Extra news post this week, because there was some interesting stuff, and also I felt like we needed something to talk about besides Shahrukh.
Prabhas is Pricey
Here’s something interesting! Supposedly, Prabhas has priced himself out of Hindi films by demanding 20 crore per film, the same as he gets in the Telugu industry, which means Karan Johar has dropped his promise to launch him. At least, that’s how it’s being presented in the press.
I think there is probably a bunch of other stuff going on here. First, I don’t see a problem with Prabhas demanding the same rate in Hindi as in Telugu. The underlying assumption is that there is some advantage to him in trying to break into the Hindi market. But, why? For audience reach, especially after Bahubali, they aren’t that different. And clearly in terms of money, he can make more by staying in the Telugu market. And more money reflects more love from the audience, respect from the producers, etc. etc. So, if I were Prabhas, or Prabhas’ business manager, I might suggest this demand as kind of a trial balloon. If he only wants to work in the Hindi industry if he feels he can get the same respect, artistic challenges, audience loyalty, and everything else that he is getting in the Telugu, demanding the same monetary rates would be a pretty good test of that. And clearly he can’t get the same money, which means probably not the same everything else either. So why bother.
He still has Saaho coming out, and it is being released in Hindi and Tamil and Telugu. If that does halfway decent, he can try again with his 20 crore rate and see if anyone is willing to match it. And if they aren’t, well, so what? He keeps making money and fans keep loving him and it’s all good, what does it matter if he does or doesn’t break into the Hindi market?
(Saaho poster also just came out. Woo Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy!)
Sushant Singh Rajput is Trying to be Savvy
Two SSR stories today! First, his astronaut film, which he supposedly is very gung ho about and spent his own money to go to NASA for training and so on, is now being filmed in London not America. And definitely not at NASA. Because they are out of money.
FINALLY, a producer is out of money!!! Oh glorious day of practical budgeting!!!! And I do think it is a bad idea probably to swap in London for America and fudge stuff on this film. But that’s because I think this film is a bad idea to begin with. You just can’t make this kind of astronaut space film that will work, not with the Indian film budget and technology and narrative style even. Rani’s astronaut film, that looks good, because it seems to be character focused and stuff, not big special effects. But this film has always been promoted based on the spectacle of it, not the performance or the drama or anything. No way to make this film worth it for the audience unless you spend just unbelievable amounts of money. And without those crazy amounts of money, it is going to look cheap and shoddy and fail.
(Also, the small children in the background is making me think his training is a little less impressive and more “thing you can pay to do as a tourist”)
Second, Sushant has walked out on RAW, a period spy drama set in 1971 (so presumably about Bangladesh). I don’t know if this is a good move or a bad move for him. On the one hand, he might have been burned by this NASA film which looks like it is turning into an ever increasing disaster and not want to risk another big budget spectacle type thing, might be looking for a small film instead. On the other hand, he is insulting the producer and burning some bridges behind him, which is always a bad idea.
Abhishek is supposedly being looked at to step in and replace Sushant, which makes me wonder if there is some height related plot point. But, speaking of Abhishek, I’m going to beat up on him a little more! Sushant’s exit from this film, it’s not great, but it’s normal. The film wasn’t fully ready for shooting, still in pre-production, they can re-write and recast. And there’ve been some shifts in Sushant’s career since he signed it, and shifts in the industry, it’s reasonable for him to have a change of mind. Very different from a sudden pull out with 48 hours notice and no clear reason.
Nawazuddin is Disappointing
This story kind of ties back to the Shahrukh birthday posts I’ve been doing. Nawazuddin is a wonderful actor, yes. But that doesn’t mean he is a wonderful human being. His authorized autobiography just came out and apparently there is a section where he goes into great detail about his affair with his Miss Lovely co-star. Which she isn’t denying, says it lasted a few months during filming. But the problem is it’s not detail like “I learned how to love, it was a wonderful experience, she is a wise and witty person”. It’s detail like “she seduced me while wearing fur”. Here’s the quote:
For the very first time I went to Niharika’s house. I rang the doorbell, slightly nervous. When she opened the door, revealing a glimpse of the house, I was speechless with amazement. A hundred, or so it seemed, little candles flickered beautifully. She wore soft faux fur, looking devastatingly gorgeous; her beauty illuminated even more in the candlelight. And I, being the lusty village bumpkin that I am, scooped her up in my arms and headed straight for the bedroom. We made passionate love. And just like that, out of the blue, I began a relationship with Niharika Singh, a relationship which I did not know then would last for almost one and a half years
I am sure Nawazuddin didn’t write this, I’m sure his writer just took the idea of an affair and ran with it. And I am sure that it was put in just to sell books and they didn’t think any more about it. But when people ask why I love Shahrukh, THIS IS WHY.
