Don’t kill that small budget entertainer !

Beautifully told tales touching upon various human emotions hit the silver screen this year with movies like “I AM”, “Chalo Dill” and “Stanley Ka Dabba”. But only a few did well as the audiences were either not aware or were hesitant about watching an unfamiliar cast or theme.

Ironically, these tales are often more engrossing compared to big-buck movies, mainly because the emphasis is more on content, storytelling technique and performances. Such films deserve a chance.

“If small-budget films succeed, people will make more experimental cinema and have content-based scripts,” says filmmaker Anurag Kashyap.

One such film with good performances was “Chalo Dill” that brought out an interesting contrast between the affluent and the middle class. Lara Dutta, as hoity-toity investment banker Mihika Mukherjee, and Vinay Pathak, as unpolished small-time sari seller Manu Pathak, created the desired effect on screen.

But “Chalo Dill”, directed by Shashant Shah, couldn’t attract enough footfalls to make it a hit. This was Lara’s debut production venture for which she had teamed up with Big Daddy Productions and Eros International Media Ltd. Made on a budget of approximately Rs.5 crore, it reportedly managed to rake in above Rs.4 crore.

Another interesting tale that paled at the box office was “Stanley Ka Dabba”. An interesting pick from everyday life about the delicate relationship between school teachers and students and how sometimes children are compelled to bear the boorishness of their peers.

The performances of Amole Gupte, who also wrote and directed it, as the teacher greedy for food and his son Partho Gupte as poor student Stanley added a nice flavour to the tiffin box drama, but the lack of big names seems to have kept people away from the theatres. The film ended up pocketing just above Rs.5 crore.

Director Onir delved into multiple topics like the plight of Kashmiri pandits, gay issues, paedophelia and single motherhood in his crowd funded “I AM”. The few who saw the film could connect to the tales.

“Onir’s approach towards Kashmiris who were forced to leave the valley was very real and he was equally honest in bringing the pain and sufferings of Muslims living there. I loved the film and could easily associate with it as me and my family had faced the same problem. Despite being born there, we don’t belong there any more,” Nidhi Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit living in the capital said.

Even critics appreciated the film, but there were few who made the effort to see it.

Kashyap, who acted in “I AM”, said: “I was not satisfied with the box office report of ‘I AM’, but, yes, critically it has got really good response. But at the end of the day box office does matter to every filmmaker.”

The director-producer feels the makers should find ways to connect to the audience to make them aware of their product to get enough footfalls.

“Pyaar Ka Punchnama” was declared an average with an earning of about Rs.9 crore, while “Kucch Luv Jaisaa” was not a hit as it could manage to take home just about Rs.3 crore.

One of the few people who found luck at the box office with their “chota packet” was Kiran Rao who created a potpourri of different people from diverse backgrounds in “Dhobi Ghat”. Made with a budget of Rs.5 crore, it managed to garner about Rs.12 crore in the first week.

Director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s “Shor In The City” were lucky too as their Rs.3 crore movie got a good response and raked in about Rs.4 crore.

A good way to sell small films could be slashing the ticket prices. But right marketing is a long way off.

Rahul Bose, who features in a lot of offbeat films, blames big production houses for giving a step-motherly treatment to small films.

“A lot of big companies have a very dishonest approach to marketing small films. They don’t want them to succeed. They don’t really have the passion. They do it because they have to and they are really interested in big films,” he said.

“Traditionally, small films are made by big studios so they can bully the exhibitors if they don’t get the theatres. They leverage the big films they are going to release on small films, so that they get show timings,” he added. By Arpana