We’re in a mess, says filmmakers hit by global meltdown

November 15th, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 15 (IANS) The current financial crisis that has hit the world is considered as the worst since the Great Depression of 1929 and the Indian film industry too is feeling the heat. However, most of the Bollywood moneybags Suneel Darshan, Hansal Mehta and Vashu Bhagnani, among others, blame corporatisation of filmdom for the crisis. A sampling of what they had to say to IANS: Suneel Darshan: Bollywood is not isolated from the crisis. But it isn’t as severe for us as it is for the rest of the world. A few corporate houses were rash enough to up the prices for stars and film budgets. They’re now panic-stricken. I took a sabbatical in 2008 to re-assess the situation. But now I look forward to a busy 2009.

Madhur Bhandarkar: There’s a serious meltdown going on everywhere. And stars have already been forced to reduce their prices. Even the ones who command no fan following had begun to charge Rs.20 million (Rs.2 crores). The bubble was bound to burst, better it happened sooner than later. Would I make more budget-friendly films? My budgets are entirely dictated by the theme. I’ve made “Traffic Signal” at Rs.40 million, but “Fashion” at Rs.400 million.

Vikram Bhatt: The cash crunch has created a panic in the market. Lots of banks have frozen their credit lines, which means the big corporate production houses will have less banking support. To make matters worse, the film industry has lost close to Rs.600 million (Rs.60 crores) in the month of October alone.

It’s a two-pronged attack with the corporate houses ceasing to acquire films. It remains to be seen whether “Golmaal Returns” will recover its cost of Rs.450 million. We’re in a mess. Stars never reduce their prices. One will have to look at films’ budgets to economise. More importantly the entertainment tax will have to come down. In some states, it’s as high as 50 percent. That’s killing the film business.

Mahesh Bhatt: We Bhatts have never been a victim of our own hype. Our core values have insulated us from the bogus “Bollywood Shining” myth. We continue doing what we’ve done for years. Low cost high quality is the mantra we need to embrace. This mantra made China a superpower.

Hansal Mehta: In times of recession, it is usually high risk markets like films that feel the crunch almost immediately. Bollywood in particular is going to feel the impact of the crisis as the current scenario though what is called ‘corporatisation’ is actually an example of poor corporate governance and total fiscal indiscipline. Recession or no recession, Bollywood was and is bound to go through a massive correction.

Bunty Walia: There’s a definite financial crisis, and it’s not just about star prices, but everything associated with the film business must be restructured and we need to face the stark reality. We need to control the budget and sales of films. They’re way above the top. We need to rethink and reassess the situation. Otherwise it’s curtains for film industry.

Harry Baweja: It’s more of a wait-and-watch situation now. But, yes, market correction will happen. Budgets will be restructured affecting star prices. Selling films will be difficult now. Production houses which produce and distribute their own films will be better placed. On the plus side the Diwali releases have a bumper collection. So the belief that the entertainment industry will rock in any given situation stays true.

Vashu Bhagnani: Ironically it’s the culture of corporatisation that has both organised and spoilt the film industry. While it made everyone more professional and we no longer shook hands over deals and actually put everything on paper, the corporate culture also brought arbitrary money from the outside.

These corporate houses were willing to pay stars anything just to get them on board. The crazy star-buying spree has had a snowballing effect. Prices have hit the roof. Stars will definitely have to bring down their price, though they would still be indispensable. Audiences do come to watch stars.

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