Heck, not just Shahrukh. Aamir, Amitabh, Salman, even Akshay, they don’t go cheap like this. They wouldn’t let a book go out with their name attached that demeans a woman in this way, any woman. And to do it to a woman you had a relationship with in the past? That’s really wrong. Not wrong in a “I can’t stand to even look at you” way, not like Shiney Ahuja, but still kind of gross. Nawazuddin is still a great actor and I want him to get work that showcases his talent, but I’m not going to root for him to succeed and fall in love with him and so on and so on if he does stuff like this. Fandom isn’t just about “he’s a great actor, why don’t you love him more?”, there’s other stuff you have to do to earn my loyalty and I think not selling out and objectifying a woman you had a relationship with for book sales is a pretty simple standard.
(Here they are together in the film)
Netflix Makes a Big Move
Okay, here’s the exciting news story! Supposedly Saif’s next film has been purchased by Netflix for an exclusive release on their platform. No theatrical release.
This is a BIG BIG DEAL. In a whole bunch of ways. In America, Netflix has been steadily digging in to the theatrical release market for years, enough that they are getting booed at industry events by the theater owners. In America, the creators are thrilled. Because the way studios are run and the corruption and incestuous nature of the distribution market and so on means that it is almost impossible to get an independent film made and distributed. But Netflix is now producing those films and releasing them online, so the artists can make things they otherwise would not be able to, and the audience can see things they otherwise would not be able to see because no theater would play it (not because it is unprofitable or unplayable, but because of the monopoly by the major studios). This is why films like Parched or Angry Indian Goddesses found a home on Netflix. In India, they could only play at film festivals and barely got funding to be made.
(Or my favorite, Dhanak. I am super grateful to Netflix for giving this a wider release than just film festivals)
But buying a Saif Ali Khan film, that is a WHOLE DIFFERENT THING. Maybe it won’t sell tickets, maybe it will, but it could absolutely get a theatrical release. And it can absolutely get the funding to be made. There is no reason to sell to Netflix besides the producers wanting a quick cash out.
And this is a terrible terrible thing to do to Indian film, to the Indian audience, and to, like, India. Really, no exaggeration.
In America, everyone essentially has Netflix. Or has the ability to get Netflix. It costs less than $10 a month (which is slightly more than minimum wage for one hour), and you only need basic internet coverage to be able to stream. There are still gaps, there’s a whole thing about making sure lower income families are able to access internet and so on, but overall only 13% of Americans do not use the internet.
In India, 74% do not have internet!!!! SEVENTY-FOUR PERCENT!!!! So Saif’s new film, and potentially more films if this trend continues, has gone from reaching almost every Indian citizen, to ignoring 3 quarters of the country.
Which means Indian film will go from being a major force in the country and the world, to being something only enjoyed by the top quarter of society.
This is the end limit of the multiplex trend. Profits have increasingly been focused on getting the very wealthiest part of society to spend a ton of money, and ignoring everyone else who can’t afford to spend that much. It’s bad for the industry as a whole, and most filmmakers have been worried about it, and the overall theater associations have been worried about it too. The only people happy with it are the fly by night producers/distributors who want a quick profit, the new outside corporate houses, and the companies running the multiplexes. I thought the worst would be the new multiplexes with incredibly high ticket prices and only enough seats for a dozen people per show, but moving to Netflix is much much worse.
If this continues, it means that the top quarter of society can watch films, and everyone else can watch……? Nothing, I guess. It’s not a matter of leaving Indian film for Hollywood or something like that, it’s a matter of having NOTHING available to you. If you are in the really rural areas and the single screen closes, or the traveling screen stops coming through, I suppose you might have satellite TV, but even that relies on a steady power source. So Netflix gets Saif’s movie, the producers get a big pay out because Netflix is desperate for content, and 74% of the country loses any source of entertainment, glamour, sense of the wider world, hope.
And I think that’s part of why Saif is “hopping mad” as the headline says, and I kind of am too. It’s not just about wanting your face to be up there on the big screen, it’s about a sense of responsibility to the audience, the whole audience, not just 26% of it.