Subhash Ghai, renowned Bollywood film-maker and chairman of Whistling Woods International Institute for Film Television Animation and Media Arts, Mumbai, believes that script is still king in the world of cinema.
Delivering a talk on The Business of Film-making at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), Ghai said: "Script will always remain the hero in cinema, whether you are doing animation, art, science fiction, comedy or drama. Script holds the key to the success of a film, and no amount of glamour, technical brilliance or item songs can save a film if the script is weak.
Popularly known as The Showman, Ghai, who has made 18 feature films since 1975, shared with the audience his experiences in the world of Indian cinema, covering issues like art cinema, piracy, movie marketing, social responsibility and entry of corporate groups into filmmaking.
Speaking about marketing of films, Ghai said there has been a dramatic change in modern times, with the arrival of satellite TV and Internet. What used to take six months to recover movie investment some years ago now takes a few days.
"Personally speaking, marketing budgets vary from movie to movie. For my movie Saudagar I spent Rs. 60 lakhs; in contrast, when I released Khalnayak, I had to spend just Rs. 10 lakhs because the publicity it generated because of the arrest of the lead star Sanjay Dutt in a different connection made it a superhit. On the other hand, marketing a movie like Iqbal (which tells the story of a deaf and dumb boy wanting to be a cricketer), I had to depend on a clever sub-title to generate audience interest.
Movie-making is interesting and challenging, said Ghai. "It is challenging because one has to marry art and commerce, which are enemies. One has to gain deep insights into his subject, whether one is making a movie on mafia, aviation or fishermen. In other words, we must have the right connect with people, and that is a sure formula for success.
Ghai shared his experiences in reinventing himself by keeping track with changing times, successfully producing blockbusters as well as socially responsible films. He also spoke about the Whistling Woods Film School which has over 400 students and has been ranked as one of the top ten film schools in the world.
Indian Consul General Sanjay Verma, speaking as Guest of Honour, hailed Ghai as a giant among Indian movie moguls, and named some of his top movies, including Iqbal, Joggers Park and Taal. He described Ghai as an actor, scriptwriter, producer and teacher.
Referring to Ghais success in reinventing himself, the Consul General urged the students to upgrade their skills on a constant basis, as times have changed and stagnancy can be a great disadvantage in career and business.
David Rome, President of UOWD, introduced Ghai as a man who has succeeded in converting artistic pursuits into a viable business, passion into business activity.
Subhash Ghai has been described as "showman" and "dream merchant" by the media. He was honoured by the President of India with a national award for making "KARMA" an ant-terrorism motion picture in 1986. His later films like PARDES and TAAL opened a wider audience's world wide for Indian movies and featured in Hollywood top twenty at box-office for various weeks. In 2007, he won the National Award as producer of the film 'Iqbal' which won the Best Film on social issues.