Short Films, Big Aspirations

When the video format first entered India, everybody rushed to make a video film as the budget worked out to only a few lakhs! Everyone expected that Doordarshan (DD) would buy their video film or, otherwise, thought that one of the numerous video companies which had sprung up overnight would make a purchase. Thousands of such films were waiting to be sold. But, there was just one hitch. The video rights buyers were interested only in films that released in theatres.

At that time, Doordarshan was the only TV channel in India. The design of its head office, Mandi House, was apt to describe what happened to anybody who went there to try his/her luck. It is a round building with a never-ending passage on each floor. You just went around in circles. Also, DD had a system of touts like all other government departments. In DD and the Railways they were called touts; fixers on a bigger scale were called liaison men.

The makers of these video films next placed their faith in buyers of Video Rights. These buyers were not yet organised or even legit. A lot of films were bought by these people from dubious video rights holders, Legal Notices flew left, right and centre in trade magazines. A company which monopolised the trade was one Esquire Video, based in Hong Kong. The film producers, whose rights were poached, had neither the resources not the inclination to fight a legal battle. Also, most poachers was based outside India. The prints of old films were sourced from the overseas markets where they had no repeat value.

The reason for the lack of demand for these telefilms was that people were not interested in watching them. They featured no known film stars nor were they promoted. So, what happened to those films made especially for the Video format? Nothing. They were a total loss. Flushed down the drain. These films were made usually in 16 mm since there was no digital format in those days. Those days, budgets in crores were unheard of. These film were made with budgets of around five lakh and that was considered a big sum in those days.

This video plan flopped after the video rights buyers released a few films on the format but realised that it was not easy to create awareness about them. If a film cost five lakh, creating awareness would cost twice or thrice as much. The advertorial media was yet to arrive on the scene.

What worked was only those films which got national advertising space and those which made it to the cinema halls which, in turn, made the public aware of it being a regular feature film with the usual star cast.

Hundreds of video films were dumped causing losses worth crores in the era of a few lakh.

Nowadays we have a similar situation with small screen digital content as short duration films are being produced for mediums like YouTube and many others. 

Just about everybody seems to be shooting content for the small screen on his smartphone! The good news being, it is not going to cost even five lakh as it did earlier. These are usually short duration videos. Digital photography has made things so much simpler and economical.

However, the story repeats itself. Those few who are venturing out to make such projects are sanctioned a budget. The rest are going solo and prospect hunting. They first produce content and then knock on doors. Now there is reported to be no system of upfront payment. You release your product on any of the available digital network platforms and then get paid according to the hits your content earns. There is also a minimum-hits criteria before your content qualifies to get returns.

The other popular trend now is crowd funding. That way, the monetary risk is taken care of but what about the time and aspirations that go into such a venture! Most aspirants wanting to showcase their talents and get noticed are the youth. They expect this to be their gateway to bigger things, like feature films.

Digital platforms such as YouTube, Amazon, Hotstar etc are crowded places. Making it to a certain number of hits is tough, especially when millions of new videos are uploaded every day!

@ The Box Office

*Patriotism seems to be the flavour of the season and the theme to cash in on at the theatres. While Raazi is still basking in its box office glory, comes Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran. The makers claim the film is an entertainer. Barely so. Whatever footfalls it is getting is thanks to its patriotic appeal. Films are now being made to kindle the newly-aroused patriotic fervour among Indians again after pre-independence and the 1960s Lal Bahadur Shastri era. Positivity about India sells.

*Parmanu also opened to a meek response like all such films do. Why was Parmanu needed in the title? Few would know what it means! Just the The Story Of Pokhran would have worked just as well! The film collected Rs 20.5 crore in its first weekend. Critics had good things to say about the film which helped to sustain it at the box office. The film should close its opening week with collections of around Rs 34 crore.

*Raazi continues to hold its own. The novelty of the story rather than how it was scripted seems to have gone down well with audiences. The film, which added a hefty Rs 11 crore in its third week should close its three week total with over Rs 107 crore.

*102 Not Out has collected Rs 48.5 at the end of its third week. The film may add a little over Rs 1 crore for its fourth week.