TV has to change or it will Die!

A lot of people like me. A lot of young people, unlike me, don’t watch much of TV. Films in theatres are watched selectively when its a large franchise or a big movie star outing. I don’t even have to highlight our attachment with our smart phones. Its US, who are adapting to technology. It’s US who are changing.

The shift from cable to the Internet, the shift from watching by appointment to watching on demand is on the anvil, in India too. By 2017, each viewer will define his very own #PrimeTime. Mass Prime Time will mostly exist for large live events. But the biggest shift in addition to audience consumption patterns, will come in storytelling formats. New Audience Engagement tools, with hybrid formats will emerge. It will be about combining content with platforms & formats in ways never done before. TV in the west is changing rapidly. 22 minute slots will be a thing of the past. Creators will have to keep pace with the changing audience preferences. Time to market will have to crash.

Youtube will have to evolve. Youtube is like Doordarshan & the newer platforms like Hotstar, ErosNow, etc are like premium cable TV channels like Star, Zee, etc. Advertising rates will range from very low to very high. Premium will be real and not flaky. One eyed winners will die, since this will no longer be the world of blind people. Brands will be able to drive direct sales. Online Advertising will continue to deliver superior & measurable results, as compared to TV.

TV content has been thriving on a very specific target audience since the last 15 years. It can no longer ignore the 16-35 year audience. Its just can’t afford to. Passive, one way entertainment will have to change. Interactivity hold the golden key.

This change was on hold. Change was waiting for mass penetration of devices, internet and most of all, waiting for US to adapt it, embrace it. Its happening faster than we thought. With cheap 4G and cheap smart phones, dumb advertising, which supports dumb programming will start falling faster than gravity.

2016 and 2017 will down in India’s content history. A revolution is waiting to happen. What happened 15 years ago on TV will pan out very differently this time. This time it’s real. This time it’s lethal. This time it’s personal. This time it’s democratic. This time its all about US.

Siddhartha M Jain

22nd August, 2015.

Notes on Creativity

Here are some notes on Creativity from an article from Pick Your Brain.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. -Einstein

The biggest misconception about creativity is that it involves a moment of magical creation when the incredible appears out of thin air. The truth is less romantic. Everything comes from somewhere. All ideas have been thought before and all artists, especially the most brilliant, have their sources of inspiration.

If you want be more crecalvin-and-hobbes-artist-statement-quoteative, you have to learn from people who are smarter than you are. Unless you can find a mentor this means learning from observation. When you see a piece of work you admire, dissect it scientifically and discover exactly what makes it great. Is it the tone of an article? the subject matter? the author’s personality? its usefulness? The same concept applies to design. What creates that feeling of visual pleasure? What made you click that ad? What made you subscribe? The clues to creativity are everywhere. You need to gather them and apply that understanding to your own creative work.

All art is imitation. The most creative people imitate rarer, more brilliant sources and cover their tracks. That’s why reading nothing but blogs makes you write dull generic posts. If you absorb a mediocre style, your output will be mediocre. If you scour the classics for the most intelligent, passionate writing in existence your own inspiration will follow. Pay close attention and you’ll even notice the passing of ideas through history. No one could read this essay by Oscar Wilde and Plato’s Symposium without noting a remarkable similarity.

There’s a reason great artists are always clustered together, both geographically and chronologically. Interacting with creative individuals makes you more creative. Rival artists exchange techniques and competition increases effort. The present is the ideal age for creative people. The internet has connected everything, allowing us to draw inspiration from classic works of art and our finest contemporaries without leaving the couch.

Creativity isn’t a spark it’s a boiling pot. Sample an enormous amount of creative work and you’ll produce an inspirational concoction. The most important creative asset is curiosity.

Genuine creativity doesn’t exist, particularly in a cosmic sense. Living beings don’t create life, they re-purpose existing matter into offspring. Nothing has been created since the Big Bang. All we can do is rearrange the stuff we find around us. If you want to be more creative, stop waiting for inspiration and start experimenting. Creativity isn’t creation at all, it’s reorganization.


Is it the end of Small-budget films & the beginning of an era of Micro-budget films?

When we developed and produced the first RAGINI MMS for Rs 1 crore and sold it to Balaji, I was sure there was an audience for India’s first Super-low-budget, found-footage, voyeuristic-horror film, but the film trade had no belief in it, till Ekta Kapoor saw the potential and stepped in.

The success of that film signalled that the small-budget film market might expand and audiences could  watch films without their favourite film stars in them. Mukesh & Mahesh Bhatt of Vishesh films were already successfully churning out mid-budget films without the big film stars, packaging the film well superb music and focussing on genres of thriller and horror. But they were still films that would cost Rs 3-6 (US$ 0.5-1 million) crores to produce + marketing and distribution.

