As the year draws to a close, we get five leading Bollywood producers – Karan Johar, Rhea Kapoor, Aanand L Rai, Siddharth Roy Kapur and Priti Shahani (Junglee Pictures) – to review the achievements, disappointments and learnings for the film industry. Rhea, who made the successful Veere Di Wedding, speaks about what it takes to get a female-led film green lit. Karan, who spoke about actors asking for unrealistic payouts at the 2017 roundtable, said there has been no improvement in the situation. And Priti speaks about making two successful films – Badhaai Ho and Raazi. Here are excerpts of the conversation with our editor Anupama Chopra.
On Actors Asking For Exorbitant Salaries
Karan Johar: They are all crazy with a capital C. They’re cuckoo. Because their two films do well, suddenly it’s all I, me, myself. Every film has a different scale. Sometimes, when the budget is huge and the recovery is huge, you must pay. There used to be a philosophy in cinema ki badi picture hai toh aapko kam paise doonga. It works ulta now. If you have a tiny film, you charge tiny, take a backend, work out a deal where you don’t pressurise the budget. But it doesn’t happen like that. It’s really exhausting sitting in monetary discussions. It’s embarrassing… And can I say, I’m all for celebrity management. There are a few agents who are very well versed. But some of them just think, ‘Oh your film did well. Increase your price by 5 crores.’
Priti Shahani: That’s almost all of them. We’ve had conversations internally saying, okay the film has done well, now we need to find the next person that fits the slot. I can tell you that a Badhaai Ho or Bareilly Ki Barfi cannot be made again in the same budgets. It’s impossible.
Rhea Kapoor On The Bias Towards Female-Led Films
There’s a subconscious gender bias. You cannot ignore it. It exists, whether you like it or don’t. I’m talking about pre-sales. I’m talking about people who had no idea about what the content of the film (Veere Di Wedding) was, whether it was its music, satellite, digital or anything… before you could even open your mouth and say that this is what the film is, it was just shut down. I refuse to believe that at some level it does not work in the subconscious. I have made 3 films over 9 years, all with female leads and I’ve been through it. I’ve been through that look on people’s faces… You cannot tell me that it doesn’t exists because I am a girl and I experience it every single day. I experience it in every meeting, every conversation, even in conversations from other women.
Karan Johar and Aanand L Rai On Being Directors As Well As Producers
Karan Johar: Everybody asks what is the job of a producer. So you give the money? It’s not like that. Predominantly the job a producer is ego management, it’s not people management. There are ways of approaching a director to make him or her cut their film. That’s the one thing we all fight about. Length. Every film is long… In my office, I’m reminded that I’m also the producer because I’m so compassionate to the director. And eventually, Apoorva (Mehta, CEO Dharma Productions) will turn around and tell me, ‘you know this is your money, not mine. It’s going. So when you’re fighting with me, I’m fighting for you. You can’t give 3 days for a song.’
Aanand L Rai: Karan sir and me, when we are producing a film, we spend a crore or 2 more because we are directors. We let it go. Ab agar Anurag (Kashyap) bolega ki mujhe 5 din iske liye chahiye, I have to na. I can understand what he is asking for. On other hand, when I see the film I think iske bina jee sakte the humlog.
Why Casting The Parents In Badhaai Ho Was So Hard
Priti Shahani: In Badhaai Ho, I couldn’t cast the parents. The whole script was written from the POV of the parents. We tried to cast it traditionally and then changed the story. At one stage we told the writers to revisit the script. We said, ‘You have to change the POV’. Ayushmann’s Nakul had to be rewritten and in the second half brought more into prominence. Because we are not able to cast parents we need to be able to get to someone who can play this. Actors said ‘I cannot play a mother to a 25 year old’.
Siddharth Roy Kapur On Why Streaming Platforms Are Not A Threat
What I think is really amazing about this year is that it’s a year when the OTT platforms have come into their own. I think what this year showed is that it can all co-exist. You didn’t have to think what is cinematic and what is not cinematic a few years ago, and what will draw people into the cinemas but today with either big blockbuster entertainers or with high concept cinema, people will come repeatedly week after week to watch movies, regardless of the fact that it will be on their platforms in 8 weeks. Regardless of the fact they’ve got a pirated USB drive at home that someone has been able to supply them. You make a good movie and they will come. We don’t need to be scared of these platforms at all.