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Small dreams

Ashish Bhatnagar, CEO of iDreams, speaks about the present and future of the production company



TIME TO THRILL: Ashish Bhatnagar in New Delhi. Photo: R.V. Moorthy.

More than half a decade back iDreams productions sold a dream to the film industry. A dream, which will reap for the unorganised industry, the fruits of an organised business set up with tight budgets and planned schedules.

The dream run started with the distribution of "Monsoon Wedding" and "Bend it Like Beckham". It blossomed when they successfully entered into production with "16 December".

No big names, no big budgets, no cliched subjects, a new formula seemed to be in the making. Words like crossover cinema found way to the Bollywood dictionary.

"We always felt it is the content which matters in the success of the film," says Ashish Bhatnagar, CEO of iDreams. He says when a film with a budget of multiple crores fails to recover even the cost somebody has to be answerable. "We proved successful without big stars.

However, crossover cinema has yet to happen in the real sense. `Monsoon Wedding' and `Bend it Like Beckham' were essentially made for an international audience, Indian characters and milieu was just incidental.

Similarly films like `Kal Ho Na Ho' were successful abroad only with the NRIs. Real crossover is when an Indian film is watched by white men."

Failure ratio

Unfortunatelythe failure ratio still remains high. After "16 December" duds like "Agnivarsha", "Jajantram Mamantram", "Samay" and "The King of Bollywood" followed.

To stem the tide, this time Shripal Morakhia, the head of the SSKI securities, which owns iDreams, has decided to don the creative hat.

He is directing "Naina", a supernatural thriller releasing this May. Ashish avers the small-budget formula hasn't worked as they expected but adds, "We have always been part of the creative part . Mani Shankar might be taking all the credit but we had to re-shoot the climax of `16 December'. It's after all our moneyat stake. We always have a clause if we don't like the way the product is shaping up, we can drop the project. . We are always involved with the pre-production and post-production. The director just has to complete the shooting part. In `Naina', Anjum Rajabali is providing support on the script. As for the failure of our productions, today films are no longer a perishable property. `Jajantram Mamantram' was bought by HBO in Latin America for a huge amount. `Agnivarsha' opened well in the U.S. and has done well in the VCD market."

Talking about "Naina" and its marketing strategy, Ashish says their research shows thriller and horror genre are the safest bets.

"We have shot the film in 45 locations. . Special care has been taking in shooting the under water scenes and special effects so that they don't look tacky. Nobody, uses London in a big way because it's very costly but since we are doing a number of films we have been able to extract discounts from the local production houses."

Zealot, a London-based film promotion company, which has designed the campaigns of "Shrek" and "Shark's Tale", has designed the promos of "Naina". "`It would be screened in the market section at the Cannes Festival. We are aggressively marketing it with full-page advertisements in top film magazines like Variety and Screen International."

With an office in London now, Ashish is planning an international venture and a big budget Hindi film with a big star cast. Well, formulae are made to be broken.

ANUJ KUMAR

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