Clueless over content, Indian filmmakers seek polls

By Vinod Mirani

A newspaper article I found was shocking beyond belief. I was flabbergasted to say the least. He said filmmakers want search agencies to find out what will work at the box office! Isn’t it pathetic that filmmakers no longer know what people want to see or what kind of films they should make?

When did a musician or a painter start looking for an inquiry to decide what to compose or paint?! All you can do is work on the conviction and wish that it would be appreciated, accepted.

Have filmmakers lost touch with the masses, their audience, because for nearly two decades corporations have funded them without knowing at all what cinema is?

So you don’t care about the content and you just made what the film industry calls a proposal. A proposal is a proposal that has a star and all the other disguises, but no content worth watching! It wasn’t like the days when a filmmaker risked everything he had and borrowed from a movie financier. Money flowed in from corporate houses. They bet on a creator who could put together a project as if it guaranteed returns.

To cite an example, two films released in the same week of August 15, 1975. They contrasted like no other pair of simultaneously released films. The movies were ‘Sholay’ and ‘Jai Santoshi Maa’. Both films became blockbusters. So much so that the producer of “Jai Santoshi Maa” is on the list of the biggest taxpayers of the year!

Who or what research agency could have predicted such a phenomenal success for ‘Jai Santoshi Maa’, a mythological without face value that a maker could count on! There are many such examples.

There is no God at the box office was a phrase used in a lighter vein. This meant that not even God can predict a movie’s outlook. No one knows the secret. If so, the creators of “Sholay” and “Jai Santoshi Maa” would have repeated their hit formula.

‘Ghayal’, a revenge action film, and ‘Dil’, a romance film aimed at young people, were released on the same day, June 22, 1990. The two films were polar opposites in themes. I don’t know if a survey could have predicted which one would work, but both became super hits.

According to that media report I mentioned at the beginning, there are agencies that promise to find out from the masses, especially young people, and enlighten the producer on what would work. Filmmakers want to take inspiration from OTT platforms to find out what works with viewers. Where is the comparison?

What works with spectators? Take for example ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’ on OTT and the feature film ‘Big Bull’. Both were based on the story of Harshad Mehta’s stock scam. “Scam 1992” was hailed as one of the best OTT features ever, but “Big Bull” failed miserably! Can a Polling Agency Determine What Makes OTT Content Work While Movies Fail?

An agency claims to have a few lakh youngsters on its list. So, will their opinions or choices (although they will never be the same) help this agency to draw conclusions about trends?

Previously, movies were made with a number of characters and stories that were told quietly, and any 150-minute short was not worth the money spent by people buying movie tickets. Compared to that, today’s movies don’t have the content of more characters and are no longer than 90-120 minutes in most cases.

Surveys are something a company entrusts to an agency such as Hindustan Thompson to evaluate their product line or when planning to launch a new product to compete with already existing products. I have been subject several times.

A routine investigation was simply filling out a form, but there used to be what was called a “thorough investigation.” It took about an hour and you didn’t mind as you usually knew the interviewer and he offered you snacks as he continued. The product to be launched was never mentioned but existing similar products were; if you used or liked any of them, you were asked why. This gave the emerging brand an idea of ​​what was preferred.

How does such an investigation help a filmmaker? If a filmmaker doesn’t know what works with audiences, they might as well not indulge.

Anees Bazmee, screenwriter and director of successful Hindi films, decided to conduct his own investigation. He asked me to help him out with a list of hit movies from the 1950s/60s and 70s so he could watch them all and find out what made so many of them with different actors work the same year. This era produced several hits each year.

Even the best judges of a movie’s box office potential don’t get real feedback on a movie until after it’s been released. The strategy was to watch a film with the audience, follow them to the restrooms during intermission and after the film was over, and then stay on the premises of the cinema to hear commentary. The reactions one would hear about a film were full of swear words, whether the reports were for or against the film.

We like to follow Hollywood trends. So we also tried that old Hollywood practice of “paid previews”. What did our people do? Released a new movie a day or two earlier on evening shows instead of the normal Friday release. Admission prices have been increased for those seeking the privilege of being the first to see a film.

That’s not how true Hollywood paid previews worked. A film was shown to a willing, paying audience without the title or cast being mentioned. At the end, their views were solicited. Since the viewer had paid, decent feedback was expected. He worked to correct the content if necessary.

What Hindi filmmakers are doing is remaking Southern hits. What better investigation do you need than these tried and true movies?

The magic phrase for a film was “universal acceptance”. So each manufacturer has created something that the general public would love. Now that you get risk-free funding, you make movies like “Badhai Do,” a movie about a man and a woman who have same-sex preferences. Does this topic seem to have “universal appeal”? Universal appeal means something that the public, from the front row to the back row of the balcony, can identify with. A film to watch with the family.

Amitabh Bachchan’s failed AB Corp was the first to indicate that running a film company was not the job of marketing graduates, MBAs. You had to have an instinct for that kind of creativity. They are better at selling consumer products and they need surveys for that.

As a dialogue in the movie Dirty Picture said, “Filmein sirf teen wajah se chalti hai: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment (Movies run for three reasons: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment).” If true, this investigative affair is the biggest joke the filmmakers have ever made. (IANS)