IMG_3219But post RAGINI MMS, we have yet to see another low or Super-low-budget film turn into a successful franchise.

So what’s the problem? Primarily two. Content and Business Model.

When filmmakers think low-budget, they start thinking lesser audience appeal too. In fact, its the opposite. Low budget films should have wider reaching ideas with a potential to attract as many people as one can. Bheja Fry is another example of a successful Super-low-budget this. Just being low budget does not mean one has to make art-house films and shun commercial cinema. So, picking the right content, makes all the difference, especially in low budget films without big names.

The current theatrical business model and family audience + star centric TV sale model is not viable at all. Low budget films have to be edgy enough to attract the youth audience, hence making sure the TV sales won’t happen. Secondly, since low budget films don’t have the safety net of fans due to the absence of film stars, P&A investors shy away from distribution and/or acquisition. This has been the big chicken and egg problem since years.

So what does one do?

I believe we have entered an era of micro-budget films. Micro budget films can have budgets ranging from Rs 10-100 Lakhs (US$ 15,000-150,000). These are passion films made by pulling favours, and pushing creativity+innovation in breaking the clutter. Example: Paranormal Activity. Content has to be edgy, youth centric and should have enough appeal to enable sampling by audiences on their own, without much marketing.

The length of these films can vary from 45 to 90 minutes and should be made for exclusive release on the internet via Video On Demand portals or similar online platforms, free/paid. Brands can also be approached to sponsor such film releases online, else the traditional advertising model on Youtube, etc can be relied upon.

These films will be the best platform to discover new talent in every department and should be aimed at the audience which is not watching the saas-bahu centric TV channels or the old school style films, told in boring new ways or the remakes which should have never been remade.

With technology in terms of camera and editing becoming accessible and cheap, imagination and talent is all the currency that one needs, to leverage the internet audience and build a fan following.

Making films/content for consumption over the Internet should be planned and packaged according to the challenges of the fickle and distracted audience and their devices. Writing and shooting has to be done accordingly.

So if you are a filmmaker and you don’t have money or distribution, think like an entrepreneur, raise seed capital and reach out to the audience that does not hesitate to share and viral content, if they like it. That’s the new way to reach audiences without distribution. Truly, internet is the new leveller when it comes to showcasing one’s talent to the world.

Welcome to the age of #FilmPreneurs!

Storytelling, Internet & the Audiences.

Storytelling has always been limited by reach in the past. Mythological stories were told by word of mouth and would slowly spread over hundreds of years.

Storytelling evolved from word of mouth to documents/books/manuscripts to theatre/plays and finally to audio-visual mediums. Along the way, art evolved with commerce and hybrid variations of art+commerce co-exist along with cultural aesthetics.

And this is when stakeholders of the business of storytelling, started dictating what stories to tell and by who. The freedom of professional storytellers started getting restricted with the advent of powerful funders, studios, TV networks, distributors, exhibitors, censorship and other power centres. This is part of economic evolution & has to be worked around with, in a creative way, with an objective of survival, and subsequently, to thrive.

When I take stock of storytelling in January, 2015, it seems like never before has there been a better time for storytellers to break free. To create what they want, within the resources that they have access to. Technology and the internet are slowly democratising, creative expression. It could be purely for non-commercial purposes, but the beauty is that now commercial models are being developed, if there exists an audience for the content created. This is what I am talking about.

Lets specifically look at publishing, TV and the film forms. It is now possible to write what one wants and publish it for the world to consume without a physical book publisher. Films & episodic content can be made at shoestring budgets (short or long formats) and streamed over the internet without a broadcaster or a film distribution company. The hell of P&A for tiny independent feature films, has now become easier with the growth of consumption of content on the internet. TV networks play a key role in contributing revenues towards a film, but along with with that comes the control of what they choose to broadcast. Censorship is another hindrance, especially in India. Now one can smartly navigate all of these.

It is a new era in democratic storytelling. Look at how All India Bakchod & The Viral Fever started. They started making something with nothing. But they had something new to offer to a certain type of audience and that tribe has been growing exponentially. So if there exists an audience for a certain kind of content, the internet enables one to find it. Once found, there are ways of monetising them, thus making this a commercial activity for the creators. The means to make a living.

Later this year and in the next 2-3 years, most Indian TV networks will want to create content for internet consumption via various devices. Foreign companies will enter India to get a pie of that. New enterprises will be formed towards this goal. This creates an opportunity to focus on that part of the audience, this is online, which is growing hugely. Understand how to engage that audience, and then create content that will get their attention, and push them share it within their micro communities. The larger trends of what Netflix and Amazon are doing, indicate how content consumption trends are shifting, and shifting rapidly.

