Sanjay Suri, who is gearing up for the release of his next production My Birthday Song, says that the need of the hour for independent films to work are: screening places.
“Multiplexes do not support indie films, there are few theatres like Nandan in Kolkata, which screens independent films. Then there are theatres that screen regional films; Prithivi stages plays regularly but there aren’t any specific places for indie films. The whole eco-system needs to change. Some of the independent films that did well last year were supported by big banners,” he says.
Even expensive tickets are a big challenge for indie films. “Today, watching a film means spending Rs 1000 and youngsters between the age group of 18 and 24 cannot afford that kind of money, which is a huge challenge for indie films,” says Sanjay.
The actor is not only producing My Birthday Song but also stars in it along with Nora Fatehi and Miss India Australia Zenia Starr. Actor Samir Soni makes his directorial debut with this film, which releases on January 19.
The challenge for independent films doesn’t end there. Sanjay says that when he made My Brother Nikhil in 2004, people had asked him to sign a star for the film to work. “When I was making My Birthday Song, they repeated the same thing. I said, ‘My story is my star’. It’s not like I don’t want to work with a star, but I can’t wait endlessly for a certain star to come on board. If the film is good, it will get its own identity,” he says while promoting My Birthday....
The Pinjar, Bas Ek Pal, Sorry Bhai!, Firaaq actor, who has also produced numerous critically-acclaimed films says that the key challenge today is not to make the film but what happens post release. “When you make a film, you work with like-minded people. After completing it you meet these Excel Sheet guys.
Suddenly, your creative expression becomes a project as business gets in. Obviously, we are here to make money, but everything become business,” he says.
Nowadays, releasing a film has become expensive. “Whether it’s marketing exhibition, short windows or the challenge of the opening weekend, there are several of them. Even for the word-of-mouth publicity to grow, you need the film to be in the theatres for a certain number of days, but that doesn’t happen. The programming reshuffles after Saturday,” says the producer. Even the paid promotions act as a hindrance.
Sanjay calls his latest movie commercial because it’s a thriller and is engaging and entertaining. “We have tried to push the envelope with the film. It’s sort of a thriller which you want to participate in rather than witness it. It will make you join the dots but whether you like it or not, is another story,” he quips.
Thrillers are not so common in Bollywood.
However, Sanjay says, “I believe there’s a huge potential for thrillers. It’s a tough genre because while watching one, the logical mind takes over. But we have been encouraging the audience to keep their brain behind while watching a film in the name of entertainment. But that’s not possible to do while watching our film,” he says.
This is not the first time Sanjay is collaborating with Samir. The two have worked in Sanjay Gupta’s Alibagh and the actor says that since then they have been good friends. “I always knew that he had the sensibilities to direct a film but didn’t realise that he could write a script too. When he narrated the script of My Birthday Song, it was a visual narration. I was completely engaged by the way he was telling the story,” says the award-winning actor. He says that Sameer’s psychological observation and smartness of the narrative excited him. “He wanted me to act but we decided to also produce the film,” he adds.
The actor says that because Samir is an actor, he easily understood the actors of My Birthday Song. “Everyone would approach him while enacting a scene,” says Sanjay. But does it help as an actor if one shares a level of comfort and Sanjay replies, “At some level, it does because making a film is a high stress job especially if you are making it within a tight budget and need to finish it in a certain number of days. You need a creative trust, which makes the journey easy.”