Boy, it’s been awhile since I did a real news round-up, isn’t it? Partly because the releases have been going boom-boom-boom for the past few months, so with my weekly southern reviews, and new movie news, and then Bahubali, there just hasn’t been time. But this week it’s kind of slow, I don’t have another review ready yet, might as well do a quick news round-up.
Feels weird to do an “introduction” for one of these, but it has been a while, and (hopefully) some of my Bahubali new readers are sticking around and may not have seen one before. This isn’t supposed to be all the news available today, or even the most important. You can find that on other websites. This is just the news stories that interested me and which I felt like I had something to say about.
So, first story! Ranbir Kapoor is saying that he is NOT going to produce anything more after Jagga Jasoos. He is also acknowledging that the Jagga Jasoos production process was a disaster, and the blame should be equally shared between all parties involved “except one person” (I am assuming he means Katrina? As a gentlemanly statement, and also probably the truth, I have heard that Katrina is a dream on set, hardworking and responsible and obedient and all of that). And he says the process has taught him that he should focus on acting, not any other kind of filmmaking.
I find this very interesting for 3 separate reasons! First, the way Ranbir has this unspoken narrative around him, that we have been waiting for 2 generations for someone to revive RK Films, it feels like in some way the studio is part of the cultural heritage of all Indian film fans and we want a Kapoor to appear and revive it for us. Since before his launch, heck, since he was a kid, he has had this pressure and this “destiny” on him. And he hasn’t exactly been ducking it. Whenever asked about reviving RK, or turning director, or any of that, he just gives a coy smile and doesn’t answer.
(If I were to revive RK Films, the first thing I would do is repaint the wall bright white and cut back those vines. I know things get damaged and grow fast in India, but I would have someone constantly standing by with paint and clippers for touch ups. Just looks so messy to my American eyes!)
And the second thing I find interesting is how that coy smile attitude was maybe part of the problem? You can’t be a producer, or a director for that matter, if you keep that cool guy “nothing touches me, I don’t care about anything, I am an artist” kind of vibe. You need to push and show your feelings and get angry and get happy and most of all ask for stuff! Not pretend that you don’t need anything else, that you are too cool to care. You need to beg and fight and all of it. And Ranbir just isn’t willing to lower his dignity like that.
Not every producer or producer/director has to succeed in the same way. Yash Chopra, for instance, got by through being so gosh-darn lovable, every just wanted to please him and spend time with him. Aditya Chopra does it by being wise and remote. Karan Johar is gossipy and charming and a celebrity in his own right. But all of them have a clear vision of what they need and what they want and they make sure that vision is stamped in the minds of everyone who works for them. You have to open up enough so people know what you want, and you have to let loose the force of your personality enough so they believe in it. And Ranbir is not someone to do either of those things, open up or let loose his personality.
The 3rd thing I find interesting is that Ranbir is being very much NOT a producer in saying the blame is shared. A producer’s job is to say that all the blame is his. Whether he is a producer/director like Karan Johar, or a producer/star like Shahrukh, or a just straight up producer/producer like Sajid Nadiawala. And it’s not that they are lying either, a real producer is the heart and soul and breath of a film, it lives on their vision. And if it fails in anyway, production delays or script re-writes or poor casting, the producer has to believe down in his bones, and declare to the world, that this is because of him and no one else. Clearly, Ranbir didn’t/doesn’t believe in himself and in his film the way he should if he is going to be successful in this role.
And the 4th reason I find this interesting is that Ranbir’s failure is seen not just as a failure by a Kapoor family member, but as a failure as a rising star. In the Hindi industry at least, it’s expected that a major actor will eventually turn producer and possibly director, that’s just the direction you are supposed to go in. Thanks to Ranbir’s grandfather, and others like him, who founded the Hindi film industry on their enormous polyglot talents.
So, there’s that story. Speaking of the expectation that stars will do everything, Salman just issued an announcement about Dabangg 3, which he is of course producing and doing most of the prep work for himself. But he doesn’t want to direct, give someone else that responsibility. Arbaaz directed the last one, if you remember, after the original director dropped out. But Arbaaz doesn’t want to do it either, preferring to focus on the producing side. So they are looking for some director for hire somewhere.
(Arbaaz is the slightly handsomer youngest brother with the straight nose who’s marriage is officially over, not only rumored to be on the rocks. Sohail is the other one)
Fascinating, considering how usually directors are considered as the driving force of a film. This announcement, and the way it is reported, acknowledges that no, when you are a big star, you are the driving force of the film. And not in a bad way, you have the right sense of what will work and what won’t, you have more experience and talent than any director, that’s what made you and kept you a star. So Salman and his brothers figured out casting and story and all of that, the director just has to show up at the last minute and turn on the cameras.
Final story! The Forbes wealthiest entertainers list is out. The wealthiest actors list, if it is the same pattern as last year, will be coming in August. And that’s where our Indian celebrities really shine. Because, as is becoming a theme for this post, they aren’t really just “actors”, doing the kind of job that “actor” means in other places in the world. They are actors/directors/producers/marketing managers/agents/advertising executives/politicians. A much bigger kind of role than actor is elsewhere.
Closer to what, in America, someone like Sean Combs is for music, producer and talent finder and everything else for the entire industry. Sean Combs, coincidentally, is the top of the list with 130 million last year. Shahrukh is the highest Indian, at 65th and 38 million. At 71 is Salman, with 37 million. And at 80th is Akshay, with 35.5 million.
(Akshay may be the poorest as a middle-aged man, but I think we can all agree he had the best hair as a 20-something. And really, at the end of your life, what is more important?)
Notice, looking at that list, that the actor with the most profitable films last year, Akshay, had the lowest overall income. Salman, with the next most successful films, is in the middle. And Shahrukh, who had one of the worst years of his career in terms of box office, is right on top.
It’s all upside down, because the money doesn’t come from films. Not the big money. At least, not directly. Shahrukh’s income comes from ad campaigns, from the Red Chillies VFX and other investments, from public appearance payments. And from pre-sales of satellite rights and distribution for his films, thanks to his producer credit on all of them. The actual box office, whether they are true failures and losses like Fan, or just lower budget small releases like Dear Zindagi, that doesn’t have a major effect on his income. His income is untethered to the actual box office, at least short term. Long term, if this string of failures keeps up, those ads and public appearances could dry up, and the rights pre-sales will go way way down.
Salman’s in a better position going into 2017, and was in a better position in 2016 too, because of Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan. Not their actual box office, that didn’t go into his pocket, but how that box office success raised the rates he could charge for his next film, for his ads, and for everything else. It’s secondhand box office money, the money from those films sets the scale he can charge for everything else.
And then there’s Akshay. The workhorse of the box office. Most reliable actor in terms of profit margin. But not splashy, you know? If you could pick anyone to perform and hang out at your wedding, he’s not the one you would want. And I don’t think he would want to do it. I think he would rather keep his head down and work hard, and work smart, in these films. In which case, it is kind of impressive that he came as close on the list as he did to Salman and Shahrukh. Considering his income comes the hard way, from actual box office profit, more than from the other easy and more profitable sources.