In memory of Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan

Dear Reader,

It has been a very tough week for all of us. The Indian Film Industry has lost two of its most respected talents, Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor, on consecutive days. It has been extremely heartbreaking to face this news on top of the tough times of we are all experiencing during the pandemic. The great outpouring of love expressed for these men is the proof of the profound impact they had on our lives. Who can forget Irrfan in The Namesake telling his son to remember the love always, or Rishi Kapoor enthralling us as Ravi Varma in Karz, while singing Om Shanti Om. They lived and entertained us to the fullest till their last days. They gave until they could give no more.

Here at Creative First, we’d like to help celebrate their lives, by compiling your favourite moments from films, television or songs. Please email us at creativefirst16(at)gmail(dot)com sharing one such favourite moment of yours.

View our users’ comments on the post below or click through to the post to share your own.



Remembering Irrfan Khan : A Eulogy by His Wife, Sutapa Sikdar

“How can I write this as a family statement when the whole world is taking it as a personal loss? How can I begin to feel alone when millions are grieving with us at the moment? I want to assure everyone that this is not a loss, it is a gain. It’s a gain of the things he taught us, and now we shall finally begin to truly implement it and evolve. Yet I want to try to fill in the things that people don’t already know.

It’s unbelievable for us but I would put it in Irrfan’s words, “it’s magical” whether he is there or not there, and that’s what he loved, he never loved one dimensional reality. The only thing I have a grudge against him is; he has spoiled me for life. His strive for perfection doesn’t let me settle for ordinary in any thing. There was a rhythm which he always saw in everything, even in cacophony and chaos, so I have learnt to sing and dance to the music of that rhythm, even with my tone-deaf voice and two left feet. Funnily, our life was a masterclass in acting, so when the dramatic entry of the “uninvited guests” happened, I had by then learnt, to see a harmony in the cacophony. The doctor’s reports were like scripts which I wanted to perfect, so I never miss any detail that he sought for in his performance.

We met some amazing people in this journey and the list is endless, but there are some whom I have to mention, our oncologist Dr Nitesh Rohtogi (Max Hospital, Saket) who held our hand in the beginning, Dr Dan Krell (UK), Dr Shidravi (UK), my heartbeat and my lantern in the dark Dr Sevanti Limaye (Kokilaben Hospital). It’s difficult to explain what a wondrous, beautiful, overwhelming, painful and exciting this journey has been. I find this two-and-a-half years to have been an interlude, which had it’s own beginning, middle and culmination with Irrfan helming the role of the orchestra conductor, separate from the 35 years of our companionship. Ours was not a marriage, it was a union.

I see my little family, in a boat, with both my sons Babil and Ayaan, paddling it forward, with Irrfan guiding them “wahan nahi, yahan se modo” but since life is not cinema and there are no retakes, I sincerely wish my children sail this boat safely with their father’s guidance in mind and rockabye through the storm.

I asked my children, if possible, they could sum up a lesson taught by their father that has been important to them;

Babil: ‘Learn to surrender to the dance of uncertainty and trust your faith in the universe”

Ayaan: “Learn to control your mind and to not let it control you.”

Tears will flow as we will plant a raat ki rani tree, his favourite, to the place where you have put him to rest after a victorious journey. It takes time but it will bloom and the fragrance will spread and touch all the souls whom I won’t call them fans but family for years to come.”

Bollywood Industry

Screen Sector Watch

As COVID-19 continues to impact on the screen entertainment business in India, Creative First aims to bring you regular updates on the status of India’s exhibition, distribution, production and streaming sectors.

Cinema chains have recently announced that halls in Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, parts of Maharashtra and Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir will be closed until the end of March.

Angrezi Medium, starring Irrfan Khan, released only a few days ago on March 13, suffered at the box office as a number of cinemas closed their doors – March 11 in Kerala, March 12 in Jammu & Kashmir, followed in quick succession by other states.

Trade analyst Komal Nahta made calls on the effect of theatre closures on current release titles: “It’s a loss of Rs 25-30 crore for the makers of Baaghi 3. Theatres shutting down have also impacted the weekend business of Angrezi Medium,” adding that the Hindi film industry stands to lose Rs 800 crore owing to delays in releases and shooting schedules.”


A number of film productions, television shows, web series and advertisements are stopping production until further notice, reflecting a global trend that has seen some of the world’s best known series and film franchises call an immediate wrap. A joint decision to stop productions was made on Sunday, March 15, during an emergency meeting hosted by five leading industry associations – the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE), the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA), the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA), the Indian Film and Television Producers Council (IFTPC) and the Western India Film Producers’ Association (WIFPA). Producers were given three days (to March 19) to strike shoots across India and abroad. A further meeting scheduled for March 30 will determine whether conditions are safe for productions to restart, or hold until a later date.