So if you are a creator or a storyteller and are fed up with the system that hinders your content to reach out to an audience, the way you want to, how you want to, and you know how to create that within the resources that you have, just go for the kill. It’s time for micro-budget films and episodic shows to flourish and more so, in regional languages. Launch of 4G and falling prices of budget smart phones will change the personal-content-consumption landscape, faster than we can imagine.

Technology & internet are your new friends. Dont worry about how it will be marketed or where the money will come from. Just dive into the ocean and learn to swim. Business models will evolve from failures and successes, which means, its time to Just Do It!

My list of 5 unknown and personal facts

My list of 5 unknown and personal facts, as tagged by my very expressive friend Manjiri Prabhu:

1) I have OCD & suffer from Attention disorder.
2) If you want me to like you, I need to like your feet.
3) I am so obsessed with my phone & laptop data backups, that I keep them in two different locations.
4) I want to bring order to this world. I need a shot at dictatiorship.
5) I can’t do things for money, can’t do things that have been done before & I can never imagine failure as an option. In short, I am demented. 

Now I tag my other misfit friends to do the same.

This is an exercise mandated by Zuckerman. Haha!


Finally saw the much recommended film, THE NOTEBOOK. Rachel McAdams was spectacular and Ryan Gosling, who I didn’t like much when the film began, really grew on me as the film progressed. My main discomfort with Ryan was his repetitive & limited expressions. I liked the film as a whole and I also got why some people love it. The love between the protagonists and scenes between them were very touching. Conveyed the whole love thing and made the audience think about their own love stories.

The moment a film makes the audience reflect upon their own lives and makes them think, that’s what makes the film linger in their minds for much longer after the film is over. Indian examples like these are films like “3 Idiots” and “Zindagi Naa Mile Dobara”.

The most spectacular scene for me was the lake scene when the lovers are boating and the swans follow them. On further checking I came10417806_10152246172506347_386395140398117345_n to know that the scene was shot in Cypress Gardens in South Carolina, where the swans were imported and trained for a month to follow the boat during the scene. Just breathtaking. You can watch it on this link – The other brilliant scene was the Ferris wheel scene, just superb. Watch here –

And it’s not an easy story to adapt from the novel with the same name. The work on the script began in 1996 and went through several drafts till the film was cast and released in 2004. The film was very important for Rachel’s career, who was finalised after a nationwide search. She had done some work before in films but hadnt found her slot. For Ryan too, it was an important turning point. Ryan worked very hard for the part and moved stayed at the location for 2 months before the shoot and learnt carpentry.

10408112_10152246172236347_4018674933783213577_nThe film did very well on the box-office – US$ 115 million globally and is one of the 15 highest grosser in the romantic drama category.

The film got mixed reviews and was a bit slow in parts, but the overall feeling of requited love, compensates for eveything, especially when portrayed beautifully by the couple. A must watch movie!

Some memorable dialogues from the film:

Young Noah: “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday”.

Young Noah: “My Dearest Allie. I couldn’t sleep last night because I know that it’s over between us. I’m not bitter anymore, because I know that what we10487488_10152246171841347_5336742670712211635_n had was real. And if in some distant place in the future we see each other in our new lives, I’ll smile at you with joy and remember how we spent the summer beneath the trees, learning from each other and growing in love. The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds, and that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I hope to give to you forever. I love you. I’ll be seeing you”.

Young Allie: Why didn’t you write me? Why? It wasn’t over for me, I waited for you for seven years. But now it’s too late.

Young Noah: I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you everyday for a year.

Young Allie: You wrote me?

Young Noah: Yes… it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over

[kisses Allie]

Duke: That’s my sweetheart in there. Wherever she is, that’s where my home is.

Duke: They didn’t agree on much. In fact they rarely agreed on anything. They fought all the time and they challenged each other everyday…

Young Noah: [Allie and Noah are fighting] Don’t push me!

[Allie pushes Noah anyway]

Duke: …But in spite their differences, they had one important thing in common, they were crazy about each other.


I finally managed to watch GIA, a 1998 autobiographical HBO film starring the enigmatic Angelina Jolie. Based on the life of model10501961_10152236083121347_4435179569314546298_n Gia Marie, the film chronicles the rise of Gia as America’s first supermodel and then her self destruction due to drugs, eventually leading to her death at the age of 26 because of HIV.

