PMN India Mumbai Team Member Mohit Rana recently spoke to Ram Gopal Varma exclusively wherein he revealed how in the pre-digital print days, exhibitors often used to remove scenes or songs from prints as per their wishes. By doing so, they often badly altered the narrative of films. Yet, it would work. RGV remarked, “Most people don’t realize that a film is a series of shots and scenes. In every scene, what the audience will think is very difficult to predict! A critic watches the film seriously. I don’t think the average moviegoer watches the film with the same eye.”
Ram Gopal Varma then narrated, “When Om Shanti Om (2007) and Saawariya (2007) were released on the same day, I went with my physical trainer to watch both the films. First, we saw Saawariya. This guy was constantly on his phone. He went out multiple times for a smoke or to get coffee.
After 45 minutes, he asked me, ‘Iss picture mein daylight nahi hota hai kya?’! This is the only observation he made about the film, and he hated the film. Then we went to see Om Shanti Om. He exhibited exactly the same behavior. But this time, he loved the film! Hence, in a 2 ½ hour-long film, for nearly 1 ½ hour, he was not concentrating on the film and would watch the film once in a while. At that time, he didn’t like Saawariya but he liked Om Shanti Om.”
RGV continued, “This is more relevant today. A lot of people feel that OTT is a threat. I personally feel that YouTube is a threat. It comprises so many kinds of videos, from well-packaged news to funny comedy sketches to viral videos of scandalous stuff done by politicians. Hence, the attention span is going down. Also, the mind-set is such that you can go anytime off YouTube and resume whenever you feel like it. But with OTT and theatres, the mindset is that you have to invest 2-3 hours of your time. That kind of attention is going to keep decreasing in the future.”
Ram Gopal Varma added, “A few weeks back, I was in Bengaluru and met an acquaintance. I asked him about his movie viewing habits – how many times he goes to the theatres in a month and how many films he watches on OTT on average. To which he said that he and his wife have stopped going to the cinemas. As far as OTT is concerned, he told me that every once in a while, he and his better half make a plan to watch a film on a digital platform. They end up watching only the trailers for 30-40 minutes, unable to decide what to watch, and they go to sleep! But this is so true. The way the recommendations pop up, it’s so difficult to decide what to watch. Eventually, you’ll decide upon the recommendation from a friend.”
He further said, “There was another acquaintance who told me that he saw a particular film in a theatre. When I asked him how the film is, he replied, ‘I was missing my remote control’! This was his way of saying that the film was boring and lengthy and he wished he could have fast-forwarded it.”
“My assistant told me that when he sits down to watch some content on OTT on TV, he also keeps his iPad open to watch another film. That’s not all. On the phone, he’s watching YouTube! And whatever is interesting at any given point of time, he watches that. I don’t think there’s any bigger nightmare for a filmmaker than this,” laughed Ram Gopal Varma.
The filmmaker feels that such a mind-set has definitely affected the box office earnings. He tried to prove his point by talking about the dismal collections of Aamir Khan-starrer Laal Singh Chaddha, “Look at the box office scenario. Who would have imagined an Aamir Khan film would bomb so badly? If Aamir Khan doesn’t know how to make a hit film, then what happens to the rest?”