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Success of Padmaavat proves some stories deserve to be told: Viacom COO Ajit Andhare

Andhare was speaking on the sidelines of the Ficci Frames 2018 in Mumbai.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images


The controversy faced by Padmaavat has not deterred Viacom18 Motion Pictures, its co-producers, from making films on stories that deserve to be told, says a top official of the company.

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"In a big and diverse country like India, we never know what will offend whom, which community will get disheartened by watching a film. In Padmaavat, we celebrated the bravery of a community and they only protested to stop releasing the film. I think the Padmaavat episode cannot fear us to go three steps back and make our creative mind extra conscious to make a film.

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"It should be treated as an incident that was an exception," Viacom18 Motion Pictures' chief operating officer, Ajit Andhare, told IANS, a news agency, in an interview.

Padmaavat, a period drama directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, was caught in a long-stretched row after Rajput organisations opposed its release by protesting over alleged distortion of history facts. The film finally released on 25 January, with the audience praising it for its visual exuberance and impactful performances.

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Andhare said as a company, their basic criteria of approving a project is a "good story that can potentially connect with the larger audience".

"I think now, with the success of Padmaavat, the fact has been proven. There are stories that deserve to be told. As a responsible filmmaking company, we were cautious about the subjects that we chose even before Padmaavat, but we do not want to add an extra lens of caution thinking which political wind will blow or which section of the community will get offended.

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"That is certainly not the right way to choose a film," added Andhare on the sidelines of the Ficci Frames 2018 in Mumbai.

Viacom18 Motion Pictures has produced popular biopics — from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) and Mary Kom (2014) to Manjunath (2014) and Manjhi: The Mountain Man (2015).

Considering how most biopics tend to fictionalise certain parts of an individual's story to bring out the drama in a feature film, does it justify the truth of someone's life's journey?

"I think that depends on who is telling the truth. When we make a biopic, and we have done quite a few of them, we take the permission of that individual or their family. That is how one can authenticate facts. Beyond that, if XYZ starts painting a truth, then it is difficult to explain. Truth is not based on others' perception or imagined reality, it is what the source of authentic information provides us," he said.

In a retrospect of 2017-2018, of the films that the company produced, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) and Padmaavat (2018) managed to be commercially successful. Whereas, films like Rangoon (2017) and Lucknow Central (2017) failed.

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While small budget films are recovering the money faster, isn't it better to budget movies wisely to avoid commercial failure?

"I do not subscribe to the idea that a budget is responsible for the commercial failure of a film. That is a myth and simplification of failure. A film is successful if only our audience gets connected to the story. There is no other formula than the human connection to a narration.

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"Budget has everything to do with how we are mounting the film. If our audience don't connect to the story, no matter how small the budget is, the film fails, or how big the budget is, the film succeeds. We have examples of both sides of the story."

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Will he commission a film like Rangoon or any experimental film with a risk of recovering the money?

"Yes, we will do that, because when we heard the story of Rangoon, we loved it. It was a beautiful story. Maybe the audience could not accept it, but such things happen in our business. Our discipline is making a film on a good story... That remains the same."