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BW Businessworld

Prepare For A 'Non-star’ Digital Age

Netflix can be a big game changer too. Let us wait and watch how Netflix grows in India. Our country is huge.

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Entertainment on and off the silver screen is likely to see big ‘shifts’ this year. The three big daddies will continue to rule the roost since each of them has a big film releasing this year. Sultan from Salman Khan, Raees from Shah Rukh Khan and Dangal from Aamir Khan will no doubt garner a huge share at the box office. But the big change we might see is the rise of a new set of actors — Ranveer, Ranbir, among others — who will take their place in the firmament of stars.
The real big revolution that will shake up everything, however, is going to be digital. Currently, it is in a soft launch mode but over the next two-three years, with the launch of Reliance Jio and the 4G rollout, there will be a huge change. Content for the digital age is what will grow. The General Entertainment Channels (GECs) are already looking at it, and the entry of Netflix will propel this further.

Last year, we celebrated new and different varieties of movie content, like Talvar and Piku. It will increase in the new year as more producers are willing to experiment. Last year, there was a growing trepidation among audiences who were hesitant, or just not willing to venture into theatres, unless the word of mouth confirmed that the film was worth seeing. There are various reasons for the cautious mood: rising multiplex ticket prices, content not adhering to the single theatres demands, and distractions like television. Collectively, there was a dip in the energy of our audiences which in turn led to a huge decline in footfalls. I hope this trend reverses and the audiences come back to the theatres.

We also need more screens. Currently, there are around 2,300 multiplex screens and if we add the single screen theatres, there are just about 9,000 working screens. That’s not enough.

As an industry, the focus will have to shift to creating content without the big stars. All told we have just 6-8 stars. The need is to empower the others, and create content which either does not need stars or which creates new stars. Studios have no choice but to do this — whether it is a Varun Dhawan or a Siddharth Malhotra we as an industry need to empower them. We cannot keep relying on the handful stars we have. Of course, alongside this, it is critically important to get better writers who can create more engaging content.

We have an eminent filmmaker like Shyam Benegal heading the Censor Board now, and with help coming from none other than our Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, we can look forward to some more flexibility. Let the country decide what they want to watch. It’s not like I am promoting ‘over sexuality’ but let us follow the British Board and keep age certification at 15, or 18 years, etc. I am all for certification, not censorship. And let the mother body be the final authority. For now, all of us are restricted in our content unsure of what will pass muster.

Netflix can be a big game changer too. Let us wait and watch how Netflix grows in India. Our country is huge. But we are also a very habit-bound country. We find it tough to break our habits. We are loyal to what we are used to. We like our GEC prime time fix of 8-11 pm on TV sets. But given that Netflix is here, it just might shake up content creators and empower more people to shift to digital.

As told To Nandini Raghavendra; @nandinirags

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-01-2016)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Karan Johar

The author is a Filmmaker

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