It’s a very well made film considering the fact that it was a made for TV film. And the director-actor pair teamed up again for “Original Sin”. Since it’s autobiographical, the film gets predictable towards the end, but Angelina’s freshness and energy keeps us engaged. She is a shocker in the film and one can fe10491182_10152236083671347_784041689344928472_nel her sheer raw talent. Angelina’s stellar performance as a lesbian, wild, unbridled woman, makes us think about our life and hers even beyond the film. The film also has superbly cast a 11 year old as young Gia, who is none other than Mila Kunis.

This film is testament to how a relatively unknown actor shows immense unbridled talent and then rises like a phoenix in real life, partially imitating the movie story. In 1998 Angelina was just being discovered and was cast in “Playing by Heart” by Willard Carroll along with stellar actors like Sean Connery, Dennis Quaid, Madeleine Stowe, Gillian Anderson, Ryan Phillippe and Ellen Burstyn. But she stole the show even in her small role and was noticed by all. 1998 paved the way for Angelina’s next 15 years and we have witnessed her rise. Real talent is unstoppable 1937434_10152236083221347_4702651412076717924_nif it gets the right outlet.

GIA was definitely a defining film for Angelina and it paved the way to her superstardom. The story lingers. The lessons linger more and thats what works for this film. It’s a must watch film for all young professionals in the entertainment field.


Late but never, I finally saw the film “PERFUME – The Story of a Murderer” by the hugely talented German filmmaker Tom Tykwer. He i  s famous for “Run Lola Run” amongst others.

The film based on a 1985 novel, tells the story of Jean an olfactory genius and his homicidal quest for the perfect scent. And lo behold, we have a serial killer. Set in 18th century France, the film was shot in 2005 and was one of the most expen10471439_10152234096896347_6537040849780058881_nsive German films at Euro 50 million and it shows. The production design, cinematography is spectacular. The script drags sometimes and a tighter, crisper edit would probably makes it better. But I am no one to comment on a work by a genius.

Apparently the author was paid Euro 10 million for the film rights and 3 writers worked on more than 20 drafts of the screenplay to arrive at the shooting script.

The highlight sequence of the film is the climax, where we witness a mass orgy. Yes and it’s wow! The scene was shot in an open air museum in Barcelona. Off the total of 5200 extras used in the film, 750 were used for the mass orgy scene. From the 750 mass orgy crowd, 50 were from a dance theatre group and 100 were experienced talent from around.

A must watch film, if you want to watch a high-concept, engaging story telling from a master filmmaker.

10525354_10152234096406347_5557609096510702231_n  10479749_10152234096751347_6587889661440003800_n


By Sidhartha M Jain, Sep 17, 2013 – 02:50 IST

(In this article, I am not endorsing the content of Grand Masti or promoting the cause of crude-sex-content. But it’s important to bring forth certain points of view, after which people can form their own judgments).

Friday the 13th. I love them. It usually turns into a battle between Good v/s Evil. This Friday the 13th was no different. It turned into a battle between Death v/s Life Sentence (do note, death was good in this context) and Good Content v/s Grand Masti. It was an ironic day, where the people of the nation woke up in the morning, updated their statuses with “Kill the Rapist”, expressed their ongoing anger against crimes against women, discussed the same at home with their families, watched the verdict on TV and then went and bought a ticket for Grand Masti. They had the option of watc1377798442-screenshothing 3-4 other films too.

Indra Kumar is a very intelligent, talented and instinctive filmmaker. He clearly understands the changing taste of the fickle audience. He knows that what worked in Dil, Beta and Ishq cannot work anymore. Between Mann and Masti he figured out his strategy to get back, in his own way with Dhamaal and nowGrand Masti.

On a personal level, I believe in freedom of expression and action. Even though Grand Masti may not be my kind of comedy, there is no way I will judge the film or the filmmaker. I can always choose to not watch it and ignore it. India is a democracy. After USA, India is the land of opportunity and enterprise. That is why Hollywood and Bollywood have survived for decades as a self-sufficient industry, which makes all kinds of content, without any help from the government. So we should respect that spirit. Responsible/Social cinema is a personal and economic choice. Cannot be imposed by the state or the stakeholders of the society.

When it comes to films/content, we can broadly divide the world in 4 groups. People, who create content (filmmaker), consume content (audience), judge content (critics) and who are indifferent to the content (don’t watch Hindi films).

In the case of Grand Masti the film connected seamlessly between the creator and the consumer, while ignoring the judgment group. This is where the pot of gold lies for commercial filmmakers, who cannot access the biggest of superstars, yet want to make a living by making films. Understand the audience and reach out to them in the best possible way one from the available resources that each filmmaker has.

