The US-based Motion Picture Association announced the launch of its DVD Rewards Campaign in India on Wednesday evening as part of an anti-piracy drive in the Asia-Pacific region. The campaign will financially reward individuals who report illegal DVD manufacturing units.
The meeting, held at Mumbai's J W Marriott Hotel, was attended by Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association president Smita Thackeray and Hindi filmmakers like Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Mission Kashmir), Bobby Bedi (Bandit Queen, Saathiya), Rakesh Mehra (Aks) and Ketan Mehta (Sardar) .
There was only one actor present: Vivek Oberoi.
"I feel very strongly about this subject. We must come together to save the film industry from these pirates," he asserts, adding that E Niwas' Dum didn't do well at box-office because pirated DVDs and VCDs were circulating in the market on the day of the film's release.
"I am not saying Dum flopped only because of piracy. But the money which went to the offenders could have gone to the producers of the film," he tells Associate Editor and Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf:
You are the only actor protesting against piracy.
This money funds those spreading evil in our society. As an actor I should do my best to tackle this evil. Just the same way I would take part in anti-smoking and HIV awareness programmes.
Bollywood has come together earlier to protest piracy, but nothing seems to have come of it.
It took 100 years for India to achieve Independence. If you do not try you will never succeed. So try and try until you do.
Why you think the film industry has failed so far to tackle piracy?
There are multiple reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the lack of will and motivation on the part of our government.
Do you believe piracy is the reason your films have fared badly?
Oh, yes, definitely. The day my film Dum released, it was available on pirated DVDs and VCDs. They showed the movie on cable channels. It was pathetic. It was so frustrating. I could not do anything.
If Saathiya did well, why not Dum? Don't you think a film has to be good to do well?
Let me tell you something interesting. [Producer] Bobby Bedi worked very hard to curb [Saathiya's] piracy. He succeeded to some extent. It [Saathiya] was also an interesting cinegoing experience.
Saathiya could have done 100 per cent business; it did only about 50 to 70 per cent. We could have used that extra money for the film industry instead of it going to the pirates.
But piracy is no excuse for my film not doing well. If a film is good, it will work despite it.
Don't you think the quality of today's films is poor?
If films are so bad, how come piracy is thriving? How come they are making so much money? At the end of the day, the software is the same.
You must understand that when a film is released it should be made available only in the theatres. With these pirated VCDs and DVDs in the market on the same day as the film's release, there is no longer the safety net of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday value at theatres.
Do you think cinema has competition from television serials and other sources of entertainment?
Yes. Today, television serials are huge. Cable channels are like home delivery and we [films] are like restaurants. We have to get interesting if we have to compete with television. Plus, there are the pirated DVDs and VCDs causing tremendous harm.
How serious is this loss?
Tremendous. The film industry employs so many people. They are all suffering because of these pirates.
How important is this anti-piracy movement to save film industry?
This is a very important issue. Our industry is like a huge tree, which has many branches and sub-branches. Its roots are being destroyed by piracy.
You cannot compete with pirated VCDs and DVDs -- theatre ticket prices are expensive for a family compared to these VCDs and DVDs. We will have to adopt a strategy to tackle this problem.
First, we need the government's support. The government accorded industry status to the film industry. It has to cut down the entertainment tax. If that is done, ticket prices will go down and going to a cinema will become a cheaper experience. If a family goes once in a month to a theatre [now], they will go twice [in a month] to theatres [if the tickets are cheaper].
Second, the government has to take piracy seriously. People are openly making money on piracy and that is siphoned to the underworld and organised crime. We have to tackle this issue seriously.
Don't you think exorbitant star prices result in huge costs in filmmaking? Won't producers save money if artistes were to reduce their prices?
If stars reduce their prices, the cost of the film will come down. But the cost of the ticket won't be any less.
If Devdas is made for Rs 50 crores, the ticket cost is Rs 100 to Rs 200. If Saathiya is made at Rs 7 crores, the ticket price does not decrease correspondingly. It remains the same.
So the problem is with the cost of ticket, not the cost of film. The problem here is taxation, not the cost of a star.
Hollywood producers are more united compared to Bollywood producers.
Yes, that is why it is very important [for Bollywood] to come on one platform. This should be a wake-up call for all of us. Everyone in Bollywood must unite to fight piracy.
What should the common man do to curb piracy?
People must come out and support us against piracy. If piracy is not curbed, I will be out of work and will need to sell vada-pav at Juhu beach [in suburban Mumbai].