Mumbai: In his four years with UTV, Siddharth Roy Kapur has practically lived movies. The chief executive officer (CEO) of UTV Motion Pictures has been involved in almost every role, starting with marketing, then in revenue, followed by distribution before taking over as CEO in 2008. His current profile puts him in charge of all aspects of development, production, marketing and distribution, making him an understandably busy man. Kapur speaks about the slow returns at the box office, on experimenting with films and new talent, and their plans for the next year. Edited excerpts:
How was 2009 as a year for UTV?
Quality films: Kapur says UTV has produced films abroad, but its focus now will be more on India.
We had films we were proud of like Dev. D, Kaminey and Wake Up Sid, which was a great association with Karan Johar. Dev. D turned out to be a cult film, the kind that a few years ago would not have been made. It was a year of learning for us; some films worked, some did not.
In your opinion, what are the reasons for poor box office revenues this year?
The main reason probably is content, which has been a collective failure from all film-makers. Then for three months there were no releases, which meant that all the films bunched up. No film could last long at the cinema because of continuous releases. People had too many choices. Finally, ticket prices have gone up so viewers are more careful with what they see.
It was also a year that saw the collapse of several big-budget films.
For some time people have been dealing with films like a project rather than as an artistic form. Budgets have therefore outstripped growth and revenues. Today, a Rs40 crore film will make little financial sense once you have added the costs of marketing and publicity to it. It will be hard to recover that kind of money. That does not mean we will not make films with larger budgets, but we will rationalize. We were always circumspect with budgets, now we would be even more careful. It finally depends on what a film deserves. Jodhaa Akbar was made in Rs37 crore while Aamir needed Rs2 crore.
Has the jubilee era ended? Films these days are more about the opening weekends than sustaining a longer run.
That era has gone by because of the growth in exhibition, a wider platform of distribution and to combat piracy. A lot of potential revenue comes from a wider flow of releases. You have to maximize revenue along the time when the promotion of a film is at its fever pitch, before another movie comes out and takes over. Nearly 90% of the revenue comes from the first four weeks of a film’s release.
Has the UTV Spotboy model of making small films worked well enough to continue with it?
The model was to make quality films with fresh talent and market them aggressively. Which is why films like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye !, Welcome to Sajjanpur and Dev. D worked. There is an equivalent risk with small and big films. You just have to manage them as efficiently as possible. We spent Rs2 crore in making Aamir and the same amount promoting it. We took some calculated risks, which have their upsides and downsides. Like Dev. D, for example, had 16 songs and a familiar story, but it was not marketed as a dull, somber film. We built excitement around the concept. You have to do justice to a film’s potential and plan to make any venture as commercial as possible.
Has the economic slowdown rationalized the prices of actors and directors?
It’s not yet happened at the speed it was expected. But the process has started and we hope things will go back to normal. Any industry that does its share of films based on concept, franchises, animation, etc., does not need to bank on stars all the time.
Is it possible to justify the Rs250 cost of a multiplex ticket against a bad film?
No cost can justify a bad film but, in their defence, multiplexes have given the choice to a section of society that did not think it was cool to see movies out of the comfort of their homes. They have brought out families for an experience that is more luxurious and the experience includes more than just the movie. The revenue from multiplex tickets is significant in the scheme of things.
What are UTV’s specific strategies for the next year?
We don’t have any particular agenda except to build on the existing ones. We want to have as varied a slate as possible, to make the best quality films in every genre that’s commercially viable, to cater to all audiences while encouraging new talent and experimenting with the form of film-making. We also want to open up to markets newer than the 45 countries that we cater to globally and tap the huge South Asian diaspora. UTV has produced films abroad, but our focus is going to be more in India.
How many scripts do you get on an average? Are there still any original stories left to be told?
We get one or two scripts every day, which go through our development team. We make about 12-14 films a year, so you can do the math. We want to be able to develop stories in-house for which we have a team of six or seven people. There are original scripts and talented writers, but there has been a lack of focused attention in developing that talent. People make films like any other project, without allowing ideas to incubate. We pushed new talent in the form of Dibakar Banerjee (Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!), Nishikant Kamat (Mumbai Meri Jaan), Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday!) and Anurag Kashyap (Dev. D) in early stages of their careers, working with different styles of films that have told edgy stories with sensibility.
Which films from 2009 do you wish you had made and what future projects are you bullish about?
Probably Love Aaj Kal and Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani. Next year, I am looking forward to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzarish, Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti, Rajkumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica, Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live and Abhinay Deo’s Delhi Belly both with Aamir Khan Productions.
Your other brothers too are in the entertainment industry. Is that a coincidence (Kunal is an actor/director, Aditya is a VJ-turned-actor)?
Each of us has made his own path but also influenced the other. We were all interested in theatre, reading and progressed in our respective directions. We do discuss cinema at home, but more of what we have watched, on the craft of acting and film-making.