Malayalam Film Industry and the word ‘crisis’ are like the ‘Lava-Kusha’ inthe Ramayana. Whenever we talk about Malayalam Cinema we hear someone lamenting: ‘Malayalam Cinema is in deep crisis’ or ‘Malayala Cinema ICU vilanu’ or ‘Malayala Cinema Nashikkunnu’… Infact these phrases have are oft repeated that they have become as stale as any Satyan Anthikkad- Nattinpuram-Pattikutty-Nelpadam-Amma-Makan script.
What is it with Malayalam Cinema these days? Is it the ‘OLF’ invasion(my friend whose dad runs a theatre in Ernakulam district says that except for Vijay’s Velayudham’ all the OLF released in recent times have failed miserably after the initial hype and hoopla died down and will cause heavy losses to it’s kerala distributors!) that’s doing the damage? Or should theMalayalee film makers who make outdated stuff be blamed? Or is it a problem with the Malayalee audience who prefer watching everything via Youtube or Torrent to going to a nearby cinema hall?
Maverick film maker Ram Gopal Verma recently said: ‘when a movie flops,itdoesn’t mean that all the money that a producer invested in it has vanishedinto thin air but it simply implies the poor guy could nt make the public pay for the losses that he had incurred from a director ,actor(s), and the technicians involved in making a movie’. This year we have not only seen many producers going bankrupt making super star disasters like ‘Doubles'(Reels On Wheel Entertainment), Train (Harvest movie makers), Bombay March 12(RedRose Creations), Teja Bhai Family (Anantha Visions), Orma Mathram (HorizonMovies ), Arjunan Sakshi(SRT Films) but also some really promising debutant investors making a mark with meaningful yet commercially succesful ventures like Traffic(Magic Frames), Salt N Pepper(Lucsam Entertainment), Indian Rupee, Urumi(August Cinemas). One of it’s offering even made it as the country’s official entry to the Academy Awards(Adaminte Makan Abu). So definitely things are not that bleak . It’s easy to write it off by saying ‘Make good movies,we will watch it’. But then were movies like Sandesham, Thaniyavarthanam (now considered as cult classics) hits at the time of their theatrical release? The answer is a big, emphatic No! Here we try to analyse some possible ways which can at least help the aspiring producers/film makers in not making big flops in the future!
1.Make Movies based on realistic/contemporary/innovative themes:
Be it Traffic, Salt N pepper, Indian Rupee, Urumi, Seniors(a sex comedy with a some what innovative premise) all the movies which made a mark this year had something fresh to offer. The same Malayali who booed and trashed stale stuff like ‘Kudumbasree Travels, Teja Bhai, Ulakam Chuttum Valibhan flocked to cinemas and made movies like Seniors, Urumi hits. Remember, at least 50% of movies success is based on how good the script is, script should be the super star!
2. Recognize your target audience and time the release accordingly:
Like in any other bussiness, movie making should also be based on market requirements. You can’t expect a sober movie like Pranayam (even if how good/bad it is) to do well in a festive season when some quality entertainment is what every one is looking for in theaters. Had it not been released in the long summer vacation period, we don’t think an utter nonsense like ‘China Town would have made this much money. Similarly the lack of competition helped a not-so-great offering like Make-Up Man a success.
3. Make Movies within realistic budgets:
Malayalam Cinema is a small entity.It’s high time that our beloved filmmakers realised this. Any Malayalam movie made with a budget of over 4-5 crores(unless it’s a multi lingual with a Pan Indian cast) spells danger(Anwar,Saagar Alias Jackey,Dubai,Pattalam-to name a few). Moreover no Malayali watches a malayalam movie to see gimmicks/pale imitations of their western-North Indian counterparts being played out. What’s the point inwasting crores when all that you have got to show is a hero(the middleaged,out of shape one or the Young/handsome one) dressed in super cool clothes walking in ultra slo-mo or him riding a royal enfield motor cycle multiple times? The relevant thing here is that even this year’s blockbuster ‘salt N Pepper’ was a super success only in terms of it’s ROI(5.5-6 crores total gross against an investment of 1.7-1.8 crores). No onereally knows what the real figures of big budget starrers like Christian Brothers(rumoured to be around 12-14 crores), China Town(rumored to be around 8-9 crores). If aMalayalam movie is made within a realistic budget (somewhere around 2.5-3 crores) even if the movie fails in the box office ,the chances of the producer recovering his money through the non-theatrical revenue (satellite,Home video,misc rights) are very high. Which means a producer can even go on to make money out of a movie which had done only average business in it’s theatrical run(Manikyakallu – Gowri Lakhmi movies;Janapriyan -SpotlightVisuals;3 Kings – VNM creations ).
4.Sell your movie in un tapped markets:
There is a saying that’ even in Moon,you might see a Malayalee running atea shop. So far the major chunk of overseas revenue for a Malayalam moviehas been from the middle east. Thanks to the ultra quality youtube, Torrent prints we have lost many markets like the U.S. and U.K.where large number of malayalis have found themselves as migrants. However what the producers don’t realize is that if they make the legal prints of their movies available for the NRI users (i.e for IP addresses except Indian and the middle east)in reputed websites/you tube on a pay-per-view basis they can still make money out of it).
5.Working on the remuneration of the lead actors:
In Malayalam Cinema, it’s often said that more than 60 percent of the Cost of Production(COP) lies in the remuneration of the lead actors. The 2 superstars of Malayalam Cinema are said to charge about Rs.1.5 crores. So for an average Malayalam superstar movie which costs about 4-5 crores , the effective fund for making the movie is somewhat between 1.5-2 crores. We all know that Kerala is not a place where people would simply flock to theatres just to watch a Mohanlal romancing a teenager half his age or a Mammootty playing a hide and seek with a North Indian actress. If that wasn’t the case movies like Alexander the great, Doubles would have atleast got an opening. The other day someone was heard saying: ‘Don’t make movie with a Superstar unless you have got the kind of money that they ask for’! But what these people don’t realise is that this concept of ‘superstardom’ is not working in Kerala anymore! Most of the mainstream (higly paid)actors in Malayalam Cinema have their own production houses. From the bussiness point of view don’t you think it would be more viable if the producers (of the 2 M,Dilip,Prithviraj movies) can strike a deal with the production houses of their lead actors and work in a ‘symbiotic’ manner. This means a movie which cause loss to it’s producer would also mean loss to the actor’s production house(i.e a reduction in the actor’s standard remuneration) and a profit means an incentive to the actor also(in addition to his existing remuneration,of say 1.5 crore he would receive a part of the profit also). I believe that If such a system comes the bigger stars with all the experience that they have got would at least refrain from doing shits like ‘College Kumaran‘, The Train etc and stop betraying their ever loyal audience.
Wishing Malayalam Cinema all the best!
2.The film producers association list of the succesful films list of 2010.
3.The converstion that i had with Mr Nandakumar,Nandanafilms(Thaniyavarthanam,Yadavam et al)
4.The conversation that i had with my friend who is the son of a leadingfilm exhibitor in the ekm district.