In the interest of the country, society and film workers, all the associations from the Indian film industry have taken the decision to shut shootings of films, TV serials and web shows across India from March 19 to 31”, said JD Majethia, vice president, IFTPC. IFTDA President Ashoke Pandit said, “All the associations and industries across India – North, South or any other regional – are with us in this decision.

A number of current film productions are expected to take a financial hit from the halt. Viacom18 Motion Pictures’ Forest Gump remake Laal Singh Chaddha, starring Aamir Khan, and Zee Studio’s sports drama Jersey, starring Shahid Kapoor, will be the biggest productions affected by the decision.

Upcoming films Sooryavanshi and Marakkar: Lion of Arabian Sea, postponed their release dates and will be rescheduled in the comping weeks.

Laal Singh Chadha, Sooryavanshi and Marakkar : Lion Of The Arabian Sea have postponed their releases. Posters courtesy IMDB.



The decision to halt production will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on TV broadcasters, who rely on series to keep their audiences engaged. “We may have to run repeats of old shows for some time. This is an unprecedented situation and nobody was ready for this,” a programming head of a Hindi general entertainment channel said.


Perhaps the biggest thing on TV – the annual Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament – has been postponed to April 15 – though commentators are now suggesting the competition could be delayed until July or September or even later in the calendar.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to suspend IPL 2020 till 15th April 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) situation. Image courtesy
Bollywood Industry Piracy

Indian Cinema and the Man with the Midas Touch

Concluding the first day of FICCI Frames, Rohit Shetty skilfully wove in insights from his illustrious career with the current needs and challenges of the Indian screen industry.


A prolific filmmaker, known for bringing mega-blockbusters like Singham, Golmaal, and Simmba to Indian audiences, Mr. Shetty has worked in multiple capacities as a stunt double, assistant director, director and producer.


More Screens Would Greatly Stimulte the Film Industry


With the Indian film industry generating box office revenues crossing INR 10,000 crores over the past year, Mr. Shetty was quick to empahisize the continued relevance of the cinematic experience. However, India’s low screen density continues to remain a major challenge inhibiting the growth of the film industry. Mr. Shetty noted that while his latest film release, Simmba, had been hailed as a blockbuster, generating revenues of nearly INR 240 crores; it only attracted around two crore moviegoers to the theatre.


The highest grossing local films generate a maximum footfall of around four crore moviegoers, representing only a small share of India’s potential cinema audience. In stark comparison, China has managed to increase its total number of theatres from 25,000 to 50,000 over the course of just three years. Assessing this reality, Mr. Shetty emphasized the need for more theatres, especially in small towns – where the nearest theatres tend to be two to three-hours away. Potential cinema audiences are instead turning their attention to pirating films via pirate websites on their mobile devices.


Tackling Piracy


While digital consumption has increased the appetite for quality screen content, and provided more legitimate avenues for easy access, piracy continues. The rampant levels of digital piracy are increasingly difficult to prevent. Mr. Shetty acknowledged the strides made in Central Government regulation and policy to combat piracy, such as the proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Act, proposed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to introduce penalties for camcorder piracy has resonated well with the industry. However, while the passing of the anti-camcording law will go some way to preventing piracy at the source, rampant online piracy will continue to be served by the world’s biggest piracy websites housed outside of India. Mr. Shetty emphasised that piracy will have to be tackled by increasing the levels of awareness among consumers and by involving multiple stakeholders. Notably, the Maharashtra State Police has sought to address piracy by co-opting industry members to check the distribution of infringing copies online.


State Laws Inhibit Growth


The Central Government has now initiated several reforms for the film industry, including lower tax rates, and introducing single-window clearances to improve film production. However state-level laws and policies continue to pose challenges on a variety of fronts: States such as Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have announced local body entertainment taxes on cinema tickets over and above the GST, ranging anywhere between 5 and 15 percent. Where theatre owners continue to struggle with high overheads including maintenance, licensing and construction costs; heavy-handed taxation at the local level adds to their financial burden, hindering the development of the theatrical sector. Some industry stalwarts such as Ajay Devgn and John Abraham have ventured into this sector, identifying tier II and III cities in Uttar Pradesh and Northeast regions as for growth. Acknowledging such efforts, Mr. Shetty stressed the need for a collective multi-stakeholder collaborationto drive theatre penetration, along with focused engagement at the state government level.


Global Quality Standards Remain Just out of Reach

The digital-era has heralded vast improvements in visual effects and post production processes. The latest FICCI-EY study released at the 20th edition of Frames, reports that the animation, VFX and post-production sectors grew at around 18 percent in 2018 to reach INR 78.9 billion in terms of revenues and is expected to reach INR 127.6 billion by 2021. Additionally, Indian producers are now motivated to spend nearly 15-20 percent of their productions budgets on VFX, resulting in better visual effects for domestic conten, yet global post-production standards remain just out of reach. Mr. Shetty quipped, “give me 13,000 crores and I’ll give you a Transformer [franchise].”


