There is one really big story, but so long as I am covering things, I might as well cover the little stories too.
RK Studios Sale
Some background. Raj Kapoor built RK studios back in the 1950s. It is one of the 3 oldest studio lots in Bombay, the others being Mehboob Studios and Filmalaya. These old studios were built off in unbuilt land in the suburbs, the old stars built or bought houses near by for the ease of work, once upon a time it was full of open land and cheap housing. It wasn’t just stars who lived up there, technicians and character actors built houses up there too. The Studios were the nexus of a little village of filmfolk.
RK Studios in particular, Raj Kapoor loved to use it to host parties along with shooting films. He (and Nargis) also practically lived there for several years, sleeping in his office out building. The RK Studios Holi parties were legendary, an annual event that brought together everyone of the Indian film industry in one joyous gathering.
(They’d always set up a big tank to dunk people in. But it was also famous as the Holi party where a woman would never be disrespected or molested, an event where all genders and all ages could have fun together)
Films need a lot of space to be made, owning your own studio means that you always have the space available for your own films. And it also means that, when you aren’t using it, you can rent it out to the many other banners who don’t have their own studio space. In the golden years, RK Studios was where Raj Kapoor filmed his movies, planned his movies, everything. And at the same time, it was where he got income to help support them by renting out the space to other banners.
After Raj’s death, there were few original films made by the RK Studios banner. But that didn’t mean the studio wasn’t active. Raj’s three sons, Randhir and Rishi and Rajiv, went to their offices and coordinated rentals and rights of old films and survived on their father’s legacy. RK Studios was never really modernized, some of the spaces were updated but there was never the massive structural improvements that were needed to bring it into the 2000th century.
Which didn’t really matter, because for whatever reason the standards for Bombay film studios, the physical facilities, are extremely low. Madras is the state of the art filming location in India, the place where air conditioning, bathrooms, comfortable make-up rooms, are all expected and provided. Since the 1950s and 60s, many Hindi films have been made there as well as films in every southern language partly because the facilities are so superior. Meanwhile, in Bombay, vanity vans have become accepted on studio lots because the facilities are so inferior. The exception to this being Yash Raj Studios, which has a “no vanity vans” policy, and facilities built in the 1990s.
(I don’t know which studio this is, but you get the idea. Canteens with wooden tables, open to the air, terrible bathrooms, crowded dark spaces, it’s the same at all the studios)
So RK Studios kept limping along. Providing small steady income to the family. But the dream was always to find someone who could revive the banner, make it not just a physical location with dreams of the past, but bring it into the future. Ranbir Kapoor was the only possible heir, the only son in his generation. The 3 daughters were, of course, not considered. Girls can’t run studios (except Ekta Kapoor, Devika Rani, all the others…..). When Ranbir was brought to India to be launched, much was made of his American “film” “degree”, his training under Bhansali before the launch, an in interviews he and his family dropped hints implying that he was their hope for the future, he would have a grand launch and then start working on his own films and revive the studio.
But, from that side of things, Ranbir has been a disaster. His film career has been filled with good performances, but few box office successes. Topped last year with Jagga Jasoos, his first film as a producer, which was not just massively unsuccessful, but was a massive disaster during filming. Ranbir proved himself incapable of being a good producer, and a good businessman.
And also last year, RK Studios suffered a fire, damaging the older parts. Along with the loss of the buildings, they lost all of the priceless artifacts of the golden era. Literally priceless, which I assume means they were not insured, because there would be no insurance amount that would be able to make up for them.
And now, Rishi has announced that they are selling the studio (full story in the Mumbai Mirror along with great background, read it here). But not just because of the fire:
For a while, we did juggle with the idea of renovating the place with state-of-the-art technology. However, in reality it isn’t always possible for a phoenix to rise from the ashes. We Kapoors are very emotional lot but then…” he lapsed into silence.
Recovering his composure, he explained, “The investment in rebuilding the studio would just not have yielded sufficient revenue to keep it going. Believe me, we had to take the larger picture into account and take a level-headed decision. Even before the fire, for years R. K. Studio had become a huge white elephant, toting up losses. The few bookings we would get from films, TV serials and ad shoots would expect free parking space, air-conditioning and discounts.
We brothers are strongly bonded. But who knows about our children and grand-children? What if differences crop up in the next generation? The studio would only end up in litigation as so many industrial and textile estates have. There would be family differences and only lawyers would end up charging heavy sums of fee. Do you think my father would have liked to see his labour of love becoming the subject of courtroom proceedings?
True, there are so many wonderful memories there, so much film history, but that would be like clutching on to straws in the wind.
