Contrary to popular opinion, producer Siddharth Roy Kapur believes stars and big-budget spectacles don't necessarily award a film the status of a "cinematic experience".
At a time when star-studded magnum opuses like "RRR" and "Brahmastra Part One: Shiva" are reigning at the box office, concerns around the viability of the small or middle-budget films are obvious.
"It's a bit more complex than that. Audiences will come to theatres for experiences that are cinematic. That doesn't necessarily mean stars and spectacles only. It could also mean films that make the theatrical experience magical in some way," Roy Kapur told PTI in an interview.
It can be a horror thriller or a slapstick comedy that can "move" the audience or create a "magical" atmosphere in a cinema hall, a community experience which can't be matched by home viewing, the producer said.
"You have genres like horror, which people enjoy watching in a darkened auditorium. There are also some high-concept movies and slapstick comedies that people enjoy watching together because the laughter feeds off each other even if there are no big stars.
"Films that move you, make you feel deeply, you want to experience them on the screen. They might be harder to bring people in for because they don't have all the trappings of regular commercial cinema," he added.
According to Roy Kapur, it will take the audience some time to redevelop an appetite to watch films in theatres after getting used to consuming content at home on television and streaming platforms in the past three years. "But we are already seeing it, people are coming back. The theatrical experience is not one that can be easily replicated at home. There will be space for all kinds of films, that is my hope," he added.
The 48-year-old filmmaker, who has backed movies across genres and budgets like "DevD", "The Lunchbox", "Dangal" and "The Sky Is Pink", is currently looking forward to the release of his next production "Chhello Show" ("Last Film Show"), India's official Oscars entry.
Directed by Pan Nalin, "Chhello Show" is inspired by the director's own memories of falling in love with movies as a child in rural Gujarat. Set at the cusp of the digital revolution, the Gujarati-language movie is slated to be released in India on Friday.
Roy Kapur said he decided to support the film as it made him "feel so many emotions".
"Producer Dheer Momaya and Pan Nalin brought the film to me once it was shot and they wanted someone to present it and to co-produce it along with them and take it to the next level.
"They showed the rough cut of the film to me and I fell in love with it. I laughed, I cried, I was mesmerised by its beauty and humour. That's how I came on board."
"Chhello Show", the producer said, spoke to him for its childlike wonder that one feels the first time they watch a film in a cinema hall.
"Nalin managed to do that so beautifully and also say a little bit about nostalgia and the rite of passage that we all have to go through. The world can be hard and we all have to learn to live with that but still hold on to our innocence. That's what got me hooked," he added.
As more and more films go down the digital route, the beauty of the gone-by analogue era is another aspect "Chhello Show" focuses on, said Roy Kapur.
"On one side, it is important to embrace technology and the fact that there are strides being made in the world with regard to new ways of storytelling. The ability for us to be able to use so many technologies to enhance the way that we tell stories... To make it more efficient, immersive, etc.
"At the same time, 'Last Film Show' harks us back to a time when there was a certain beauty in the analogue as well. We have gone the digital route now. But the touch and feel of the film prints, the experience of those cans of films being transported from one place to the other to be shown at an auditorium... there is a romanticism to it," he said.
The selection of "Chhello Show" by the Film Federation of India (FFI) last month to represent India at the 95th Academy Awards in the best international feature film category was marred by controversy.
Besides being chosen over obvious titles like "RRR" or "The Kashmir Files", the movie has also courted allegations of plagiarism. The Indian Film & Television Directors' Association (IFTDA) and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) have labelled it as a rip-off of the 1988 Oscar-winning Italian-French film "Cinema Paradiso".
Commenting on the Oscar row, Roy Kapur said there will always be a debate whenever one film has to be selected over others.
"We just feel privileged and honoured to have been selected by the jury to represent India at the Academy Awards. Not just in India but in every country around the world, there are a lot of debates and discussions around which film finally gets selected because cinema is such a subjective medium," he said.
Going forward, the producer said the focus is on getting as many members of the Academy to watch the film as possible.
"The film has to speak for itself. No amount of so-called lobbying or campaigning will be as effective as actually getting the Academy members to watch your film. We hope to put our best foot forward at the Oscars," he added.