As it grapples with complex new challenges, the Indian film industry can perhaps take a leaf out of Mr. Shetty’s book. Donning the twin-hats of producer and director, he considers himself foremost an entertainer and emphasises the need to remain honest in both creative vision and conviction.


Bollywood Industry Interview

Adapt, Evolve, Engage : Strategies For Success

It’s not easy to become the number one studio in India, and it’s even harder to hold onto to that position. CreativeFirst sat down with Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, India, to find out what it took to make it happen, and how he plans to keep the studio at the top.


It used to be a filmmaker’s goal to reach the 100 crore club, but now the bar has been set to the 1000 crore club. In your opinion, what has made is possible for a film to reach this height?

Clearly the bar needs to be a 1000 crore worldwide revenue. We just released Sanju, and it’s well on its way to create a new benchmark at the box office. Baahubali’s box office numbers has demonstrated that we need to look at films that cater to a pan-India market. As an industry, our goal should be to produce at least five or six 1000-crore films every year.

Two factors make it possible. It all starts with the pitch of the content. You have to make films that will appeal to a pan-India sensibility. What I believe will really move the needle in the future is marketing and focus on emerging markets such as China and Saudi Arabia. In China, we’ve already experienced success. A lot of Chinese distributors are extremely interested in Sanju. So I know we will be releasing there. Saudi is another big opportunity since the government has started the process to allow multiplexes to open. There’s a lot of groundwork being done by various companies that are keen to set up exhibition there. I believe that by 2020, Saudi Arabia alone can contribute as much as the entire Middle East does today. Indian films work there because they do have cultural similarities and connect with the audiences there.

Digital is another opportunity for films – and we need to view it that way: as an opportunity not a threat. We know the business model is changing. For revenues, we have largely been reliant on cable, satellite and theatrical. As the digital environment matures and monetization possibilities emerge, it will become an additional revenue source for films, and ultimately good for the financial health of the industry.


Sanju has been a smashing success like several other Indian biopics in the past. Given the past trend, and also the team on Sanju, how confident were you about its success? And did you expect it to perform the way it did?

Fox Star Studios has emerged to be the number one studio in the country and Sanju is the number one film of 2018 so far. The number one film from the number one studio is a nice place to be. It’s a great validation of the strategy we’ve adopted so far.

Lately, biopics have been doing well. Fox Star Studios has released several biopics like Neerja, Dhoni and now Sanju.

With Sanju we knew Rajkumar Hirani is a hugely celebrated director, storyteller and master craftsmen. Further, we knew that this was a film that would have a massive connect with audiences. But to be honest, did I know this film would do 300 crores? The honest answer is no. What’s amazed us is more than that: it’s the massive love the film has got, which does of course translate into numbers. It’s already the fifth largest Bollywood film ever, and we know we’re going to be in cinemas for another three or four weeks, so I’m aiming for it to become the third biggest Bollywood film ever. What makes it even more spectacular is that the film did not release on a festival or holiday weekend; we released the film during a normal period with a U/A rating.


Are these extraordinary box office numbers encouraging filmmakers to take bigger financial risks, investing more money in a single film to get greater returns?

I think yes and no. Given the success of Baahubali and the realization that we need to make pan-India films means yes, of course we are looking at larger subjects to make bigger films. But, equally we believe the market is segmented and there is an opportunity to create content for different segments that exist within the multiplex and single screen audiences.


Are we seeing higher box office numbers across the board or only on the upper limits (i.e. are small budget films getting more visibility/hitting more screens, thus having higher returns than perhaps they would have 5 years ago?)

Yes, the environment is getting more competitive with digital content and platforms emerging. However, I think all of that is good because it’s another revenue stream to consider, and it puts the pressure back on filmmakers to create better content.

To get huge numbers pan-India, you have to show the audience something they haven’t seen before. Traditionally, we relied on an actor, but Baahubali showed us that a big idea is as good if not better than a big actor. When you look at Hollywood, they’ve had huge success even with animation whereas in India, we haven’t seen a successful animation film yet. Now that we are competing with the digital domain, the story has to have something bigger to attract the audience to theatres. If you’re trying to make a big visual spectacle, you’ll need more than the average film’s budget.


Does the arrival of OTT platforms threaten the success of future box office collections?

If you go by FICCI data, it suggests the industry’s had minimal growth in the last few years. The good news is 2018 has started out really strong and I haven’t seen a year like this in a long time. The diversity of content that’s gone out has helped that. We had Sanju now, and then a few months back Baaghi 2 which is a completely different film. Diverse content is working at the theatres and that’s a good sign. The jury is still out about this year’s growth, but we are off to a great start.

