Global recession hits Bollywood - The industry bigwigs react

By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network

Bollywood bigwigs talk about the effect of Global Recession on the Hindi Film industry

Vashu Bhagnani (producer): "Ironically, it's the culture of corporatization that has both organized and spoilt the film industry. While it made everyone more professional and we no longer shook hands over deals and actually put everything on paper, the corporate culture also brought arbitrary money from the outside. These corporate houses were willing to pay stars anything just to get them on board. The crazy star-buying spree has had a snowballing effect. Prices have hit the roof. Stars will definitely have to bring down their prices, though they would still be indispensable. Audiences do come to watch stars.

Madhur Bhandarkar (producer-director): "There's a serious melting-down going on everywhere. And stars have already been forced to reduce their prices. Even the ones who command no fan- following had begun to charge Rs. 2 crores. The bubble was bound to burst, better it happened sooner rather than later. Would I make more budget-friendly films? My budgets are entirely dictated by the theme. I've made Traffic Signal for Rs. 4 crores. I made Fashion for 40 crores.

Vikram Bhatt (producer-director): "The cash crunch has created a panic in the market. Lots of banks have frozen their credit lines; which means the big corporate production houses will have less banking support. To make matters worse, the film industry has lost close to Rs 60 crores in the month of October alone. It's a two-pronged attack with the corporate houses ceasing to acquire films. It remains to be seen whether Golmaal Returns will recover its cost of Rs 45 crores. We're in a mess. Stars never reduce their prices. One will have too look at films' budgets to economize. More importantly, the entertainment tax will have to come down. In some states it's as high as 50 percent. That's killing the film business.

Suneel Darshan (producer-director): "Bollywood is not isolated from the crisis. But it isn't as severe for us as it is for the rest of the world. Our industry is sadaa suhagan. A few corporate houses were rash enough to up the prices for stars and film budgets. They're now panic-stricken. I took a sabbatical in 2008 to re-assess the situation. But now I look forward to a busy 2009.

Mahesh Bhatt (filmmaker, industry spokesperson): "We Bhatts have never been a victim of our own hype. Our core values have insulated us from the bogus "Bollywood Shining" myth. We continue doing what we've done for years. Low cost -high quality is the mantra we need to embrace. This mantra made China a super-power

Hansal Mehta (filmmaker): "In times of recession it is usually high -risk markets like films that feel the crunch almost immediately. Bollywood in particular is going to feel the impact of this crisis as the current scenario though called 'corporatization' is actually an example of poor corporate governance and total fiscal indiscipline. Recession or no recession, Bollywood was and is bound to go through a massive correction.

I have and will always maintain that we are an industry that is purely content driven. The emphasis has to be purely on content and stars/actors need to be an essential component of this content. Their current prices are working against the delivery of quality content. We cannot earmark a major portion of our budgets to pay stars, the money needs to be utilized for delivering quality content. Rewards should be performance oriented and connected to success. Our corporate minds need to evolve a fair compensation system that is commensurate with performance and is totally transparent. I believe that UTV is the only company in the current scenario that has got a definite creative vision. The industry needs creative management of resources and talent, not just money!

I have always focused on making films at sensible budgets and which are not driven by the presence of stars. I will continue doing that. My focus will be on delivering quality content at sensible budgets."

Bunty Walia (producer): "There's a definite financial crisis, and it's not just about star prices, but everything associated with the film business must be restructured and we need to face the stark reality. We need to control the budget and sales of films. They're way above the top. We need to rethink and reassess the situation. Otherwise it's curtains for film industry."

Harry Baweja (producer): "It's more of a wait-and-watch situation now. But yes, market correction will happen. Budgets will be restructured affecting star prices. Selling films will be difficult now. Only production houses which produce and distribute their own films will be far better placed. On the plus side, the Diwali releases have a bumper collection. So the belief that the entertainment industry will rock in any given situation stays true."

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