We need to break ground with new ideas: Dibakar Banerjee

By Hindustan Times

Leave your comfort zone and focus on new ideas and new people to break new ground, says director Dibakar Banerjee who did the same with Shanghai and discloses how he has already turned his film into a profitable venture. Shanghai, starring Abhay Deol and Emraan Hashmi and focussing on the 'tamasha' of coalition politics, has just released and the director talks at length about the making of the film and the business plan.

"We kept the cost of production low and we did our marketing so intelligently through tie-ups that today we have to recover only Rs.4.75 crore from theatrical release to become profitable," Banerjee, who made the film at a budget of Rs.10.5 crore, told IANS in an interview.

The man, who introduced new storytelling techniques with Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Love Sex Aur Dhokha, said: "Until and unless you step out of your comfort zone and try something new, no new grounds will be broken, no new films will be launched and no new stars will be discovered."

Excerpts from the interview:

Given the unique roles that you have given to your lead actors, was Shanghai a risk?
Shanghai was not a risk. It was a well-kept secret, but now we can give out that its production and marketing cost a certain amount. We kept the cost of production low and we did our marketing so intelligently through tie-ups that today we have to recover only Rs.4.75 crore from theatrical release to become profitable. The sheer number of prints that we are going in for is 1,200. So financially, it's all good.

How important is out-of-the-box thinking for filmmakers?
Until and unless you step out of your comfort zone and try something new, no new grounds will be broken, no new films will be launched, no new stars will be discovered, people won't get to see new stories and our industry will not be injected with new blood. And when you don't do that, you keep shrinking: When you do that, you keep expanding.

Look at the last six, seven, eight years. Before that, you knew how Bollywood only had flops and flops. Ninety percent films were flopping. In the last four years, have you seen any of that?
We like to talk a lot about negatives; so, yes, there were some flops, but look at the number of successes we are having. Big budget and small budget films - how many hits did we have last year? From Dabangg to Delhi Belly and many more. New people, new directors, new actors, new voices, new writers and new stories are giving us a new lifeline. This renaissance or whatever you may want to call it, this resurgence of Bollywood is part of that.

What causes filmmakers to set huge budgets in times when small budget movies with intelligent tie-ups are turning out to be so profitable?
That depends on the subject, staff, format and how efficient one is in getting the maximum business. I have been producing films and ad films for the last 15 years. There's nothing I haven't done myself. I have stood in the middle of the road and controlled traffic myself to get my shot, I have stood on a set and painted a wall to get the right shade.

I have produced each and every film personally with my partner Tejaswini. Nobody can tell us anything about how to get the cost down, and yet give better quality with the same amount of money that's what producing means.

What is the importance of box office collection in today's time when films make money from tie-ups and by selling rights?
It really does matter. I am telling you that the barest minimum we have to achieve to reach profitability. But we want to make as much box office as possible because we want money. Because we want to show the world that with a film like Shanghai, it is possible to make money.

Imagine the amount of encouragement other producers and directors will get out of this. We are already profitable, but imagine if we become much more profitable. We have already broken even. Rs.4.75 crore is an amount we will get when we release the film. It's a mathematical quotient.

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