Into the fourth week, his second film as a director is still drawing houseful crowds in both the theatres where it’s running. In a freewheeling chat with RBN, Rainbow Jelly director Soukarya Ghosal talks about his film, the business of filmmaking, and why bumper openings are a misnomer.
Happy with how the film has fared so far?
Yes, I should say. We have had more than 10 houseful shows. Even now, as I speak, we have 85 percent average occupancy. What has been the most encouraging is that people from the adjoining areas and districts are coming to see the film in the two south Kolkata theatres which is far off from their places. We have got audiences from Howrah, Hooghly, and even Malda. The film has managed to generate a lot of interest. People want to see it before its run ends.
And the revenues?
See, when a film comes down to just two shows in two halls without a bumper opening, apparently it may seem that it did not make money. That’s not true. We also need to check the occupancy in the halls and how long the film runs. The fact that Rainbow Jelly is still returning around 85-90 percent collections, will add up to the revenues in the days ahead.
But you never believed in bumper openings
No, never. Bumper opening is a very vague concept. The bumper opening of a regional language film will never be the same like a Shah Rukh or a Salman Khan starrer. There are films that rake in huge revenues in the first weekend of release because of their branding and huge star cast. Then there are films that become hits over time. You see, both business models return the investment. So then what exactly is a bumper opening? I can’t expect people to crowd theatres on the opening weekend for a film which has newcomers in the lead and made at less than a fractional budget of a big-ticket Hindi film. The word of mouth publicity is very important for such films and I am happy it worked for Rainbow Jelly.
But then how does an independent filmmaker compete with a big-budget film?
Honestly, the question of competition doesn’t arise. When I am making a small film, I am already aware that I won’t get the branding and support mechanism of a big producer. So I will plan my film accordingly. There’s no winning or losing here. Rainbow Jelly was self-financed and we devised a business model that suited us. With that in place, we distributed the film ourselves in the targeted chains. Labeling it as a success or failure over a three-day opening weekend is not proper and that’s not the model we followed.
Then how does a film, as a product, get to see profits?
See, films are a unique commodity. It’s not like a FMCG product. You buy a pack of chips, take a bite, find it stale or not up to your expectations, you return the product and take a refund from the seller, or buy another product as a replacement. Or say you buy an AC or a fridge and if not satisfied, stop paying your EMIs. Films are the only commodity where you pay in advance before tasting the product, and even if you don’t like it at the end or leave the hall midway, you can’t ask for a refund. The conventional profit-loss calculation system doesn’t work in the case of films. It’s the shelf value that counts. How long the film manages to hold on to its brand recall? Will the audience recommend my film to others? These are the two most important determinants for the success of a film. Ultimately, a film makes headway on the strength of its merit.
That reminds me, in Ray’s Nayak, matinee idol Arindam asks his friend and manager Jyoti about the box office report of his latest film. Jyoti says, it’s only the second week and too early to predict
Yes absolutely. Ray foretold half a century ago that films with a big star cast will ride on the bumper opening model in the years to come. He, in a sense, mocked the degeneration in the business of filmmaking. Sadly, what he predicted back then, has now become the preferred business model.
What about the satellite and digital rights of Rainbow Jelly?
We are waiting for the film to complete its theatrical run first. That has been a major challenge as you know (laughs). Let it first create a brand recall. We will then think about the other rights. We are not really in a hurry since we have produced the film ourselves. There’s no external pressure on us.
Recently web-series are coming up in a big way with entertainment being more personalised. How will the big screen meet the challenge?
Mounting of a film is different for the celluloid and on the mobile screen. Filmmaking has evolved whenever there has been a serious challenge, like the advent of video and television. But people will go to the theatres for the big screen experience which is not possible on a five-inch mobile screen. The competition with the web format is not that serious as of now. But when it does, maybe sometime in the near future, films will find a new way to evolve.
And your next project?
I am working on two scripts. Let’s see how things shape up in the days to come.
So no plans to go back to teaching?
No (laughs). I have abandoned that.