We all need to get used to the fact that the audience wants to see content across multiple screens. If you get fixated on this idea that theatre is the only place where people want to see content, then there’s going to be a problem. People want to see content on the go as well as in the theatres. I genuinely believe these two things will coexist. It’s not going to be one against the other.


The localised version of Deadpool 2 went to prove that investing in localising content can pay off. Do you see this becoming a trend? How does it affect/change the way a studio considers the viability of an international film in the Indian market?

I am very confident that Hollywood films are really going to grow in the Indian market. If you look at the last 5-10 years, an entire generation has been watching it through television. As they become adults and have disposable incomes you know there will be a natural inclination to see Hollywood content. Deadpool 2 is a great example of how we can maximize monetization: Localizing content to reach various regions in the country is absolutely critical. With this particular character, there was a real opportunity to leverage the character across languages with a well-known actor, Ranveer Singh. I don’t necessarily think that’s always important, but when there is a really great fit like this particular example, that’s where the synergy happens.


The last few years have seen a change in the tide for Fox Star India; the last few films have performed outstandingly well. Is this because of a shift in the type of content, a change in audience preferences or a change in marketing and communication? Or is it a combination of it all?

I think the last two years have been very significant. Four years ago, we were consistently the number two studio. We adopted a three-pronged strategy to become the number one studio in the country. Firstly, our big focus is on home productions. It is critical to do more home productions so we can control the value chain – from creative writing to release of the film, development of a script bank and working with the best people and partners. We all know making a film is not easy. Development is hard work, but the thing that gives me great confidence is that we have a script bank and readymade material we can pull out. Films like Jolly LL.B and Neerja are testimony to that development. We have an exciting line up for the next fifteen months with twelve or thirteen films, four of which are home productions. From a home production standpoint, basically, we are doing an Indian adaptation of Fault in Our Stars which is titled Kissi and Mani. We’re also working on Rajkumar’s next film, India’s Most Wanted. We’re doing another book adaptation, The Zoya Factor with Sonam and Dulquer. We’ve just finished shoot on a really interesting comedy film with Kunal Khemu. That’s all to say, if you want to be a dominant, number one studio, you have to create various kinds of content.

Secondly, we need to be working with the best creative production houses in the country. We are consistently working with Dharma for the last four years. Subsequently, we started working with Sajid Nadiadwala and we had these two big hits (Judwaa 2 and Baaghi 2) and now we’re working on his next two films, Houseful 4 and Nitesh Tiwari’s next film.

 Thirdly, marketing and distribution strategies need to evolve with digital disruption.  We’re clearly seeing that the old ways of marketing are no longer relevant. We are continuously innovating and investing in digital marketing tools. Our goal is to understand digital consumers better and map out the consumer journey and profile so that we can reach them more cost effectively and with greater impact through various digital platforms. We have a consumer insight and analytics department that is crucial for this. I should know which consumers are a part of which segment. If I want to target someone through digital marketing, it’s important to know the kind of films the person likes, so I can give him content he is interested in. This results in better conversion rates.


A lot of young, independent studios and creative outfits are popping up. What would be your advice for them on their way forward?

I wouldn’t say a lot of independent studios are coming up, but there are a lot of independent production houses coming up. There is a distinct difference. My view is that in a couple of years, there will be 3-4 studios and everyone else will be a creative production house. I think consolidation is good because it allows people to do what they do best. Production houses will be left to do what they do best, and that’s the creative process. They won’t have to worry about things like marketing and distribution.


Are there any steps individual filmmakers should take to be part of the efforts for better content protection?

This is a huge issue, as we know. MPA has done some great work, but piracy remains a huge problem and efforts need to be taken by the entire industry, with everyone working towards eradicating it. More importantly, it needs massive government support. To share an example of Sanju: we took a John Doe order which then got ISPs under pressure to ensure they block any film. But why should it be an individual film effort? The Government of India should provide continuous protection for all content and intellectual property. I don’t think it’s a filmmaker’s individual responsibility, but that of the government, film associations and tech companies like Google and Facebook. The Tamil Nadu and Telugu industries have demonstrated that, as an industry we need to come together for effective content protection. They’ve come together far better than the Hindi film industry.


How is the Digital Crime Unit, Maharashtra Cyber working for Star?

The Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit has proved to be a success story for all stakeholders involved. The unit has devised 6 enforcement actions which create deterrents and throttle the pirate revenue chain. We see this initiative as the first step in establishing a cooperative model between government and industry, that encourages sharing of resources, streamlines investigative operations and enhances the efficacy of enforcement actions.