A report on the state of the movie industry in Kerala shows a difficult time for producers as less than 10% of the movies released in recent years relished a respectable bottom-line. Perhaps, we can extrapolate the same type of performance metrics for other regional language productions. The reasons for such dismal performances are many, including the proliferation of TV and other media channels, Internet streaming, lack of quality productions, piracy, and ever-changing viewer habits.
The competition among the media industries for the market share is fierce. According to a report by Ernst & Young, there are over 600 television channels, 100 million pay-TV subscribers, and 70,000 newspapers in India complementing an annual production of about 1000 movies. Thus, making a box office winner is not an easy task.
There are grandiose, expensive, and epic productions, but there is always a shortage of quality productions and award winners. In spite of an abundance of talented people, in front and behind the camera, good movies, and world-class movies are seldom.
Even though, India has the most prolific, and the biggest movie industry it is still prone to vacillating and volatile market conditions. These days, producers face many constraints including money, manpower, and shrinking market share. Just like any other commercial venture, the producers are in it to win it, and to recoup a profit. Hence, they mostly opt for tried and true formulas, leaning heavily on the entertainment value and by adopting stereotypical storylines, to please a variety of viewers. The mindset to make a fast buck has often compromised creativity, common sense, authenticity and common cause. There is not much leeway to think out of the box or to let loose creativity. As we know, creativity takes time to mature.
Appetite for the run-of-the-mill production is waning; as the same-old-same-old are no longer satisfy the educated viewer. Lately, movies with talented casts, creative directors and lavish spending fail to make money simply because the viewers’ prefer quality. Producers are also realizing that star-power alone anymore carry a movie to success. On the other hand, there are many examples of well-made, low budget, success stories. Talented directors and artists with a bit more love and care craft them.
These days, due to time constraints, I pick and choose what I watch. Most of the times, I glance through reviews, look for certain telltale details such as director, actors, storyline, and other cast and crew as a guide before I set out to watch a two-plus hour movie. I have seen good directors producing bad movies, and newcomers with a limited budget and no star power succeed in producing great movies. These inconsistencies are due to problems inherent in the industry: ‘anything goes’ attitude combined with profit before quality ideology.
Good movies convey positive social messages to build personal and communal harmony. Good movies educate people on the wisdom of cooperation, ethical behavior, coexistence, and teach them empathy, and kindness. Good movies try to tell us stories that are relevant to our emotional well-being. Good movies make us happy, and help us to relate to our emotions. Conversely, bad movies make us depressed, and unhappy. Bad movies emphasize chaos, and confusion, and perhaps make us feel guilty. Bad movies do not challenge our emotional psyche: they simply deplete our energy.
A movie is bad when I visualize the next set of dialogues or the next series of scenes. It is bad when the movie drags on with stereotypical scenes filled with melodrama, convoluted, unreal and awkward plots and subplots, and copycat characters, and a mix of poached storylines. Sometimes, it starts with a good theme, builds up a fair amount of anticipation and self-destructs towards the end. As a result, the audience simply tunes out.
Bad movies energize me as my mind goes astray into the wonderful world of a super director! I feel like I got what it takes to fix the ailments of a poor production. I have the ‘know it all' attitude of a Monday morning quarterback. A recently viewed movie, a big budget production, headlined superstars but was too much of the same-old-same-old: too much melodrama, gut, gory and unending-unbelievable-fight sequences. It looked like a concoction of many things from the years past: a kind of cut and paste collage. The presence of superstars did not improve the quality of the movie or the box office rating.
I, the Armchair director, plot many ways to salvage the movie. I would, from the comforts of my home, to start to cut and edit scenes, change camera angles, use close-ups to capture emotions, and direct actors to express more "bhavas.” I would trim endless fight sequences, delete utter shameful and annoying comedy scenes and amend melodramatic situations to realistic-serious scenes, and cast away the stereotypes.
Additionally, I would cast characters based on the fit-value rather than the star-value. There wouldn't be dumb scenes in my movie, all frames will be artistically captured, and logically sequenced. I would transform boring and drawn out dialogue into thought-provoking one-liners with a symphonic masterpiece for the background music. It would be a 90-minute film by trimming and tightening the story. I would create a terrific ending that would leave a lasting impression in the minds of the viewers.
My concept of movies reiterates the point, ‘if we build quality, they will come’. My vision would allow creativity to flow unhindered. My movie would be entertaining, educating and enlightening all at the same time. Well, they are indeed good thoughts. However, I know my movie would fail to take off and flop miserably since I have no clue on the art and science of movie making.
Like fireflies to the fire, the glitter of the silver screen attracts too many dreamers. The path to fame and money is littered with potholes, pitfalls, and unpredictability. Many succumb to sudden deaths (financially), yet others by sheer willpower and luck hang in there and survive. However, the movie industry will sustain a long-life, as we believe in magic, mysticism, horror, paranormal thrillers, tragedies, comedies, love stories, and epic tales. Movies take us to a make-believe world that helps us to entertain, relax, and unwind, cry, and laugh.
However, I should stay put, do what I do best and leave the directorial tasks to the pros. I am convinced that it is definitely an oxymoron when I string together words like I-movies-director in one sentence.
Sasi Kumar is a writer, traveller, global volunteer leader, technologist, and a family man.