Viveck Vaswani is the director who brought back the slice of life genre with Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman in the 90s. He has been out of the arclights for a while, but the man’s a joy to talk to – especially if you are interested in tid-bits of previously unheard-of Bollywood history.
We sat down with Viveck Vaswani at the TDH Studios for a brief chat on how he thinks the streaming world will change the Indian entertainment scenario. And his answers were as insightful as they were entertaining. Here’s the transcript of our chat with Viveck :
Why is streaming seeing such a boom?
There are three major factors for this. Between the pricing of the tickets, the free wi-fi that has gone completely deep into the heart of the country, and between the fact that all sorts of content are available, we will naturally see a boom in the streaming platform.
Do you think this boom will be good for indie and new film makers?
Yes. For example, there’s a film-maker friend of mine called Q. He made a film called Brahman Naman. Brahman Naman is a quirky, coming of age film. It is outrageously funny. If the Indian censors saw it, they would ban it. Netflix has bought it as a Netflix exclusive, so I have heard, for $1 million dollars. That’s four times the cost of what it took for them to make Brahman Naman.
Why are the big names from mainstream coming to the streaming scene?
People aren’t doing a hit and miss anymore. They are first discussing what to make, they are telling people what it will cost to make that kind of film, Netflix and Amazon are funding the films wholly. So you are making your movie, you are going to the audience. There’s a huge audience today because of free Wi Fi and other telecom players. Cinemas will be at the tail end of the entire exercise.
And why are the big name actors coming to the streaming scene?
They are being paid. All major companies have an online presence. Sony has SonyLIV, Viacom has Voot. Most of the big studios are also multi-channel companies. Viacom owns a bunch of television channels too and produces films too. Viacom distributes films also.
Obviously, Viacom should have a platform because they have the content to feed that platform. These are big companies that have banks of software, so they can set up their channels. Now, they have set up their channels. They have 50-60 movies for consumption. That’s not enough. They need other content. So they are buying quickly buying other content.
Television series like Zaban Sambhal Ke, Khandaan, Buniyaad. That’s also being consumed at a breakneck speed. They need to do something that is the tentpole for their channel. They need something big, so they will go to a big star, a big producer, and pay them big money, so they come to the streaming scene.
Do you think the individual producers can come back on the streaming world?
This could be the right time for them. But I think they have lost their initiative. People just a couple of years older than me are tired, sitting at home. The studio system destroyed the initiative of the producers. The older individual producers died, the next generation, Umesh Mehra, Rajiv Mehra, Ashim Samanta, Jyotin Goel. There is a whole generation of them, good film-makers. They said they can’t deal with this. There is no independent producer left any more.
What genre of film will you make for the streaming world today?
I would not choose the genre or the subject. The people whose money is going into the film would decide. My question would be, ‘Whose money is it?”. If you are borrowing money, the first aim of that film is to pay back debt. If the money is an equity, the guy would want a return. If you made the film to sell it to the distributors, the distributor will expect a profit. I cannot tell you what I will make, until and unless you tell me whose finance it is.
And will theatre ever go away?
Theatre will never go away. Theater has got nothing to do with cinema. Theatre is about food, entertainment and family outings. The movie is just an excuse to go out. The type of content, though, need to change – so that it is worth the ticket price.
We are convinced what Viveck says makes perfect sense in the Bollywood of today. After all, finances form an integral part of how the film industry works – and that logic applies to the short film genre too.