From taking home a fixed salary, the cast and crew of Tamil cinema are now exploring revenue-sharing options.
From his first film, actor Vishal has always taken the Telugu rights as part of his salary. Siddharth coming on board as co-producer of the hit Kaadhallil Sodhupuvadhu Yeppadi marked a new trend. Suriya has also taken up the Telugu rights for his ongoing film with director Lingusamy as part of his pay packet. And now, Karthi has decided to skip his remuneration for Ranjith’s Kaali, and look at another means of sharing revenue.
This system is commonplace in the Hindi film industry and its viability has been proved. Producers feel the time is right for such experiments here. At times, salaries for top actors and crew members can make up 60 per cent of a film’s budget. It would be about 30 per cent for a film with less-popular stars. Producer N. Subash Chandrabose of Thirupathi Brothers says reduced salaries translate into huge savings, especially on interest paid on borrowed capital. “It’s worked very well in Hindi. More actors must do this here,” he says.
Actors turning producers is not new to Tamil cinema, observes Siddharth, who runs Etaki Entertainment. “Many, including Kamal Haasan, have done it before.” Siddharth turned co-producer for KSY, and distributed its Telugu version, Love Failure. He believes this model works well for “niche” films or films that need to be small to succeed. “That film made more money for me than I earn as an actor,” he says.
Karthi says this decision depends on what an actor wants to do. “If you choose to do a small film that will find release only within the State, you have to take a call on how you’re going to help it,” says the actor who’s exploring revenue options for Kaali. “It will have to be pitched right and promoted well. Such a film will need hand-holding,” he says.
Vishal is all smiles following Pandiya Naadu’s success — his maiden hit as producer. But, even before that, he took over Madha Gaja Raja (scheduled for a February 2014 release). “I just wanted to revive the film.” Now, he’s teamed up with UTV Motion Pictures for Naan Sigappu Manithan. “It will be on a profit sharing basis. What I love most about this system is that it is professional. There is no ambiguity,” he says. Next up is another film with Suseendran for Vendhar Movies, where he will just be an actor, who takes his salary and Telugu rights.
S. Sashikanth of Y Not Studios, which produced KSY, says this is the way forward. “We look at this model for projects that are ‘out of the box’ or considered risky, content-wise. We try to offset that with these deals, for actors and the technical crew,” he adds.
In Tamil, most films are based on combinations (actor-director, director-composer, actor-actor), which escalates the budget. “We need a more grounded procedure. Production quality will suffer when there’s a tight squeeze on everything except salaries,” he says.
Though some feel actors will be more committed to a project if they are involved in the production, Sashikanth says commitment levels are always high. “Money alone will never be the driving force,” he says. “I worked with Siddharth on a revenue-sharing model for KSY and I’m now doing Kaaviya Thalaivan, where’s he’s just an actor. He’s as committed.” Sashikanth’s next film after Vaai Moodi Pesavum will follow the KSY model, he says.
Siddharth points out this model is a double-edged sword. There are profits, but losses have to be absorbed too. He’s now producing four films; two of them (starring him) go on the floors this year. “The content dictates the model. It’s actually a very basic calculation. The budget must depend on a movie’s intent. Nothing else.”
With the DVD and satellite market turning lucrative, they could also be revenue options. “These are also possible areas. These days, films don’t depend on just theatricals,” says Siddharth.