Interview By: TEAM SUPER CINEMA
Rahul Puri joined Mukta Arts Limited in 2003 as Vice President — Finance and Business Strategy and has been involved in the development of the company and the release of over 15 commercial films. In 2014, he was promoted to Managing Director of Mukta Arts, responsible for the overall day-to-day operations of the company and all its group holdings as well as the future strategy and expansion for all businesses. His current project is the set up and expansion of Mukta A2 Cinemas. He is also actively involved in producing the company’s new slate of films. We caught up with him to talk about content, films, star power and more. Excerpts:
What are your thoughts on film content/scripts these days?
It’s an interesting time, I think, for content and scripts. There are a bunch of platforms that can now accommodate films. Theatres have always been the main medium but now with Netflix and Amazon, there is a more niche outlet for certain films as well. This means that there is a broader breadth of content emerging. This is good for cinema and for our audiences. That said, work still needs to be done on the mass films. Perhaps in the Hindi segment there aren’t quite enough of these. I am not sure this is entirely down to segmentation, I also think there are just a few people who have a sensibility like this anymore. There is, though, a new equilibrium brewing and hopefully this will settle down soon.
Is content winning over celebrity, if yes, then why?
I think content is winning. Even celebrity has to be backed by content these days. Celebrity alone can work sometimes but not all of the time. I think content will always work. There is no excuse for it not to if promoted and communicated well. Excellent recent examples are Stree, Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho. This is an indication of the how cinema goers are voting for good stories over the largest casts. People want to now come to the cinema to experience. Just being entertained is not enough I think. There is a lot at stake in a cinema visit these days. Ticket prices, F&B and of course the time it takes. This therefore has to be compensated well otherwise there are other platforms which are cheaper and more convenient. So the audience has become more discerning.
Are special days like Diwali/ Eid/ Christmas big ticket selling days even now?
Yes for sure. These are festivals which are celebrated. The particular day may not the big seller (who goes to a movie on Diwali day) but the period is when there are holidays, a festive mood and disposable income for families. This has not changed and people have become accustomed to seeing the big films release around these dates. This will continue and new periods will be created. As I said, this is about an experience and these festivals are part of that.
Which upcoming special day launch will be a hit and which will be a miss according to you?
Well I think we all have big expectations for Thugs of Hindostan this Diwali. As I mentioned earlier, even Badhai Ho had an excellent weekend (during Dusshera). These are examples of a big star cast spectacle as well as a smaller content driven film that have captured the mind space and therefore people will come to see what the fuss is about. Difficult to judge the others without seeing any material of them but so far this is the one I can think of.
Does an A-lister star cast impact box office earnings during the festive season?
As I said experience is key. An A lister brings value to an experience with their image and star power. Thus box office will be impacted. There is a reason why the large stars have consistently crowded these festive periods. They can pull crowds and there are plenty to pull due to holidays during any festival. They are a big attraction no doubt but their star power needs to be harnessed well with good content and an impactful and targeted promotional campaign. It’s not a done deal that a big star always brings a big start.
Which is the most apt festive season film according to you?
Personally I think 3 Idiots was perfectly placed. It released during the Christmas period and I think established that period as a strong one for Hindi films. It was the perfect blend of a film with a strong meaning that brought families together and that is what festivals are finally all about. The film still stands, I think, as one of the best in Hindi cinema and it’s a strong example of what the elements of a film around a big festival needs to be.
What kind of films do we usually see releasing during festive seasons? Do you think it works for the filmmakers?
We usually see films about family, films with a broad genre that encompass the Hindi film narrative. So there should be romance, drama, action, good music and big stars. This is something for everyone. It is what Hindi cinema has been built on all these years and I still think that it’s this foundation that still shapes films for the big festivals. It goes without saying that the film should be good but I think that during these periods, these elements will make for the best returns at the box office.