varnachitram

A Blog on Cinema

We need the studio system

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The Sundance Film Festival got over this week in Park City, Utah. This film festival which ranks along with Cannes, Moscow, Berlin, Italy and Toronto in prestige is the largest independent cinema festivals in the United States. Many film makers such as Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Soderbergh got their break here and movies such as The Blair Witch Project, El Mariachi, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape, got fame from this festival.

The movies shown in this festival are low-budget films called indie films which means that less than half of the budget of the movie came from a major movie studio. Usually indie films have themes which are quite different from the typical mass entertainers produced by major studios and vary in style and content. The indie film industry now has about 15% of the domestic box office revenues in United States.

The movies made in [tag]Kerala[/tag] can be called indie films as they are usually produced by individual producers, stars, wives or their drivers. They put their personal wealth into movies and based on how bad the output is and how willing the viewers are to tolerate that output, the future of the producer is decided.

While developed countries are experimenting with Indie films, we need to experiment with the studio system. These studios which can go public on the stock market can raise capital from the markets and fund lavish movies. Studios can be efficient and can have trained professionals to look at each aspect of film making.

The multiplex boom is happening in India and investors are looking beyond the metros to smaller towns like Kochi, Bhatinda, Coimbatore, Kota, Madurai and Ambala. Lavish productions like Tamil and Hindi movies will have a good run in such theatres and for [tag]Malayalam Cinema[/tag] to hold up, there has to be more influx of money into film making which can come from the studio system.

Once upon a time Navodaya used to be a premier studio in Kerala lapping up the latest technology like 70mm, 6-track stereophonic sound, and 3-D. Now a days no single producer can lift such heavy load and cash rich studios can help.

In an interview with us, playback singer Alex Mathew mentioned that currently his life and the life of many others working in the film industry depends on the willingness of one single producer to make a movie. Major motion picture studios can offer long term contracts to creative personal thus offering more stability.

Right now the the film industry is held hostage by organizations like [tag]AMMA[/tag] which is like a coterie which decides who will do what. You need AMMA’s permission to appear on stage, appear on televisions and even to go to the bathroom. .

Having multiple studios compete for talent will help here. Motivated by the desire to make profits, studios will be less bothered by such ego clashes. If you have the talent and the ability to attract an audience, then they will be willing to invest in you. In the case of Tom Cruise his private behavior offended the head honcho of Paramount and he was fired, but he immediately took over as the head of United Artistes film studio. Right now in Kerala, if you offended any of the AMMA members, then you can pretty much say good bye to your career.

We cannot ridicule other film industries and say that we will make only arty-classy movies. Those are required, but along with that we need to produce good entertainers and big budget movies. There has to be something more exciting to pull viewers off their tear jerking mega serials on television. If theatres are closing down to lack of viewership, even those arty-classy movies will die away.

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5 Comments

  1. That’s a very good observation. Gone are the days of studios like Udaya, Navodaya etc.

    It would be interesting to see an article on why the studios like Navodaya is not active these days. Last time when I checked out, Kunchacho Boban was going to renovate Udaya studios. I don’t know what happened to that.

    But Indie films style is very much required to produce good movies out of the commercial main stream. In the example you have given, Steven Soderbergh is a master of his art in most of his films.

    Multiplex movies could help promoting the Indian English movies (which is out of Bollywood style and has some experimental style which is to be appreciated), but its too costly to watch a cinema in a multiplex.

  2. Very good article. You have presented a strong case for studios in kerala. It will atleast bring in more professionalism, capital, modernity and less of politics to play here. Bollywood has begun moving to the corporate route thru ppl like prithish nandy, UTV, Adlabs, etc but the big producers like Chopras, Johars dont wont studio system there and karan johar told that much at a conference with Hollywood studios last year.

    in a similar vein i doubt that big producers like lal, mohanlal, swargachithra, aroma, etc, etc will show enterprise enuf to corporatise and bring in the studio culture to kerala that they percieve will only lessen their personality clouts that today rule and ruin the malayalam industry.

    Its another matter that hollywood film-makers blame studios for running american films to the ground with business talk, budgetting, profits, etc taking the front-seat and creativity suffering. but like you said we need big-budget movies too with great production values…it is depressing to see even some of our so-called big budget movies showing miserliness in technical quality and making compromises for budget limitations.

    people in the film field keep moaning that ppl stay away from theatres…i wonder if at their meetings at the AMMA, MACTA, KFC forums they talk any of this, or just talk politics like banning other members, etc, etc. once again…great article…keep up the good work!

  3. I don’t know if you remember Udaya and Neela studios. They were making big budgest movies with generally questionable artistic value but great entertainers. It would have been great if someone would write on the evolution and demise of those studios and their contributions to Malayalam films.

    Then there was M.O.Joseph’s “Manjilas” productions perhaps not a studio in the generic sense but they made consistently great films with K.S.Sethu Madhavan’s direction. K.S is probably one of the best directors Malayalam films ever had, he made hit films with unique aesthetic touch. So was Thoppil Bhasi, they both worked with Manjilas on many films.

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