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We need a reservation system for small films: Riteish Deshmukh

Riteish Deshmukh might be known for being a comic actor, but in his avatar as producer, he’s chosen to go off the beaten track with some unconventional choices

After about a decade of acting in films, Riteish Deshmukh turned to producing movies. What is interesting is that like John Abraham, Deshmukh has made some brave choices while producing movies.

Riteish Deshmukh

His debut production, Balak Palak, a quirky take on sex education, earned critical acclaim while his second production, Yellow, was an unconventional, yet sensitive story, of a woman and her differently abled daughter. Yellow received three National Awards including Special Jury and Special Mention at the 61st National Film Awards. And now, Riteish is acting in an out-and-out action movie, Lai Bhaari, which marks his debut in Marathi films as an actor. Excerpts from a freewheeling chat with the actor-turned-producer.

Q. If one keeps your acting career in mind, then it’s difficult to imagine you as the person behind the movies you have produced.
A. The script of Balak Palak came to me while I was shooting for Housefull. I read the script, but got busy and forgot about it. Later, when I got back to them expressing interest, they told me that they were already halfway done with the shoot, with a different producer. I insisted on being a part of the movie and that’s when I met Uttung Thakur who was the producer. Uttung and my father (the late Vilasrao Deshmukh) shared a close relationship and he agreed to take me on board as the co-producer. Yellow, too, came my way through him. It was a great experience to produce these two movies, considering they were unique in content, and also worked for us budgetwise.

Q. Are you good with money?
A. Money and reputation are two different things. You could lose either money or reputation. The effort is in finding a balance between the two. If you are financially stable and people consider you to be a good producer, there’s nothing better than that.

Q. Is reputation more important of the two for you?
A. No. Balak Palak and Yellow might have been critic-friendly subjects, but my next film, Lai Bhaari, might not be. It is an out-and-out mainstream commercial film, so it’s a big risk. You just have to believe in what you are doing. Lai Bhaari is an action film and it is a genre that I haven’t seen in Marathi films in the past 10 years, at least.

Q. There’s a sudden interest in Marathi movies these days. Is it because the filmmakers are daring to make something different now?
A. When it comes to Hindi cinema, the entire dynamics change. In Marathi, you can make a film in Rs 4 crore, which works out with satellite rights among other things. I might make Yellow again in Rs 5 crore in Hindi, but for the movie to be noticed, I will need a special budget for publicity. I will be fighting for space with big producers who spend R10-Rs 15 crore, only on publicity. So what does a smaller-budget film do? However, times are changing. I hope it gives more courage to younger producers to make smaller films.

Q. There is a dichotomy in the kind of films you act in and the kind of movies you produce.
A. That’s simply because of a lack of choices. It’s not that I am ashamed of the films I have done — right from Humshakals to Grand Masti to Housefull — I’m proud of all of them.

Q. What would your advice be to a budding producer?
A. Nothing is more important than content. Just having money is not enough. You need to have the attitude to understand the content and the kind of films you want to produce. Your sensibility will reflect in the result you get at the box office. You need to be convinced of the content first. Also, I think one should invest only that much amount, as that won’t hurt you. No point in making a film that will make you bleed.

Q. What would help smaller films in Bollywood?
A. If I had to make Yellow in Hindi, I will have to make it more commercial — include bigger names so that people come to watch them.

Q.Won’t that kill the film?
A. No, one can manage. Many small films in Hindi have failed because you don’t get enough theatres as bigger movies take up the major chunk of the theatres. If there is a rule saying no big films can release in more than 70 per cent of the screens, there might be a chance.

Q. You mean we need reservation for small films?
A. Yes, what we need is a reservation system for smaller films. At least a 10 per cent reservation if we want them to thrive. Bigger movies always bulldoze small films.

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