Cyrus F Dastur, a prominent name in the Indian theatre circuit, kickstarted the short film wave in the country over a decade back. He has been a part of theatre ever since he can remember. He has produced, directed, scripted and acted in several plays with stalwarts like Tom Alter, Luke Kenny, Juhi Babbar, Rajeev Raja and Anurag Kashyap. He is the founder of Shamiana, Asia’s largest and fastest-growing short film company, which also has an international presence in Melbourne, Hong Kong in addition to more than 15 cities in India.
Dastur, also a respected producer, has produced many Bollywood films like ‘Bolti Bandh’ (2018), ‘Sweetiee weds NRI’ (2017), ‘Kaash’ (2017) etc. and also many television series and musical productions. ‘When God Said CHEERS!!’ is one of the biggest hits on Indian theatre and has been staged at just about every unconventional venue across the country. It is a play co-starring Tom Alter and directed and acted by Dastur.
Pre-COVID vs Post-COVID Economic Situation in the Film Industry
“Will the film industry be the same what it was 100 years back?” and so asked Dastur. Through this question, he made everyone realize how vulnerable the situation of the film industry is. He even mentioned that “one virus” just broke all apart, and the world seems to have changed pretty much in the preceding two to three months. The film industry has also been impacted.
He went on to explain how the business of the film industry is collapsing just because of this pandemic situation. He added, “A lot of things have changed like the capacity of theatres is going to be 30 per cent now. It means that all the box office collections will drop. For example, if a Salman Khan film opening earned 100 crores over a weekend, now the collection will only be 30 crores. And if your film was doing a lifetime business of Rs. 200 crores, now the business will come down to Rs. 50 crores to Rs. 60 crores only.”
He talked about the changes in the economics of film making and how this radical change will continue until the pandemic is over. For at least for two years, people have to live with this new dynamic. He added, “The way we consume entertainment itself will change. It will push us towards online entertainment”. In addition to this, he also emphasized on the point that all of the OTT platforms are currently running at losses where ULLU itself is an exceptional platform, which is making money.
However, Dastur mentioned that for social distancing guidelines for combating COVID-19, which we all have to follow, even the shootings will be affected and this will be the main reason behind the collapsing of the business. “For this reason, the budgets of a lot of television shows and a lot of programmes have been slashed by at least 40 per cent to 50 per cent”, he added.
The Future of Short Films
The founder of Shamiana also spoke about the many concepts about short films “It is an extremely good time for short films”, Dastur quipped. Talking about short films, he said, “In the present times, a lot of people are attracted towards short films and short films are really in demand because of the relatable content. Most of the students can relate to the content.” For example, he said, “Everyone has watched ‘Avengers’ (2012), ‘The Big Bang’ (2011) etc. However, we shall not be able to make that kind of content. But if we see short films, many times, we feel that we can make those.”
The Quality of Entertainment – Present Scenario
Dastur added that the quality of entertainment has come down drastically. People can now see films or programmes or any television shows with the same quality on their mobile phones and television screen. They don’t have to go out to watch films. However, he suggested that all the content needs to be exciting enough. Otherwise, it will not be stimulating the interest of the audience.
Adding his thoughts on how a beginner can start and achieve their goals in the film industry after the pandemic. He said, “The time ahead is not going to be easy. It is going to be a struggle, but the good thing is that we live in times of social media. So, try and connect with people on Facebook and Twitter. Keep networking and keep working on your skills. Make short films, make videos of yourself and display your talent. Whether you want to be an actor or you want to be a filmmaker or a story writer, keep knocking the door.”
The author, Bitasta Ghosh is associated with Adamas University Media School