In our film industry, we have a relatively new monster to deal with; it's called P&A. In industry parlance, it refers to the 'Print and Advertising' costs incurred to release a film. This monster came in to being in the last ten years; not that such investment did not exist earlier, but never did it assume a Jurassic size.
So once you have finished making a film comes the part where you have to take it to the consumer, the audience. You have to grab their attention; you have to get them out of their homes and make them flock the theatres. And how do you do that?
There are 300 TV channels, almost as many radio stations, may be more publications, fancy billboards and such other mediums. The producer and the distributor write the cheques and buy as much as their budget allows. Sometimes, they even overshoot it. All good and fair so far? No.
Here's the problem. On an average, films spend anywhere between Rs 5 crore to Rs 20 crore as part of its P&A. So you need a minimum for your film to be barely noticed by the audience. So if your film cost Rs 2 crore to make, you need an additional Rs 5 crore to reach out to people. Now I have nothing against big budget films — I have directed one myself.
The question then is this: should low-budget films fight the same battle? Yes, because they need to reach out to the same audience as the big ones; they too need to be on the same platform as the big films. If they don't, they won't be noticed.
Typically, a film made for Rs 2 crore may not aspire to make Rs 20 crore at the box office; usually, it just wants to make the Rs 2.25 crore mark. But the tragedy is that it has to make Rs 8 crore in order to survive or else no one will know that it released.
So how long before such small, independent films lose courage? Of course, indie cinema is getting a boost thanks to, who I like to call, the 'alternate studios'. But I personally feel that films from these studios end up speaking the same language in a different accent. And I am not being qualitatively judgmental here.
Also, 'reservations' for indie films is not a solution. I use the word 'reservations' because it is relevant today and will be better understood. I am not asking that better rates should be offered to indie films where print and TV advertising are concerned. In that case, we will be fighting different battles. What I am asking is if big films need to promote themselves so much.
Will an A list film have any less traction if it had to spend less on its promotions? Can we bring the P&A scale down in a uniform manner? Then a big film will spend say, Rs 7 crore on P&A and an indie film will spend around Rs 1.5 crore. But then no one should spend Rs 20 crore.
Because our indie films must survive. This is important for all of us — the filmmakers and the audience.
By Invitation is a weekly column where directors offer their take on Bollywood. Anubhav Sinha is a filmmaker who has directed Ra.One and produced Gulaab Gang.