By Akshay Acharya
Mumbai, Jan 11 | Kabir Khan is one filmmaker, who tells important stories in the most entertaining and engaging way. However, as much as his earlier films have performed well, the box-office performance of ’83’ has been severely affected by the third wave of Covid-19.
From his mainstream directorial debut ‘Kabul Express’ to the most recent ’83’, his filmography boasts of films that make a difference.
The recent wave of the pandemic simmered through the third week of December 2021 and exploded around the film’s release with several states tightening the civil movements, capping strength at public places and capital city Delhi, which accounts for 7 – 8 per cent of collections, shutting down its cinema halls completely.
Kabir recently spoke with IANS where he deconstructed the reasons behind the film’s collections, misreporting on the part of certain film trade analysts and his commitment to serve a story of lifetime to the audience in the form of ’83’.
Being a mainstream filmmaker is a matter of sheer will and the director has plenty of it, “We made the film and waited for 1.5 years because we were very sure that we wanted people to see it on the big screen. We had designed it for the big screen or the cinema viewing experience.”
Shedding light on the process behind putting up a film like ’83’, he says, “It was two years of a process to set up ’83’ because the scale was humongous. The events, people, clothes, hair, props everything now is different from what it used to be earlier in the ’80s. From the setting of structures, referencing, research, live recording of matches to radio commentary, the film has been put together piece by piece.”
However, he mentions that in times like these, where the pandemic has thrown every bet off the table, it’s impossible to precisely plan a film’s release, “With the threat of pandemic still looming large even after 2 years, it’s impossible to plan with great degree of accuracy when it comes to the release of films. Unfortunately, the day we released ’83’ was when the explosion of the third wave took place.”
He continues, “Not just for us but for everyone, it came out of nowhere, no one could have foreseen it. At the onset of the third wave, there were around 6,000 cases a day in India, 15 days later we are clocking 1.6 lakh cases a day. By the second day of the film’s release, 3 states had declared night curfews.”
The filmmaker further breaks it down, “On day 4, Delhi, which is a big territory, decided to shut down its cinema halls, severely impacting the film’s business. By 6th day another 2 – 3 states shut down their cinemas, another 10 – 11 states went under night curfew. At some places theatres are running at 33 per cent occupancy or 50 per cent occupancy. So it’s been really disappointing for us in terms of not just being able to make it available to people in the theatres.”
Kabir holds a certain section of film trade analysts accountable for reporting the numbers without the context, “There has been very unprofessional behaviour on the part of certain trade analysts where they are reporting numbers without taking the pandemic into the context. This really surprises me because while reporting something you have to take into account the factors that lead to a situation, if not then you are not staying true to your profession.”
He adds that despite the historic pandemic, the film has impressed people, “The film has a strong word of mouth, it’s not translating into theatre footfall because the access to theatres is not there in major places of exhibition. The fear is still playing on the minds of people. There were so many films that were supposed to come immediately after us, they all pushed their release dates. They had the benefit of time, we didn’t have that benefit.”
Extending his thread about the lack of time benefit, he says, “Literally, the day of the release was the day when the cases started piling up in the country. The third wave has been the fastest; the rate of infection is far greater compared to the earlier two waves. The speed with which it hit us, no one could have really planned in a situation like this.”
But despite theatres running at limited capacity, people have showered love on the film, as Kabir says, “But at the same time, I must say that those who have gone to theatres at places where the restrictions are not much stringent, have shown so much love to the film. The kind of messages that we are getting on social media is really overwhelming.”
For him as a storyteller, the audience’s love holds the highest place in his heart, “And that’s what counts. A film’s success is determined by how long it stays in your hearts and in the minds of people and with regards to that ’83’ holds a very special place in the hearts of the audience.”
Ask him if ’83’ would go for an extended theatrical run in the theatres once the dust of third wave settles down and he says as a parting shot, “That is the way for us to do it, we were committed right from the word go to bring this film out in theatres at great cost of interest and everything and we’re committed to that.”