fare well at the turnstiles, by pre-selling satellite, audio and other rights. The mainstream focus has shifted from the Indian market with challenge between multinational corporate production houses in India (20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros) and the export of Hindi films by Indian production houses to the lucrative Indian diaspora markets abroad. With tickets in US being priced at $8 and those in UK being priced at 8 pounds the collection from the 10 million population from overseas is same or more than the collection from the 150 million population in of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. In their search for ancillary revenue they have expanded to newer markets and new revenue steams like licensing (cable and satellite rights earn 33% and growing), merchandising, pay per view etc.
5) The rise of multiplexes has led to more parallel screening. Multiplexes give 50% in week one, 42.5% in week two, 37.5% in week three and 30% thereafter to the distributor. If a film collects 17.50 crore nett from the six major chains then the first week and second week share is 52.5% and 45% respectively. Single screens are mainly on rental for big films so if a film generates big collections then 80% or even 90% of that can be the distributor share.
Cost: Composers charge between Rs. 30 and Rs. 60 lakh. The way it works for a top music composer is this: he charges around Rs. 10-20 lakh per song; if there are six songs, he gets paid Rs. 60 lakh to Rs. 1.2 crore. After paying off the expenses of recording, including fees of singers, lyricists, charges of the recording room etc., the composer is generally left with Rs. 30-60 lakh. Among lyricists, Javed Akhtar is perhaps the highest paid (Rs 3 lakh per song), followed by Gulzar (Rs 2 lakh). Other renowned song writers charge anything ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000 per song. Even action directors, who were paid moderately, nowadays demand Rs. 30-40 lakh per film. If the action scenes are too many and too stylish, the action master’s pay packet could even go up to Rs. 75 lakh. With post production accounting for 20% of the film budget and taking 20% of the total time. Print costs are currently about 15-25% of a film's production cost. PR & ads expense 15-30 crores.
The Hindi film industry that is a loose agglomeration of old-style film families and newly-established studios, of venerated stars and tough-talking directors, often defies the cliches it embodies. Legendary producer-director Nasir Hussain’s grandson Imran Khan was launched as an actor by his uncle Aamir Khan and will appear soon in another Aamir production ‘Delhi Belly’; Shahid Kapoor, son of critically acclaimed actors Pankaj Kapoor and Neelima Azeem, will next be seen in Dad’s maiden directorial venture ‘Mausam’; and Ranbir Kapoor is a scion of The Kapoor Family. Actor-producer Anil Kapoor insists that at a certain level, star kids have a tougher time than industry outsiders. “If you are not the child of a famous actor, the audience has zero expectations of you so whatever you do is a plus,” he says. But he also admits that being the child of a film family gives you an entry-point advantage: Sonam (one of those rare star daughters to get the backing of her parents) was able to pick up the phone to get an AD-ship with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
After the success of the Dharmendra-Sunny-Bobby-starrer ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ earlier this year, Dharmendra will be seen with daughter Esha Deol in ‘Tell Me O Khuda’ directed by his wife Hema Malini. Just this week, Salman Khan—son of superhit writer Salim Khan, stepson of the legendary Helen, brother of successful-producer- director-but-still-struggling-actor Sohail Khan, brother also of successful-producer-but-still-struggling-actor Arbaaz Khan, brother-in-law of actor-director Atul Agnihotri, brother-in-law also to screen-scorching item girl Malaika Arora Khan—is in our theatres with ‘Ready’.And coming up from producer-director Karan Johar is ‘Student of the Year’ which marks the acting debuts of Alia Bhatt (daughter of Mahesh Bhatt and Soni Razdan) and Varun Dhawan (son of David Dhawan). Since Shah Rukh Khan’s debut over two decades back, only two non-film-family-sons have managed to garner high visibility: Akshay Kumar and John Abraham. During this period, there has also been a parade of star sons who were launched with much fanfare that fizzled out in whimpers: Bobby Deol, Fardeen Khan, Zayed Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Viveik Oberoi and so many more. But the Kapoors—India’s longest-surviving film family—know well that in a field where the audience is the ultimate arbiter, lineage is no substitute for talent, charisma and quality films. Ever since Prithviraj Kapoor stepped off a train from Peshawar on to a station platform in Mumbai in 1928, every single generation of this family has contributed at least one major star to the Hindi film industry. But Ranbir’s uncles Randhir and Rajiv could not make a dent.
Another lesson to be learnt from their story is that each Kapoor actor who has succeeded in films has cherished his individuality and has not mimicked another family member. So after Prithviraj’s imperious presence came Raj’s loveable tramp, Shammi’s yahoo ways and Shashi the urbane romantic. Rishi—the only one of Raj’s children to earn stardom—resembled none of his forebears. Ranbir may have made a brief bow to Raj’s tramp in his debut film ‘Saawariya’, but is now completely his own person.
As are cousins Karisma and Kareena whohave no Kapoor women that they can be compared to.The Kapoors are back to being a major force in Bollywood with reigning queen Kareena. After an awww-inspiring guest appearance in ‘Love Aaj Kal’, Rishi’s wife Neetu too returned in a leading role with ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ that was just recently declared last year’s National Award winner for Best Hindi Film.