Producers’ strike hit Bollywood badly, says Reliance’s Amit Khanna

June 07, 2009

Mumbai, The Hindi film industry was hit badly by the stand off between producers and multiplex owners and lost about Rs.300 crore, says Amit Khanna, chairman of Reliance Big Pictures, who was one of the architects of the 12-hour meeting between the two parties. But he adds that the row had brought about more cohesiveness among filmmakers.

“We’re hit very badly. We’ve lost between Rs.200 and Rs.300 crore,” Khanna told IANS.

“But it was finally for the good. Now we’ve to bring in more efficiency to make up for the losses. Last night Aamir Khan called me and we discussed the problems that the film industry has to face. Everyone is now willing to work together,” he added.

The strike between the two parties ended Friday. Besides Khanna, Mukesh Bhatt and Yash Chopra represented the producers’ side.

“From the multiplexes’ side, we had Ajay Bijli (of PVR Cinemas) as the main representative,” said Khanna.

Excerpts:

Q: So is the strike finally over?

A: Yes, it’s finally over. We arrived at a settlement late on Thursday night. The problem was that in the last 15 years the way films were distributed was very different from what it used to be 50 years back. With more releases, emergence of multiplexes and corporate houses planning releases in a more organised and lavish scale, the market had changed dramatically. But no ground rules about marketing and distribution emerged.

Sometimes stronger producers would muscle their way and extract something extra from the multiplexes. Or the larger chain would bully the smaller producer into saying, ‘Okay if you want me to release your film in Kolkata (West Bengal), you give it to me for Asansol also.’

Q: Everyone went home happy after the meeting?

A: Yes. Before I got involved with the strike, the producers and the exhibitors had taken very hard positions. It took a lot of effort to thaw the ice between the two parties. It was a long-drawn process. We started the meeting at 2 p.m. on Thursday and ended at 2 a.m. on Friday morning.

Q: What are the financial equations between multiplex owners and producers that have been worked out?

A: The right to the marketing strategy of a film will now rest with the producer who will decide how and where to release his film. As a counterbalance to this, the showcasing rights as they are called, that is, how many shows for every film, will rest with the exhibitor. The theatre owners will have the right to decide how many shows each film gets. In this way, no one gets exploited.

Q: What about the revenue sharing?

A: It would be 50-50 percent for the first week, 42 percent for the second week, 37 percent for the third week and 30 percent for the fourth week. However there’s a provision provided now by which if a threshold of profits is reached by a film in a certain number of screen then that film will be entitled to a bonus of two percent for the first two weeks. That means a successful film like “Ghajini” gets a little more.

Similarly films that perform poorly, like for instance our own release “Love Story 2050″, the exhibitor gets a two percent rebate.

Q: Besides you, who else were the architects of the resolution?

A: Mukesh Bhatt and Yash Chopra from the producers’ side. From the multiplexes’ side, we had Ajay Bijli as the main representative.

Q: Was the time chosen for the strike a deliberate attempt to coincide with the IPL matches?

A: No I don’t think so. The differences were brewing for a long time. Couple of meetings ended in an impasse. But finally reason prevailed.

Q: How much are the losses for the film industry because of the strike?

A: We’re hit very badly. We’ve lost between Rs.200 and 300 crore. But it was finally for the good. Now we’ve to bring in more efficiency for the system to make up for the losses. Last night Aamir Khan called me and we discussed the problems that the film industry has to face. Everyone is now willing to work together.

Q: What about Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan as the glamour faces of the strike?

A: There was big crisis in the film industry in 1986 and all the stars were involved. Earlier, people like Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Manoj Kumar were actively involved in all industry crises. But Aamir and Shah Rukh were not part of the core community during the just-concluded crisis. I’m sure that after the strike everyone realises that personal interests have to be separated from the industry’s interests.





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