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78th birthday interview

52

“Though I bought the telecast rights of Sholay for Rs 25 lakhs, it fetched me a crore and a half when it was telecast on Doordarshan”

AMITABH BACHCHAN tells JYOTHI VENKATESH

Yesterday mega star Amitabh Bachchan celebrated his 78th birthday. To wish him and celebrate his birthday, we reproduce this different interview with AMITABH BACHCHAN with JYOTHI VENKATESH which appeared first in the now defunct STOCK MARKET MONITOR dt July 15, 1996, that exactly 24 years ago

What is the target figure ABCL is trying to capture from the film industry?

Out of the estimated Rs 3000 cr which is the annual turnover of the film industry in our counter, ABCL is trying to mop up only 2% which is barely @s 60 cr. We have got 900 million consumers in India. If we at ABCL do not tap it then the foreigners will come and grab the money away from us.

Do you at ABCL plan to produce films in South Indian languages too?

Yes. Of course. We have already made a Telugu film Gulabi which has clicked at the box office. It has in fact been released in Tamil as a dubbed version called Idayame Idayame. We are making Ullasam in Tamil with Ilayaraja’s son Kartik Raja. Kamal Haasan wil be singing a song in this film even though he is not acting in it. We are also making a film in Malayalam with Priyadarshan as the director.

What do you think about Doordarshan and its penetration?

There is no way you will be able to beat Doordarshan. Acceptability isn’t in my hands. It is in the hands of the government or Doordarshan. Today to make better programmes, I think our TV policy should be redefined.

What do you think about Zee TV?

Zee started with their channel first and then decided to build up their own software. It was the right strategy. They were the first to start and hence benefited immensely. We at ABCL felt that rather than spend enormous money on a channel, we should concentrate on making a software bank for the hundreds of channels which are now springing up. I feel that the TV scenario is changing day by day. You can have two concepts. Either start from left and go towards left. First either make a channel and then make the software or first build up your own software and then start a channel

Is acting a form of art or business venture for you?

Godrej is selling locks and Birla is selling clothes. Is it only for pleasure? Or is it for the sake of art? It is for the sake of dhandha. Isn’t it?

What is your value according to Kotak Mahindras?

The Kotak Mahendras decided to evaluate myself for Rs 15 cr and my wife Jaya for Rs 3 cr in lieu of the price of machinery before ABCL was formed. There is a global watch on every corner. The Kotak Mahindras knew more about me than what I knew about myself when they came to me with the offer first.

Besides Kotak Mahindras, did anyone else come to you with an offer?

Five years ago, I had received an offer from the Warner Brothers, which ultimately I did not take up.

What is the price charged by you for working in a film today?

Today, my price as stipulated by ABCL for working in any film, whether it is produced by ABCL or for that matter an outside producer, like say my good family friend S. Ramanathan is Rs 3 cr

Do you think this hike in your price is justified?

For working in Khuda Gawah, I was paid a sum of Rs 50 lakhs which was the maximum I had drawn as an actor then. When I worked in Sholay 20 years ago, I was paid just a sum of a lakh of rupees. And for working in Don, I was paid Rs 3 lakhs around 16 years ago. Now after 20 years, though I bought the telecast rights of Sholay for Rs 25 lakhs, it fetched me a crore and a half when it was telecast on Doordarshan. Does this answer your question?

Would you work in films for outside producers regularly?

One film every year is my commitment to ABCL. I am free to do outside pictures but ABCL will naturally have the first option before I set out to do an outside film. It is in any case, a misconception that I have so many offers to act.

Will ABCL distribute all the films in which you are acting?

I have a totally separate identity as a distributor. I too make a bid for any film like any other distributor and the best man wins. There is no ‘hanky panky’ at all as far as this is concerned just because I am working in an outside film.

To what extent do you influence any decision by ABCL?

Every possible pros and cons of a product are discussed and a lot of thinking comes in before any decision is made by ABCL.

On whom does the major decision depend on?

Upto a certain extent, all major decisions are taken by me. The Board takes in general all the major decisions. In fact, my executives even fight with me whenever there is a discussion and we have to arrive at a consensus.

How much does ABCL disburse to the staff as their annual; salaries?

We disburse annually a sum of rupees one crore and a half as salaries to the staff.

Can you predict the effect of a corporation coming to the film industry?

It is very difficult to predict the effect in general of corporation coming to the film industry. All that I can say at the moment is that if we do not discipline ourselves we will suffer. I feel the working within the film industry should be more thoroughly streamlined and there should be a professional approach.

What was your main aim in forming a corporation?

My main aim was to inform the rest of the industry that there is something called corporate structure. I believe in inter personal relationship a lot.

Back to your channel business. Why did you sell off your TV Asia?

TV Asia was an outfit in which we were a small percentage of consortiums. The larger percentage decided to sell it off. We have TV Asia now in USA and not in U.K.

What do you think about the channel wars?

Star TV today runs in India only because if Zee’s popularity though Zee has only 50% stake in the group. Today everyone is keen on having his or her own channel only because if you have the channel and the reach, you will be able to exercise power.

Do you think the new trend of dubbing foreign films in Hindi will prove to be detrimental to the local film industry?

Rupert Murdoch has said that he has serials and movies which he will dub and telecast through his channels. I feel that they will not be able to click because we have a different culture and people will reject any film which does not fall in line without cultural heritage. For example, films like Akele Hum Akele Tum , Kagaz Ke Phool or for that matter my own Silsila did not click because the basic hook is culture, which attracts the people. They were films which were good but people did not accept them because they were far ahead of their times. However, I feel that dubbing is today a new territory for our producers as far as earning revenue is concerned.

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