“If we copy film scripts, why can’t the audience watch pirated films?” – Rahul Dholakia

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An Indian delegation consisting of 15 companies from the media and entertainment sector in India visited Holland from the 10th to the 14th of October. Their visit was a part of a trade mission called ‘Dutch Media and Entertainment Program India’. This was the first time a delegation from this sector in India was making a collective visit to the country. Amongst the visitors was director Rahul Dholakia (Parzania, Lamhaa). BollySpice
spoke to him about the change of Indian cinema in recent years. Read on to see what Rahul Dholakia has to say about piracy, Slumdog Millionaire, the use of technology in films and much more.

What is the purpose of your visit to Holland?

I want to explore the possibilities of filming here in terms of location. I am working on a children’s film. It’s a fantasy film and I want to understand the various aspects of shooting here. Not just because of the locations, but I want to understand the gaming business as well. Until now I have done a lot of realistic films and I want to go away from there. It’s a big change for me, that is why I have been traveling over here.

How do you feel about the changes in Indian cinema in recent years?

I think it happened when multiplexes came in. A lot of things happened at the same time. Corporate houses started setting up, international distribution started, foreign companies like Warner and Disney came into market and distributing films and television became a real big thing. All these factors created a new market. I feel we need to experiment and understand what is happening. That is what the new trend is.

And in terms of storytelling, scriptwriting, technology?

Everything is changing. I am waiting for the day that we don’t have an interval in our films. We already cut down from 3 hours to a 2 hour film. They even asked me in the beginning of my career, why are you making a two hour film? I told them, that is all the time I need to tell the story. We now also have films without songs, like one of my first films Parzania. I hope it continues. We are pushing the envelope and taking the challenges.

Do you think time was actually a barrier for Western audiences to watch Indian films?

I think Western audiences started noticing Indian films once they realized that India is an economy. India is bringing money to their films. We have had good films since Satyajit Ray. He even won the Academy Award. They didn’t notice it at that time, but now because money is involved, the West notices us.

Sometimes I wonder if Slumdog Millionaire won the award because it was a good film or because they wanted to promote studios in India. Whatever it is, I am glad that people are taking notice of Indian Cinema. I hope we filmmakers can live up to that.

What has been the biggest change or turning point according to you?

I think what has happened, whether we like it or not, is that the internet plays a major factor. People are exposed to different subjects and different types of films. Indians download a lot films illegally. We watch a lot of pirated films. And we talk about anti-piracy acts, hypocrites that we are.

Somebody told me that we keep talking about stopping piracy, but we still copy film scripts from Hollywood. For example, Partner is Hitch. We even copy music, look at Pritam. So when we copy their films, why shouldn’t the public watch pirated DVD’s?

Shah Rukh Khan recently said that we need to imbibe more technology otherwise we are going to lose the younger audience to Hollywood films.

We do need to work on technology, but we need to work on content as well. I think you need to have pride in your work, which is what the West has. Work ethics need to change. I think that comes with pride in your work.

I was at a seminar in Los Angeles, where they were talking about sound design. They told me about the person who supposed to record the footsteps for the film Bourne. He had read the script just for that. He got into the character to do the footsteps of Bourne, which you as an audience don’t know about. That is the effort and preparation; they take good pride in their work.

In India the actors don’t need screenplays today, some of them do like Shah Rukh or Aamir, but most of them need ten minutes of a narration and they decide whether they want to do a film or not. The most important thing for them is their look; do I have a beard or not? Who cares? Read the script, understand the character, and look at body language.

But it’s changing. The younger generation is putting in more effort. They are more educated. They are thinking a lot about the character. Once the actor starts thinking, the director starts thinking and everyone starts thinking. It makes it challenging.

How has marketing a Bollywood film changed within the sub-continent and internationally?

We still haven’t understood how to market a film. We need to spend a lot more money. Everything is done the same way. Everybody goes on reality shows. Producers push you for these things. They copy from America. Even a Tom Cruise goes on shows and jumps on couches. Now they started doing that. But we still need to understand what the films needs.

For me, the marketing should be done according to the requirements of the film. As a filmmaker I want to be attached to the film. At one stage you need to let go and let the marketing people take it over. Producers should be left out of it.

We write our own press releases. We are not supposed to do it, but the PR people ask us. In America they have different departments for different things. Everybody concentrates on that thing that they are good at and that is what we should do.

We need to have websites, interactive stuff and downloads. We need to be a lot more visible internationally on festivals. You need to attract the mainstream population as well, but we are getting there.

Do you think Indian Cinema has made a mark internationally?

Indian Cinema is crap in a lot of ways. I don’t think we have made our mark yet. We are still very small. Though we do a lot of things, there is still a lot to learn.

Please react on the following: Bollywood is the wild-card in the globalization process of the media.

Bollywood itself is complex, because Indian cinema is not Bollywood. You have a lot of South Indian cinema, but since Bollywood is most commercially popular, it is mentioned.

Bollywood to the West is like an item-number. We need to make serious, sensible cinema which is marketed well and is entertaining. They are looking for Bollywood to amuse them. We are not here to amuse people. I am here to tell a story in the most interesting way I can. For me to be a wild-card, I don’t look at it that way.

If you can take Iranian cinema seriously, Turkish cinema seriously, Italian cinema, why can’t you take Indian cinema seriously? Look at all cinemas in the same way and then decide.

What is the change you would like to see happening in the next few years?

First you need to understand that as a filmmaker, I want to do something which is different, original and something I believe in.

I think we need little bit more original stuff, entertaining stuff, more issue based films and more realistic films. Storytelling needs to be contemporary, and we don’t need to take forever to tell a story, because people have short attention spans.

Experiment with subjects, style and treatment and form. Don’t get labeled, stereotyped, or worry about success or failure. The passion is a journey of making that film. Box office success depends on so many things. If I can tell you a story in the best possible way, I have achieved something.

Describe the future of Indian Cinema in one sentence.

I think Bollywood will be a regular player at some stage; it won’t be that joker anymore.

We are definitely looking forward to seeing that happen to Indian Cinema in the near future.

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