The strike was a fight for survival: Mukesh Bhatt

June 12, 2009

mukesh bhattMumbai, Filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt says his bad experience with the multiplexes during the release of “Raaz 2″ inspired him to become a crusader for producers’ rights during the standoff with multiplex owners over profit sharing.

He now wants to meet the prime minister to remind him about an independent government cell that he promised to set up to safeguard filmmakers’ interests.

“When my ‘Raaz – The Mystery Continues’ was released earlier this year, we decided to do something drastic for the industry to survive. It wasn’t a fight for profit and loss. It was a fight for survival. The way the multiplexes treated me during the release of ‘Raaz’, prompted me to become a crusader,” Bhatt, chairman of the United Producers and Distributors Forum (UPDF), told IANS.

“Raaz 2″ was released in January and Bhatt says the bad experience during its release prompted him to break the monopoly of multiplex owners.

“I realised the multiplexes had formed a cartel. I was totally appalled. I met all the producers, got them together and decided to take multiplex owners on.”

A crippling two-month standoff between Bollywood producers-distributors and multiplexes ended last week.

“I’m flying down to Delhi next week to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni. The independent government cell doesn’t have to benefit us, but it can at least safeguard our interests. There’s lots to do,” he said.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: I believe you’re going to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A: Yes, the end of the strike is just the beginning of the film industry’s recovery. From the time I started producing films this is the worst year ever. I’ve seen all the crises from video piracy to television to IPL (Indian Premier League). I met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before the elections to apprise him of the problem between multiplexes and producers. I told him about the threat from video and television that we faced in the 1980s and 90s. That’s when multiplexes came in. When I told him about the current deadlock, he was horrifed.

Q: What did the prime minister do about the situation?

A: I asked him to put together an independent government cell to look after the interests of the film industry. He couldn’t do it before the elections. But he had promised to implement that cell after the elections. Now that he has won, I’ve sent him a letter reminding him of the promise.

I’m flying down to Delhi next week to meet the prime minister, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni. The independent government cell doesn’t have to benefit us, but it can at least safeguard our interests. There’s lots to do.

Q: Do you feel satisfied with the end of the stalemate between producers and multiplex owners?

A: When I came out of the meeting from Yash Raj Studios at 3 a.m. on Friday, the media said it was time to celebrate. But there’s no time to celebrate. We’ve much more to do.

Q: Do you feel there will be a tumble of releases?

A: We’ve formed a committee to make sure this doesn’t happen. I’m the head of the committee. We’ll monitor the releases and make sure smaller ones don’t get swallowed by bigger ones. From now on we’ll introduce a more streamlined way of releasing films. We can have two small movies coming together, but not two big ones.

Q: How was the two-month imbroglio resolved?

A: It took a 14-hour marathon meeting to do so. The producers have always been a divided a lot. I spearheaded the whole movement of bringing them together. When my “Raaz” was released earlier this year, we decided to do something drastic for the industry to survive. It wasn’t a fight for profit and loss. It was a fight for survival. The way the multiplexes treated me during the release of “Raaz” prompted me to become a crusader.

Q: What happened during “Raaz”?

A: “Raaz” is a brand and an A-grade product. If you look at the sequels, they’ve all done double business of the first film. We expected a stupendous opening for “Raaz 2″. To our horror we were horrified to see the multiplexes were giving me 45 percent of the profits for “Raaz 2″ when for the same banner’s “Jannat” six months earlier with the same hero and a new heroine they gave me 48 percent of the shares and that too during the IPL.

And then they had the arrogance to say that they didn’t owe me any explanation. When the film was released there were as many as 14 shows in a single multiplex. I realised the multiplexes had formed a cartel. I was totally appalled. I met all the producers, got them together and decided to take multiplex owners on.

After the resolution people I never knew congratulated me. It’s heartrending. Some people have called me the Obama of the industry.

Q: So what is next?

A: I’m now crusading against piracy. And the issue of ring tones. The sales of music have gone down. But the ring tones are booming. We producers are not getting a good profit from this. I’m on my Dandi March now. I was born into the business of cinema. Jeena yahan marna yahan. It’s my dream to make Bollywood a paradise.





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