We know that the coronavirus pandemic is going to change the movie business in more ways that one, but only time will tell us what those changes will be. At a recent webinar set up by Comscore India in association with Film Companion, leading storytellers discussed the possible challenges the industry needs to brace itself for. Baahubali filmmaker SS Rajamouli, while putting forth his predictions of a post-COVID world, also said he was looking forward to rising to the new challenges that lie ahead.
Excerpts of his views on storytelling and star salaries:
STREAMING WILL CHANGE THE TASTE OF AUDIENCES
For us to give a concrete idea of how we are going to move forward, we need one constant. Here there are no constants. Everything is a variable. When the theatres open up, we don't know what kind of restrictions are going to be there. We don't know how ready the audience will be to come out in public.
Let's assume it takes a year for everything to get back to normal. In this time people will be consuming a lot of online content. They will find a different taste, they will evolve. I won't say for better or for worse, but it's a change of taste. So by the time they come back, we will have a different set of audience. If we don't give content that matches their new standard, they will reject it. There will be many more new filmmakers who are going to come with new content and also filmmakers who are still hanging on to the old ideas. Everything is a variable, we don't know what's going to happen. We have to be ready to face the challenge.
I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
To be very frank, I am excited. What is happening around us is obviously a very sad situation. But as storytellers we are facing a big challenge and I am excited to take on that challenge. Many of us will fall down, many of us will get up, some of us will get up and fall again. This is an exciting challenge, not a depressing one. At present we just don't know what tools we have in our hand to survive. As we start grasping the tools that we are going to have, be sure that we are going to come at you.
STARS ALONE CAN'T SELL A MOVIE
Let's take, for example, an opening shot of Salman Khan where he gets into a boxing ring, opens his shirt, and you see his ripping muscles. When you watch that, you don't care why he is doing that or for what purpose. The moment you see that in the theatre, people are going to shout and scream and throw papers. When you're in the theatre you're going to experience that euphoria, so you have a certain unique experience. But that same thing on a OTT platform on your personal device will not give you the same experience. So some may ask what else is there to this scene.
Probably the scene has to be changed to something like Salman Khan has to win Rs 1000 in the match so that he can go back and feed his hungry child. Now it's not just about showing your rippling muscles but adding a story to that. That's going to sell even when you're on a personal device. So in these Corona times, you need to have a story. Just opening of rippling muscles is not going to bring you the audience. Just because you have superstar, you can't sell your story. We need to have something else to sell your product.
WILL STARS HAVE TO TAKE PAY CUTS?
The first thing we should clearly understand is the simple economics of movies – the person who is going to pull the audience to the theatre is going to be the maximum beneficiary. But also during this time, the first thing that is going to be shaved off is the luxuries. So if having a star in your project is a luxury, then the remuneration is going to be slashed. If in your story, the star is the main audience pulling factor then his remuneration won't be cut. It's as simple as that.