Anand Pandit is an ace film producer, distributor, real estate developer and philanthropist and in April, he had a release on OTT with Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull. Around the same time, he had to push the theatrical release of his next Chehre with Amitabh Bachchan and Emraan Hashmi due to the rising Covid-19 cases. In an exclusive conversation with Spotboye.com, the producer talks about the films, the financial difficulty of holding films for theatrical release during the pandemic and more. Read excerpts from the interview:
How was your experience of OTT with The Big Bull?
We had a fantastic experience with OTT. It is emerging as a very strong platform since the pandemic and it has become a new lifestyle for people. It has also emerged as a new business prospect for entertainment producers. We understood how exactly OTT works from the content, marketing and strategy, through The Big Bull.
With OTT booming the way it is, especially during the pandemic, have the scales shifted in their favour reflected in terms of the deals they are offering?
I feel it’s a very temporary phase. I know we are at a crossroad right now between two platforms, theatres and OTT. Theatres will always be an experience for everybody, so I don’t think it will fade away in any way. But the emergence of OTT is also a big thing worldwide. Now we will decide before making a film if we are making it for OTT or theatres. Two clear cut separate strings will start.
Last year you had offered your old films for free to theatre owners for screening so as to pull back the crowd, but now with over a year passed since theatres enjoyed a normal and full business, how do you see it reviving?
Personally, I feel the well-being of people is the most important. Entertainment would be the last priority. But also, when you are sitting idle at home, only entertainment can save you. So, we have to balance it. But I am confident that after the vaccination drives globally and the emergence of new techniques to combat the pandemic, things will improve. Also, our medical staff and frontline workers are more equipped and knowledgeable on how to face it. So, slowly life will be normal.
In a lot of other countries, the cinemas have reopened. I feel even in India, within the next 2-3 months cinema will reopen and people will go back to it. It's testing time but I am very optimistic.
Talking about that, recently The Quiet Place 2 released in the West and had an amazing collection. Did that kind of give you more hope about theatre business?
I am not looking at those sporadic businesses. I am looking at the lifestyle as going to the cinema has become a part of our life, like travelling or going to restaurants. And this is not new, going to the cinema has been a part of our lives for about 100 years. So, I don’t think people can let go of their lifestyle. I have no issues and I am sure people will return for the theatre experience.
You had to push the release of Chehre at the last moment, but as a producer, how has it turned out for you?
Chehre is a very special movie for me out of my filmography. It is a beautifully narrated story and people will connect to it even though it is fictitious. Mr Bachchan wanted to make this film for many years, so it is very near to his heart as well. One day he called me saying that he wants to make this film and he wants me as a producer on it. It was a dream come true as nothing can be better than the superstar of the century asking you to be a part of something.
This is a very well-made film and it will be a very beautiful experience for the audience. It is a very different type of entertainment and the audience will see a glimpse of the old Hindi filmmaking style in it. Mr Bachchan and Emraan have obviously done great work but apart from them, Annu Kapoor ji, Dhritimaan Chatterjee sir, Raghubir Yadav ji, Rhea Chakraborty, Krystle D Souza and Siddhanth Kapoor have also done a good job along with our director Rumy Jafry.
You have been adamant to give Chehre a theatrical release, but with your good experience on OTT with The Big Bull, has there been any change in plans?
I am optimistic that things will get better in a few months and we are confident that people will go back to the theatres. We are a little bit adamant because we are confident that people will love this film in theatres and it will be better in a theatre experience. So, we are holding on to a theatrical release and I am sure, we will be releasing this film in the next two-three months.
People don’t get the technicalities behind the difficulty of holding on to a completed film for release. Can you explain that to us?
Generally, producers take loans from here and there for their films and they are very heavy to sustain. Majority producers face this problem but fortunately, I have internal approval, so I don’t have that interest burden. I don’t have that much financial concern in holding this film. But still, when a film is ready, it becomes difficult to control it and hold on to it.
It has been more than a year for the film industry since it was shut and it is getting difficult to sustain each day. What kind of support are you looking forward to getting from the government and film bodies in such a long period of uncertainty?
Honestly, there is nothing that the government can do and their priority has to be the well-being of people and I respect that and don’t expect anything special from them. Even the film bodies can’t do much in this big pandemic. So, I think we should just wait for it to naturally die down and we shouldn’t be in haste to release the film. Even if we pressurize the government to get theatres reopened and any Covid-cases happen, people won’t be comfortable coming back to theatres. So, it’s better to wait for this pandemic to die down naturally.
You worked with both the Bachchans, Amitabh and Abhishek, in Chehre and The Big Bull respectively. Did you notice any similarity between the two?
Both of them are amazing and experts in their own craft. Sr Bachchan sir has no match at all, and there never will be one. I am a big fan of his, so to even speak anything about him is not justified on my part.
If we talk about a similarity between them, they are both extremely professional. They do their work on time and give value addition to the script. But they don’t stick to it and are flexible. Whatever the final director’s call is, they follow that. They are both great actors and I feel fortunate to have been able to work with both of them around the same time in two different films.
Last year you had announced that you have locked the script of two suspense thrillers and were looking for a fresh cast for it. Any development on that?
Right now, we are at a crossroad of entertainment between OTT and theatres, so we are holding some of the projects. We will come up with new policies for the company in the next two-three months for how to go about with projects for each platform. So, maybe with the new faces we might make some new films and put them directly on OTT and with established actors, we might make films for theatre. That is our thinking but everything is on hold for the next two months right now.
You had also expressed a desire to explore hinterlands like Latur, Sikkim and Kerala as possible shoot locations…
Unfortunately, all the places with zero Covid cases that we thought of for shooting, they also got hit in the second wave. With restrictive travelling, we thought of taking it easy and taking it full throttle only when things reopen.
Your next production is Thank God with Ajay Devgn, Sidharth Malhotra and Rakul Preet Singh. It’s first schedule is already done, any update on the next one?
Right now, everyone is at home waiting for the pandemic to die down. So, there’s no update till everyone gets vaccinated, the government allows the shooting to resume and there is a bit of confidence.
You have said earlier that it is not a comedy. What can you tell us about it?
It’s a slice-of-life film. Like you can’t call a Rajkumar Hirani film comedy, this film is also of the same type, hilarious but with a beautiful message.
You have a long association with Ajay from Total Dhamaal to Thank God as actor and as a co-producer in The Big Bull. How has that association been, and is there any difference between Ajay, the producer and Ajay, the actor?
Ajay is a thorough professional and very warm-hearted. Whenever I make any request to him, he never says no, It’s like a family relationship with him. Even our professional relationship is amazing with a fantastic understanding, be it as an actor, co-producer or even in real estate.
You have stood behind your actors even in tough times, especially Rhea. So, whenever Chehre releases, will she be a part of the promotions?
As far as promotions are concerned, it’s our team that will decide who is needed for that. I don’t think that with Amitabh Bachchan and Emraan Hashmi present, we would need anyone else for the promotions. And I don’t want to use Rhea’s situation for my commercial benefit at this point of time. If she is comfortable, we will give her some part in the promotional activities, but if she is not, then also it’s okay.
Are there any other films that you are working on?
We are working on six-seven films, but we are currently fine tuning them on the grounds of casting and budget, depending on where we would be releasing those films. Hopefully, after two months everything will be done.
Image source: Magiq Touch PR
Image source: Magiq Touch PR