Anand Pandit has been one of the most prolific film producers of today’s times. He has not only been producing films in Hindi with some of the biggest names in the film industry, but he has been also making projects in various Indian regional languages. He has been fairly successful in bringing a pan-India audience to his projects.
In a candid chat with Prateek Sur, Anand Pandit opens up about how he picks up projects, how regional stories are different from Bollywood projects, how producers are losing money or making profits, and lastly, working with Amitabh Bachchan. Excerpts from the chat:
You’ve been producing content across various languages. What sort of difficulties do you face when you produce a regional project in comparison to that of a Bollywood project?
For a long time, regional projects received a lot less attention than Hindi cinema but things are changing and today regional films with strong content are winning over audiences, and critics and also doing well at the box-office. So, things are becoming easier for producers like me who want to work in diverse industries. The talent pools too are intermingling today and pan-Indian content is becoming the norm so it is becoming easier than ever before to collaborate with stars and creative talents in other industries. For instance, recently I have produced 'Fakt Mahilao Maate' in Gujarati, 'Victoria' and 'Baap Manus' in Marathi and I’m also co-producing my first Kannada film 'Kabzaa'. The key, I feel, is to respect the way each industry functions, listen to those who know more and not venture into a project with preconceived ideas. Every new film is an opportunity to learn and that is what I am doing so there have been more enriching experiences rather than difficulties.
Last couple of years we have seen that regional content is garnering more and more viewership than Bollywood content. What is regional content doing better?
Regional cinema is much more rooted and celebrates the uniqueness of its folklore, milieu, and music and does not take its audiences for granted. The themes are diverse and original and there is an emphasis on authenticity and creativity rather than derivation. The writing is also good and the stories are fresh and relatable. It is not that Hindi cinema does not have the talent or the capacity to tell path-breaking stories. Films like ‘83’, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘Doctor G’, ‘Sherni’ and ‘Brahmastra’ were films made with conviction and some clicked with the audience and others didn't. We cannot always judge the quality of cinema by its success at the box-office. Some of the best Hindi films, including Guru Dutt's ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, and Rajkumar Santoshi's ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ flopped when they were released. This however does not mean that we should not introspect when a film flops. The sky-high budgets, dizzying star fees and reliance on jaded formulas must be recalibrated to make the business more sustainable. The focus on writing and good content must be sharpened to keep up with the changing tastes of the audience.
Where are Bollywood filmmakers going wrong that in the last couple of years, their projects aren’t able to pull the audiences to theatres as much as regional films?
As I said, every film is an opportunity to learn and to introspect. If a film with big stars and a huge budget, flops, we have to ask why. It is good to analyse where we could be going wrong and if our budgets can be tighter, star fees can become more reasonable, stories can become stronger, and fresh content can take precedence over formulas. A film that is made without conviction cannot resonate with the audience. There is a reason why makers like Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Manmohan Desai, K Asif, Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and so many more are still remembered. They did not deliver hits all the time but they gave us the cinema that they believed in. Only when your film comes from your heart and gut, will it have a palpable soul. We need to understand that there is a difference between churning out films and creating cinema for posterity.
You’re making Marathi projects and last year you did a fantastic Gujarati film. What needs to be done so that Marathi and Gujarati cinema can reach the Pan-India levels that south Indian films have achieved?
Gujarati actors like Pratik Gandhi have gone pan-Indian and films like 'Hellaro' are sweeping awards so the industry is growing. My own film 'Fakt Mahilao Maate' also did very well. The Marathi industry too has given us so many stalwart actors and directors. The budgets are becoming bigger, the production values are improving and the films are being appreciated but yes, a lot more could be done. Marathi and Gujarati films need to be marketed appropriately to reach a wider audience. They have immense potential and can enjoy pan-Indian success with the right amount of promotion and exposure. Subtitling and dubbing in multiple languages have helped South-Indian films to break the language barrier and Gujarati and Marathi films too could benefit from this trend.
As a producer when you pick up a script, what are those check boxes that you look for? Like these things must be there in a script for you to pick it up and want to produce it?
The script is a big selling point for me obviously. Apart from that, the potential of a story to connect with the audience and the passion of the creative team behind it, are some of the things I always look for. 'Kabzaa' for instance, is a period-action thriller with not just great star power but also a very strong story. 'Victoria' is a horror comedy, and has the potential to become a pan-Indian success thanks to its stunning production values, its plot twists and fantastic performances. 'Fakt Mahilao Maate' was a social comedy with a message that the audiences instantly connected with.
What’s more important for you – a good script or a big star? Like would you say no to an Amitabh Bachchan if he didn’t fit a certain character in a script? Or would you probably tweak the script to fit such a big superstar, who’s ready to work with you?
Amitabh Bachchan is one of the most versatile actors of our time and I highly doubt that there's any role that he cannot play. However, generally, I would rather choose an actor who aligns with a script than tweak a script to fit him or her.
People in the film industry say that no producer ever loses money in today’s time. They somehow or the other recover their costs. The only people who lose money actually are the distributors and exhibitors. How true is this statement?
Although producers have leverage in the profit that a film makes, they also face a higher risk of loss when a project fails. Nobody is immune to losses and the pandemic made things even worse. However, I will concede that distributors and exhibitors have become even more vulnerable post Covid-19 and this is why it is more important than ever for the Hindi film industry to deliver more hits and recover from the slump of the past few years. I have been a film distributor and I understand the uncertainty experienced by this segment of the business.
What next can we see coming from your end?
I have ventured into Kannada cinema with 'Kabzaa' and I hope there will be many more regional projects. I am also collaborating with Eros to remake 'Omkara' and deliver a sequel to 'Desi Boyzz'.