Behind the Ugliness
Box Office India (BOI): Ugly is up for release. What are your expectations from the film?
Anurag Kashyap (AK): We are very confident of Ugly as we have adopted a very well thought-out strategy for the film. We make different kinds of cinema but the problem is that we promote each film in a similar manner. We promote every trailer in the same manner, with the same songs, the same action sequences, and a similar P&A budget.
I thought it didn’t make sense to front-load a film with such a huge P&A budget, especially when it’s not made on such a big budget. So when we thought of releasing the film, I told my guys that there was no need to announce the release date. But everyone told me that I had to announce the release date so that it gets published in the trade magazines etc.
So we were discussing what attracts people to watch a film. Either it’s the cast; or the director and you have been waiting for his next film; or the trailer. You liked the poster and you want to know more about the film. I have a limited audience, around 4-4.5 crore people. The only known face of our film is Ronit Roy and his audience is the TV audience.
As a primary audience, we know that the number is fixed. So if you promote it for four months, the number won’t change. Why, then, should we spend marketing monies unnecessarily? We don’t have songs in the film, so why unnecessarily record a song just to promote the film?
It is a different kind of movie and the only way to create a buzz is to announce the film when people wonder, what is wrong with them? That will get us more eyeballs.
BOI: That’s why you are releasing the film after PK?
AK: Yes, also because nobody will believe you, right? We know that 60 per cent of the audience will watch PK in the first week. There are also some Hollywood releases, all feel-good films. But Ugly is a completely different film and we definitely will get an audience. We thought Christmas was the right holiday to release the film, compared to any other holiday, because we face less competition on that weekend as compared to any other week.
BOI: But PK will corner maximum number of cinemas.
AK: We don’t need more than 300 to 400 screens. We are looking at four to six shows per day. If we get that, it will be more than enough. We know we will be able to generate that much excitement, so we don’t need anything more. We sat down with the distributors DAR and we figured that of the number of people who watch PK, if even two per cent of them watch our film per show, it would be more than enough. So that is why we don’t want to burden the film with a large marketing budget.
BOI: What’s so special about Ugly that makes you so involved with the film’s marketing and distribution?
AK: We all believe in the content of the film. I watched the film with the audience in France and it reached out to a wide audience. This film connects with people on some level and that has been a unanimous reaction I have got. Now it’s our job to draw the audience to cinemas for that first time. After that, the content will drive the film. Friday to Sunday jo hona hai woh hoga, but from Monday onwards, it’s the director’s work, it’s the content.
BOI: Rahul, how happy are you with the film, not as an actor but as a member of the audience?
Rahul Bhat (RB): I am very happy. First of all, I am the actor so I have to say that this film is close to me and it is great! But even as a member of the audience I would want to watch films like this. So, as an actor, it is great to be a part of these films. Just now, you were discussing P&A budgets of films and Anurag said that everyone has started promoting their films in the same way. Everyone is repeating the same stories and doing the same types of film. Not surprisingly, the audience keeps complaining about not getting good content-driven films. Now here we are presenting to the audience a good film, and let’s see how they receive it. I am very happy with the way it has turned out. I have acted in a film after eight to nine years and I got to work with Anurag Kahsyap.
BOI: Was Anurag Kashyap the reason you said ‘yes’ to the film?
RB: Of course! He was the reason I chose to do the film.
BOI: Rahul, you will be seen on screen after a long gap in a film made by Anurag Kashyap, and you are now working with Sudhir Mishra. Why that break?
RB: I don’t know. I guess I was very angry back then. I produced TV shows too but I never acted in my TV shows. I was kind of angry and disappointed. I was actually Ugly and Devdas both! (Laughs)
AK: You know, it’s a life long struggle. For instance, I know the kind of cinema I want to make so I wouldn’t add a song to a film if it wasn’t called for. What happens then is, aapka nuksaan hota hai. We were talking about this a few days ago, why do we pay stars so much these days? That is because they guarantee a certain amount of business returns.
But, in reality, how a film performs at the box office depends largely on the volume of the release. There are 52 Fridays, so if stars block 15 Fridays, where is the business model? A film needs to sustain on its own, but our films have become about Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It has become all about the opening. So, if I get a star and I create an opening which is big, it is my job to create content that I am able to monetise from Monday. Considering the volumes at which films are releasing these days, they should earn Rs 400 crore. But that’s not happening. Opening weekend se zyada collections nahi hota hai. Our laws don’t allow us to add screens. The number of cinemas has stagnated. Chinese cinema has seen a major growth because of the huge number of screens they have. And their films are rich in content and therefore travel to many countries. Hence, it is our responsibility as directors to make sure that the film reaches as many people as it can, due to its content..
BOI: Do you think audience is changing?
AK: The audience is not only changing but is demanding! Movie-goers are not fools; they will slowly start rejecting everything. They know when a filmmaker is using the anticipation factor but will not deliver. Our audience is growing bored. People are watching cinema from around the world and they wonder why we can’t make movies like that. We are thinking ‘bigger’ but why our ‘big’ is not as ‘big’ as their ‘big’? It’s not that we can’t create; we can actually create the same cinema at a lower cost. The problem is, we are copycats. So, slowly and steadily, things will change and we will make better cinema. Mainstream will change in the next two to three years and all kinds of cinema will co-exist.
BOI: You were planning this film with Aamir Khan?
AK: Yes, six years ago. It was obvious that one couldn’t make a film on a budget of Rs 160 crore; even box-office numbers didn’t reach Rs 160 crore. It was unreasonable. So I put the project on the back burner. Slowly, we cut down on things and decided that we could make the film on a smaller budget without changing the movie. We even travelled the world to find the most cost-effective locations for the film. It was our meticulous planning that ensured that the film became reasonable for everyone.Like we are unable to make Doga right now because I know how much money it requires. Till the box office doesn’t reach that mark, Doga cannot be made. Of course, we could make Doga with Rs 40-50 crore but that would be a sub-standard film. Basically, you need patience to increase the capacity of a film.
BOI: Why is the film titled Ugly?
AK: This is a very tough question to answer and I have no reply. You will understand the title when you watch the films.
BOI: Is it because of the dark side of the characters?
AK: We all have a dark side. But everyone controls that dark side of their personality. But there comes a time when it surfaces. And this film is about that moment, which comes in everyone’s life. Everyone’s resentment and their emotions, har koi apni badsurati apne andar leke ghumta hai.