So how does Grand Masti get a Rs. 40cr Opening Weekend? As per a survey on Bollywood Audience done in 2013, following statistics emerged:
1. 81% of audiences watching movie on the opening day are Men.
2. 75% moviegoers are under the age of 30.
3. 63% of Box Office Revenue comes from viewers aged between 15-29 years.
4. Film reviews don’t influence the youth, but what their friends think, does.

The above data is simple and self-explanatory. The best way to lure men under 30 in India is a combination of comedy and sex involving women.

This data also explains why films like Masti, Kya Super Kool Hain Hum, Fukrey, Delhi Belly, Ragini MMS, Jism 2, Hate Story, etc have worked with these youth audiences and have given superior returns on investment despite most industry people doubting even a break-even at early stages.

The promise of thrill, sex and/or comedy in trailers and posters, gets the attention of the youth. Mixed in the right proportion, gets sampling and maybe great word of mouth. Let’s not forget “quick” word of mouth because of online social media.

The only other way to get this kind of an opening is to make a very entertaining film with the top superstars and get the family audiences inside. How many have access to the best of stars? Should one sit at home and not make films because superstars are not available? One has to find other ways to pursue ones passion, economic activity and make a living. Film as an art is a tiny genre in India. Does not pay bills. It’s like telling any Paint company to not supply paint for buildings, just supply for artists who will paint art on canvas.

As a friend pointed out, “There’s a REASON films are certified. And there’s a reason promos are run weeks before a film’s release. The audience can judge whether they ARE in fact, the audience for that film- and what to expect for their money. If it is an Adults Only film- it means go watch it with an Adult perspective. And if you can tell by a promo that it might turn offensive- either don’t watch it at all, or watch it, and be smugly satisfied with how correct your judgment was. But that doesn’t necessarily make it offensive to everyone else. It MIGHT. But it also, might not.”

If the censors can accept the fact that, gradually censorship has to be relaxed and people should have the right of choice of making and watching films, it’s time the film industry accept that along with the media. I am not saying that pornography be made legal in India, but at the same time, Porn being illegal or being looked down by society, has not stopped or reduced consumption of pornographic content by Indians residing in India.

Lastly, I think the angle of responsible cinema is a highly debatable one. I think business and social responsibility has to be optional. Unfortunately in the film business, one is as good as the last release and its performance at the Box Office. This pressure gets to filmmakers who have to support families and run a business. Corporate companies have to keep a Social Responsibility fund out of their profits; it might be a good idea for film companies to finance socially responsible films, from their profits. Balance is important.

I doubt if films can influence society in a very drastic way, except in small doses for shorter periods of time, especially in the era of Internet. Films are more reflective of the reality of society. In fact, I think films portray a very toned down version of the reality of our society, whether it’s related to crime or sex. Reality is dirtier and murkier.

Grand Masti reflects a certain aesthetic choice of our youth. Indian audiences are hypocritical and we know that. Publicly we will oppose crimes like rape but at home, the case can be the exact opposite. The reality of our audience is staring at us. Whether we like it or not, adult films are beginning to do really well. Adult is the new high-concept and a primary genre. Within that we have Adult-comedy, Sex-Comedy, Adult-horror, Adult-thriller, Adult-drama and Adult-Love stories. Not only are the censors getting more lenient, but also I predict that soon channels for adult content could make their way selectively. The Internet is anyways a black hole to access any kind of content, anytime, anywhere.

Certain sections of our media have spoken out against Grand Masti aggressively and they have every right to. Open debate must be encouraged. But then if they feel so strongly about adult content, they should not carry advertisements of such films or news articles on such films. Why run to interview Sunny Leone and happily send bills to producers for full-page ads and trailers.

Just like water finds its own level, the audiences find their source of entertainment. India is the land of Kamasutra, Khajuraho with a history of debauch royalty. If all goes well, China could be under threat in terms of India taking them over in the population game. We love sex and all forms of extensions around it, but in private. Indians watch films for entertainment and escapism, not art. If we can blend art with content, that’s the ideal scenario, which is more of an exception.

But we are a nation where we protest against treating women as objects of sex and follow it up by watching a film where women are objects of sex. Cinema for the people, by the people. 

(Siddhartha M Jain is the CEO of iRock Films. iRock is a film production co-pioneering in Bollywood, High-Concept, Youthful & Commercial, theatrical features. Their first release was Ragini MMS. iRock is invested into by Mr Manmohan Shetty – Founder & Ex-Chairman of Adlabs Films Ltd (now Reliance Mediaworks Ltd). Other investors in iRock are Dar Media & Shravan Shroff of Shringar Films & founder of Fame Cinemas, now acquired by Inox.)