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Published by: dilpublishfilm on Aug 27, 2009
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Bollywood\u2019s Long March: From Family Monarchy to Corporate Democracy

For historians, this is the occasion to depict a new history. History of a new long march , not in China, but in Bollywood! It is a complete bloodless revolution. A saga of long march from the history of interwoven nexus of black money, Mafia lords and matinee mugals who are enjoying the filmdom as familydom, to a healthy democracy of corporate players. If there is any difficulty from the part of historians for finding any idioms or jargons, only need is to scan recent developments that are going on in Bollywood. Bollywood, the big \u2018Brother\u2019 of Indian cinema too is speaking some jargons. But there is a slight difference. Their business language is new. Stars are called talent, movies are projects, selling films is de-risking and buying them is building intellectual property rights. Had Raj Kapoor been alive today, obviously he would not have found any difficulty in raising money for his quintessential \u2018show pieces\u2019. Take his filmSatyam Shivam

Sundaram , the film cost Rs 85 lakh to make, less than what producers spend these days on one

song alone. Even he, the man with a \u2018show man\u2019 image, could not avoid some underworld dons for funds. In later periods his successors advanced such connections. But that financial retreat is now changing. The most empirical evidence for this change is the entrepreneurship of a single man called Anil Ambani- one of the top ten richest persons living in the earth! Because, Ambani\u2019s aggressive strategy is now becomes clear from his sights on becoming the country\u2019s new entertainment czar, straddling the entire arena of content (movies, Internet portals, television, radio, and music) and its distribution across various platforms. Yes, the past couple of years, Bollywood is witnessing that single phenomenon of life that we -the common people- crave for all our lives and yet fear it most-CHANGE! Individual players replaced by big corporate players. These big players need not wait for a call from their exhibiters from territories as desperate as Bihar and Mumbai. They can sense it from the high quality multiplex releases under their nose. Our \u2018Bolly\u2019 buffs, unlike their predecessors, are lucky to see this wonderful change. And the family monarchs such as Kapoors, Chopras, Barjatyas, Roshans and Bhats are now can slowly hand over their mike to these new corporate players like Anil Ambani Group Firm\u2019s Reliance Big Entertainment, Ronnie Screwvala\u2019s UTV, and Kishore Lulla\u2019s Eros etc. That is, over the next 15 months, even the sceptics will start using jargon as listed companies and private producers proceed to spend Rs 1,00,00 crore on making movies. They are prudent investors. First two weeks are enough for them to recycle their investment.

Taking the rising costs into account, Bollywood has never been bigger. It had been never as focused as it is today. The industry, remaining fragmented for a long time has now, however, consolidated to five major studios, which are in the process of controlling the last grain of movie revenue. Reliance alone has in intended fund of $1 billion (Rs 4,000 crore), of which it has committed Rs 500 crore. It has committed not only Bollywood but also eight Hollywood production houses that deal with celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Brad Pit and Nicolas Cage. Between them, Eros, United Television (UTV) and Indian Films, an affiliate of TV18, have raised $45 million, $70 million and $110 million, respectively, from the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in London, which will soon find their way to starry back pockets and busy studio floors. Others have gone public and raised another Rs 1000 crore through their IPO\u2019s (Initial Public Offer).

Star fees have gone up, as have the fees of talent down the line. Till last year, a big release was one that hit 1,500 screens. Now, they are talking in terms of 2,000-screen releases. Now Bollywood is exploring new avenues of revenue that had previously never explored. A theatrical release in Germany or mobile downloads, they are now expanding rapidly. In each and every year, there is a record for breaking. Last year, 3.95 billion tickets were sold while revenues were Rs 5,600 crore. That is the sea change from 2000 when our big \u2018B\u2019 (ollywood) is accorded the status of an industry. At that time it was too immature for this honour. The filmdom was disorganized and run by a few families. Now that monarchy is over. There is no room for weeping family sagas. The industry- in every sense- is overcoming its zigzag. It has emerged bigger and better in every aspect. Our\u2018artwalla s\u2019 who had quit the system in disgust are now all in a hurry, whether it is Sudhir Mishra, Saeed Akhtar Mirza or Jahnu Barua. Youngsters from Ad or FTTI, or from abroad are digging this hot sand for water like never before.

The action seems to be off screen, not all on screen. Akshay Kumar is celebrating his 20- crore price tag by buying a three-acre Portuguese heritage bungalow on Goa\u2019s \u2018so called\u2019 Anjuna beach. And his colleagues too are not ready to sit in idle. They are also running for new greeneries as a result of their pounds in granaries. And actor-director Rajat Kapoor, who spent seven years struggling to raise Rs 30 lakh for his second film, now has a blank cheque to make five films for Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC). That is why we can say this film fraternity is a new economy.

New Players

Their grease is fresh. Some of them are new kids in this block such as Indian Films and UTV\u2019, are digging from small screen to big, by raising money on London\u2019s AIM. Others like the 31-year-old company Eros that is controlling 40% of the growing overseas market. Over the next three years there are 50 films with them. All of these companies, as UTV\u2019s Ronnie Screwvala puts it, would like to build long-term relationships with new talent.

While Eros\u2019s Kishore Lulla can boast ties with a superstar like Shah Rukh Khan that date back to bringing him to London for the premiere ofBaazigar, Screwvala can tick off the class directorsf ro m Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra to Vishal Bharadwaj. Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC) and PVR Pictures have both raised money from the stock market to support sensible cinema. Their styles are not more dissimilar. Nandy can take some credit for 2-crore multiplex movie (Jhankaar Beats) which has a limited release backed by efficient marketing and PVR\u2019s Ajay Bijli powered Aamir Khan\u2019sTaare Zameen Par from a Rs 25-crore Movie about child care and education into a blockbuster. Subhash Ghai, created Mukta Searchlight, for kicking a sleeper hit like Nagesh Kukoonoor\u2019sIqbal, and directed an earnest Rs 7.5-crore film like Black and White . Now you can understand the never-before change that is manifesting in Bollywood.

Stars as Talents

In Bollywood, a new star is yearned for, but rarely born, every minute. Take a minor actor like Zayed Khan, cast as a second thought in Mission Istanbul, when Bobby Deol dropped out, he is getting Rs 1.25 crore for the film. Or Riteish Deshmukh, who has only ever had ensemble hits, who goes up to Rs 2 crores a film. They are not alone; the talents down the line are also not so behind in this race for picking the right tamarind branch. From directors to cinematographers to production designers and even writers, the whole galaxy is in a full swing for sucking this juice like once in a blue moon! Five years ago, Javed Akhtar used to charge Rs 20,000 per song. Now he charges Rs 2 lakh. The only change is that, these kurta walla lyricists can have so much company (?) with aristocrat professional lyricists of nowadays- like Parsoon Joshi! Production designer Nitin Desai makes Rs 50 lakh on every Film while ace cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran can charge up to Rs 1 crore.

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