'Films are made out of passion, not systems'
In India for the first Digital Talkies Festival, Shekhar Kapur talks about the importance of new technology in filmmaking as well as how critical it is for Bollywood to retain its own identity instead of following the sudden craze for corporatisation.
IDBI funding is fine, he argues, but it is no big deal. Quality filmmakers will never be short of funds, he tells Pritish Nandy:
What is this digital talkies festival all about? Why did you start it?
New technology is changing the face of filmmaking. Not just here in India but all over the world.
I believe that digital films will totally change moviemaking as we have known it. If you had seen the films in the festival, Pritish, you would have known why I am saying this.
Technology is fast changing. And there are always new filmmakers ready to experiment, to try out a new idea.
The films that were shown at the festival were produced at very low cost. Yet the quality was excellent and demonstrated an entirely new attitude towards filmmaking. The treatment was different, refreshingly different!
Well, there appears to be several revolutions taking place in Indian films, including the way they are funded. Do you think corporatisation could bring about a fundamental change in the way movies are made out here?
Not really. We have always been a very resilient industry. Perhaps the most resilient movie industry in the world.
After all, look at it this way. We have survived everything from video piracy to television to cable channels to censorship to the most punitive entertainment taxes in the world to exorbitant rates of interest. And, now, even the interference of the underworld.
We have been accused of everything -- from the perpetration of black money to sleeping with the Mob.
We have survived every silly and irresponsible accusation. How have we done this? Through amazing resilience and a fierce spirit of entrepreneurial independence. We have managed to make our films despite all odds.
People like Raj Kapoor risked everything they had to make their films. They did not get the support of banks and financial institutions. In fact, they got no one's support. But it was grit, determination, creativity and sheer entrepreneurial brinkmanship that made them successful. The fact that they risked everything they had to make a film.
Which means the ability to take huge risks is what makes successful filmmakers here?
That and the conviction that content is what drives everything. Indian films are working everywhere.
The Indian style of filmmaking has already won huge global attention and respectability all over the world. Over 75 per cent of the world already knows about Bollywood and many of them watch our films and relate to them.
We have reached this stage without institutional finance, without any insurance cover.
Imagine what could have happened if we had the support. Indian movies could have taken over the world!
In fact, the world is ready and waiting for that first international film from Bollywood. The time is just right for it to
What makes Bollywood tick?
The one statistic that has held up since 1950 is the director who produces his own film.
If you look at the big hits of any year, you will see that they have come from directors who have directly or indirectly produced their own films. Look at last year. Mohabbatein and Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai were both home productions. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, all of Raj Kapoor's films, all of Bimal Roy's films, all of Mehboob Khan and Guru Dutt's films, all of Subhash Ghai's films were produced by the directors themselves.
All of Amitabh's most successful films, like those made by Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra, were produced and directed by the same guy. That is the issue.
Studios do not realise that the key to good films lies in giving absolute freedom to the maker. They want advance scripts. They want prefixed budgets.
If that is all it requires, Sholay would have never been made.
James Cameron made the most successful film of all time (Titanic) only because he defied the studio system. Do
you know that Speilberg was sacked by the studios because he overshot his budget? Do you know The Gladiator was written and rewritten countless times during the making of the film?
Why do we blame Bollywood alone?
Everyone does it. Corporatisation cannot stop it. If it does, you will never get that huge hit. Because only a film maker knows what it takes to really make a successful film. Not bankers and studio executives.
In other words, you are not convinced that corporatisation can bring about a sea change in Bollywood and cleanse its current funding patterns?
I think everyone is jumping to simplistic conclusions.
It is simply not true that currently all films produced out here are funded by the underworld or with tainted money. Perhaps a few are. But they are exceptions to the rule and to claim that corporate funding will completely eliminate such money will be farfetched. Indian film makers are ingenious people.
The moment they decide to make a film and announce it, there are enough people ready to fund the project whatever its size may be. I say, if the corporates and the banks want to come and share in the success of the Indian film industry, by all means, let them do so. But to say that they can change the entire style of film making in India or cleanse the funding process is too much.
Filmmakers here quite capable of making films without the support of institutional finance, thank you very much. They already have a very fine track record of entrepreneurial achievement. Achievement against all odds.
Why do they need IDBI now?
So the new mantra of corporatisation is not likely to succeed out here?
It may. It may not. But filmmaking will continue here as it always has.
Scripts will be written the way they were always written.
There will be last minute changes. As it happens all over the world. There will be films that will go over budget, as the Titanic did. Producers must be prepared for that if they want to make films that are huge successes. If corporatisation can guarantee success, then every studio-made film would have busted records.
The simple truth is this: No one except the filmmakers know what could constitute success. Everyone strives for it. Some achieve it; some fail.
But, in my opinion, filmmakers who are their own producers are more likely to succeed in India because they are part of a rich tradition. And they understand what goes into making a successful film.
Bankers do not. Studio heads do not. Financial institutions do not. They simply believe that by putting in place controls and systems you can make a successful film.
This is not true. Films are made out of passion, not out of systems.
The great filmmakers of Bollywood have succeeded not because of any planned funding but because they dreamt big, they attempted big. It is their passion that translated into great movies.