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Tinsel world sees a bright picture

Latha Venkatraman
Sankar Radhakrishnan

Mumbai/Thiruvananthapuram , Dec 31

BOLLYWOOD had a relatively better year in 2003 than 2002. And 2004 could be better. Call it wishful thinking, but the industry is hoping for some better times in the new year.

The Indian film industry, which has been in a state of metamorphosis for the last two to three years, is expected to see many more changes in 2004 in terms of technology, concepts, distribution and funding pattern.

``Technology is going to be important factor for the Indian movie industry during 2004. And that is going to bring down costs to some extent and improve quality tremendously,'' says Mr Ram Mirchandani, General Manager - Motion Pictures, UTV.

Technological advances, according to him, will change the way films are shot in India. ``It will bring in improved quality in terms of depth and clarity and also reduce costs of production,'' Mr Mirchandani said.

But technology alone does not ensure a success story. For Bollywood, the biggest change that came about in 2003 was the addition to the number of screen in the form of multiplexes. ``This factor certainly resulted in small budget films making money,'' said Mr Manmohan Shetty, Managing Director, Adlabs Films Ltd.

Small budget films such as Jhankaar Beats, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Joggers' Park were able to bring in some revenue primarily because of smaller screens in multiplexes. This was certainly a change from 2002. Traditionally, 85 per cent of Bollywood's revenues come from less than 30 per cent of the films it makes in a year, according to a study by consultant, KPMG India Pvt Ltd.

Though distribution and exhibition continues to remain a major issue for the film industry, the process of corporatisation or the availability of funds has prompted stakeholders to look at investments in multiplexes. ``The return of investment from multiplexes is definitely good but ultimately everything depends on how good the film. If the film is bad there is nothing you can do to bring in the audiences,'' Mr Shetty said.

In relative terms, the Tamil and the Telugu film industry fared much better in comparison to the Malayalam film industry. The Malayalam film industry has had 55 releases this year as compared to over 90 films in 2002. Of these 55 releases, only two films - Balettan and CID Moosa were considered box office hits.

According to Mr T.K. Rajeev Kumar, Malayalam filmmaker, there is not much technological changes in Malayalam cinema. ``The film industry in other regions has seen new people, new methods and new ideas come in over the last 2-3 years. In Malayalam, however, it has been a case of repeating the same old things with new people. The industry here is also out of touch with the latest developments in the business of films,'' he said.

According to Mr A.S. Suresh Babu, Managing Director, Kinfra Film and Video Park, the problem with the Malayalam film industry is an absence of professionalism in areas such as planning, budgeting and control. ``The industry here is also not up-to-date with international trends that view business as an essential component of film making,'' he said. Cost overruns once unheard of are now part of the industry.

Mr Suresh Babu also felt that there was a need for multiplexes. ``Single screen theatres will have to give way to multiple screen theatres,'' he said.``Tamil and Telugu films have more than recovered their money during the year. They come with good movie, good actors and a good story line,'' says Mr Mirchandani. Tamil films had a better theatrical run this year than in 2002. Though there were no mega successes, the industry did get its share of attention through the release of the film Boys. ``Script writing needs to be spruced up. Telugu films did very well and some of the films' collections match with those of Hindi which have a national presence,'' Mr Shetty said.

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