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Business News/ Industry / Media/  Will keep making social issue-based films: Akshay Kumar

Mumbai: Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, who had a string of flops recently, wants to continue working on social issue-based films that can impact society. In an interview, the 55-year-old actor said that the Indian film industry is going through a transformation and everything is moving to a hybrid mode. He claimed that, unlike what the industry says about him charging exorbitant fees upfront, he has started working on profit-sharing—backend—deals. “If Selfiee has flopped, I get less money. Rakshabandhan has not lost money for the producers. I would have earned more if those films had worked," he said. Kumar added that he can always do commercial films and sequels to earn more money. Edited excerpts:

You have had five back-to-back flops. Is it because audiences have changed or due to the wrong selection of movies?

Yes, some of my recent films haven’t worked at the box office, and there are many reasons for it. A lot has changed post covid. Most people want to watch larger-than-life epic films in theatres, and others are ready to wait a month or two for films to come on OTT or TV.

You have to understand that covid was like a massive earthquake, and it’s about time when the change has come. My industry is learning a lot now, and the way I see it, it will take maybe the end of 2024 for the stability to come in when everybody realizes what kind of films to make and what not to make.

Many a time, actors’ fees have been questioned. The buzz is that you ask for a hefty upfront fee—close to 127 crore—for a film. Do you think this is justified?

It’s not true. I am not charging upfront. I am the partner in the films. If Selfiee has flopped, I will not get money or will get just 10% of what my fee was. Today, if you come to me with an idea and if we work on the film, we will work as partners and release it together. If it works, both of us will earn. If not, we both will earn less or not at all. But it won’t go in minus.

Today’s reality is that every actor has to work on the backend model. To give you an example, despite the fact that Selfiee and Rakshabandhan did not work at the box office, Disney or Zee have not lost money because of these films. On Rakshabandhan, which was distributed by Zee Studios, all the losses were taken by me. For Selfiee, me and my partner Karan Johar took it. And I wouldn’t even say loss because we would have earned more in case of a hit, and now we got a smaller amount. That’s it. Earlier, an actor could earn a lot more, but nowadays, the way films are performing at the box office, you have to agree to earn less.

Coming back to your selection of movies, there has been lately a sense that you are only doing particular kinds of movies, mostly with nationalist themes. Would you agree?

I have done a few issue-based films, and while a lot of things have changed and not many people want to see those kinds of films, I would still want to make films with a good message. I am making a film on sex education in schools because I feel it’s a neglected subject. I made films like Toilet-Ek Prem Katha, a film on sanitary pads (Padman). Some worked, some didn’t. It’s not going to disappoint or dissuade me from making such films. What satisfies me more is that many of such films have made an impact on people in their personal life.

For me, it’s not about how much money they will make because I can easily make a Singh is Kinng part two, or a Rowdy Rathore part two or Namaste London. I have done so many films which can have multiple sequels, and I can do that. But that’s not the way I want to go about it. I want to make films which make a difference in society. Since I’ve become a producer, I have made films like this, even if they make less money or have a smaller potential. Because I know it will have a larger impact on someone somewhere. I’m not running after money. I want to make content that will make some difference.

Today, if you make Toilet-Ek Prem Katha, it may not work at the box office, and people would say we can watch it on TV two months later. But that’s not going to stop me from making such movies. If a good script comes up, I will make it.

But with this whole idea of watching it on TV or OTT after two months, don’t you think the cost of such films will have to be corrected?

In my opinion, the industry is now changing—everything is hybrid. Every film will have its budget and medium, but the filmmaker and actors need to decide first as to where they want to take it. It’s the same everywhere, even in Hollywood. We need to know if the film is meant for theatrical or OTT release ...

The biggest issue is that a lot of people just get into bhed chaal (herd mentality). If something works, they start doing the same thing. Where are your creativity and satisfaction? So many people told me let’s not make films with social impact because they aren’t working. But why not? Fine, if it’s not working at the box office. It will have some impact.

You spoke about OTT and TV, but the reality of India is just 30-40 million people watch movies in theatres. Are we making enough movies for others to come to cinema halls?

Yes, you are right. Only 30-40 million people visit theatres. But do you know why? The issue is accessibility. China has 82,000 screens, and we have 5,200. For a country like India, we need at least 20,000- 25,000 theatres.

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Gaurav Laghate
Gaurav Laghate is the chief of Mint's Consumer Bureau that covers FMCG, consumer durables, retail, media, advertising, hospitality, luxury and the business of sports. An accomplished business journalist with a career spanning over 15 years, he has reported on the significant advancements in the media and entertainment industry, as well as the business of sports. Beyond his role as a journalist, Gaurav is recognised as a steadfast observer of the media landscape, having spoken at several industry events and panels.
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Updated: 29 May 2023, 12:22 AM IST
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