If he [Ranbir] has the money, let him buy it from us then. But seriously, that’s a silly question. It’s Ranbir’s time to concentrate on his career, Sanju has validated him as a commercially successful actor. [The sale will happen] in two days, two months, two years, we have no timelines….We had to place a stone on our hearts. Chhati pe patthar rakkhar, soch samajh kar decision liya hai.
It took me a while to write this post because I was out of town, at my family house with my parents. But on the other hand, that was also the perfect preparation to write this post. Our house has been in our family for 3 generations, and with every generation shift, there is that question of whether we will be able to keep it, whether it will mean as much to the next generation as it did to the last. I am the 4th, and it means a lot to me, but that doesn’t matter if it is meaningless to the others of my generation. Or if it is meaningless to the fifth generation, my little cousins.
For the Kapoors, the next generation is Kareena, Karisma, Riddhima, and Ranbir. And after that, Karisma’s two children and Taimur and Riddhima’s two children. Rishi and Randhir and Rajiv, they grew up in the golden age of RK Studios. When it was more than just a place and a few old buildings, when it was the heart of the film industry. That’s why they love it, that’s why they keep it close to their hearts. Kareena and Karisma and Riddhima and Ranbir, they grew up when it was the tired old studio, fit only for TV shows and c-level films, the place with offices where they visited their fathers, ran in and out of the corridors, but no more than that. No magic there. It is sad, but it is not heartbreaking. Kareena’s quote sums it up:
I don’t know how far what is actually happening. In fact, I have been quite under the weather and I haven’t even met my father in the last four or five days… But of course, we have all grown up walking around in those corridors. I think it’s probably something that the family has decided, so it’s upto my fathers, his brothers and up to them… If that’s what they have decided, so be it.
So far as her generation is concerned, the studio belongs to their fathers and uncles, nothing to do with them.
Kriti’s Career is in Trouble
I love Kriti! Am I the only one? Her next film has been delayed, the one that looked so good, Arjun Patiala with Diljit. Supposedly because the producer is also producing Stree and didn’t want competition. (story here)
So Kriti and Diljit are taking a backseat to Rajkummar and Shraddha. Hopefully this isn’t a major set-back, but it does make me worried about her because it means she won’t get a good follow-up to Bareilly Ki Barfi for well over a year after it comes out, which might be far too long for an audience to remember her.
Rishi’s Next Also Delayed
Rumors are flying that it is because he can’t open a movie and the director has no faith, the official line is that it needs more post-production work. But, combined with the Helicopter Eela delay and the Arjun Patiala delay, I think it’s just that people are announcing release dates too soon. Everyone is announcing the earliest possible date, and then if one little thing goes wrong, they have to move it. At some point the advantage of grabbing the soonest release date possible is going to be balanced by the disadvantage of all this bad press when you can’t make the deadline. (story here)
Thugs of Hindostan is still “Big big BIG”
Of course, Yash Raj is never going to miss its deadline. They will announce ludicrously far out to make sure they have enough time, and then leave the film sitting in the cans even if it is ready early. Because they have a plan, a whole long plan, to release it in the best way possible. (story here)
Today’s story is a double example of that. First, the reveal that YFX, their in house FX studio, was founded 2 years ago just for Thugs. That’s how far in advance they plan these things. And second, that the “source” on this story must have used “big” every third word. There is a message to this campaign and they don’t want us to miss it. Get excited! This is going to be the biggest film India has ever seen and you can’t afford to miss it!
Thugs Of Hindostan is not just the biggest film for YRF, it is the biggest film of Bollywood. No one knows this but Aditya Chopra started working on the visual effects of Thugs with his director Viktor Acharya, two years back! Since the day Adi, Viktor and superstar Aamir Khan decided that they would collaborate on Thugs of Hindostan, they decided that they would make Thugs the biggest visual extravaganza of all time. Adi launched YRF’s VFX company called YFX in 2016 to start working on Thugs!” says a production source.
Thugs is the biggest festive release of all time. It sees two of the biggest icons of Hindi cinema Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan come together for the first time ever. It has superstar Katrina Kaif and has Fatima Sana Shaikh (of Dangal fame). Viktor’s last film Dhoom 3 broke box office records worldwide. The anticipation is huge from Thugs Of Hindostan and the team wants the film to be an immersive visual experience, a total paisa vasool larger-than-life cinema! The scale that they are chasing to have could have only been possible if they started work two years before the release. Given the massive visual scale of Thugs, the team could only have managed to catch the deadline of asset releases if they planned way in advance. The team started editing the footage from the day the shoot started. It will be a massive cinema experience for audiences across the globe
YFX was formed to do the pre-visualization work for Thugs but in the interim, the company worked on Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai. Both boasted of high-value visual effects and YFX achieved global standards. The success of Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai gave confidence to Adi that YFX could take on the mammoth task they had at hand with Thugs. It will be a visual event like never before in Indian cinema,