Tapping into Y-generation

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Jun 9 2011, 02:08am hrs
When Karan Johar wanted to show the world the first look of his next film, Student of the Year, he chose Twitter. Produced by Karan Johars Dharma Productions and Shah Rukh Khans Red Chillies Entertainment, the film will launch a host of newcomers, including 17-year-old Alia Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt and Soni Razdans daughter, and Varun Dhawan, David Dhawans youngest. The film is set to go on the floors this summer. Shah Rukh Khan is also backing TV/radio host and playwright Roshan Abbas directorial debut Always Kabhi Kabhi, targeted at the youth, and Yash Raj Films has spun off a separate studio, Y Films, to make films for youngsters.

The Y-generation has taken hold of Bollywood in more ways than one, and almost all the directors and producers admit that 60-crore youth is a mass niche too large to ignore. Says Ashish Patil, CEO, Y Films, formerly head of MTV in India: India has a large youth population and they are influencing every decision, from which car to buy to health insurance. With 83% of our movie-going audience in the 15-34 age group, they cannot be ignored. Making films for youth is a huge business opportunity and its also about filling a consumer gap.

Patil, and Abbas, who directed Always Kabhi Kabhi releasing on June 17, say the teen-film genre or the coming-of-age film so popular in the West is coming on its own in Bollywood too.

Says Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, which is set to release Aamir Khan Productions Delhi Belly on July 1: We have had our eye on the youth for quite sometime. UTV launched a channel for the youth, UTV Bindass, to fill that need. Our films from Rang De Basanti to Dev D to Delhi Belly also targeted youngsters.

For Delhi Belly, a story about three boys who get involved in something crazy, Kapur says anyone who likes irreverent humour and are 18 and above should be drawn to the film. If Delhi Belly wants to take us back to the good times in college or the early years of ones career when things often dont go according to plan, Always Kabhi Kabhi looks at student days as the best days of our lives. Says Abbas: Its a coming-of-age film about these four characters and I am dealing with this last breath of innocence...

Abbas says over the past two years with some blockbusters not doing well at the box office, an opportunity for a category of films, under R10 crore, has opened up. With youth-centric films we are providing content that marry with commerce, he adds.

Points out Kamal Jain, CFO, Eros, which is distributing Always Kabhi Kabhi: There is an opening during IPL for small films when no studio wants to risk a high-budget film. This eight to ten week window is an ideal opportunity for small films. During IPL, we saw the release of films like F.A.L.T.U, Challo Dilli, Luv ka the End, Stanley ka Dabba and a host of other small films.

With the budget under control and some smart marketing, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, and other social networking sites, media and publicity costs are kept at a minimum, and if the promos are good, a furious word of mouth also ensures a good audience. Abbas says when he tweeted that he needed some help on Always Kabhi Kabhi, around 200 people got back instantly.

Even though Y Films Luv ka the End was ripped apart by most critics, it was still running at some places in the fourth weekone showas well. It makes business sense to ensure a genuinely focussed attempt to make stories of their (youth) world. This has not been done, and theres a gap, says Patil. With high dependence on a few set of stars, producers are also realising that its too expensive to make movies with them, say insiders. Luv ka the End, made at a tidy R5 crore, has already grossed R6 crore from its theatrical release, with satellite and other rights yet to go up for grabs. Whatever we earn after theatre release is a bonus. Merchandising and digital are going to be big in future, adds Patil.

We need fresh blood and we need to create a platform for fresh talent, says Patil, explaining why YRF chose to launch a separate studio for the youth. Luv ka the End, for instance, saw 20 debuts including new director, new actors, new cinematographer, etc. And yet, Patil points out, that with the Yash Raj brand, you are expected to bring certain values and a certain scale with it. We are clear we are creating a new genre and an audience, and this will happen over a period of time.

According to Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, There is a possibility that more studios for youth will be set up. The reason for this is the ever-increasing trend in the youth to be a part of the glamour world. Another reason is the explosion of acting schools and schools which impart technical training, such as editing, film photography (cameraman), etc.

Already, a subtle differentiation is being made on the contentdark, edgier films like Dev D or Shaitan or Ragini MMS or Delhi Belly with its riotous lyrics versus fun, entertaining films like Always Kabhi Kabhi or Y Films upcoming Mujhse Fraandship Karoge. We want to back films which are mass entertaining, films which everyone likes, not just youth from south Mumbai to Bandra, says Eros Jain. Abbas says his film is fun, entertaining and not heavy; and Patil, too, prefers this mode, We want to push the envelope, not tear it.

According to Jani, the demographics of the country is in favour of youngsters and so there is a huge target audience for such studios. But he points out that one of the major challenges is sustainability. An idea or a story or a concept will have limited life and constant changes in creativity will help in achieving success. Also, the concept of a youth genre is new and has still to prove itself in the business world of films and entertainment. Already, some critics prefer Hollywood when it comes to youth films. Counters Patil: Give us some time. Our youth want to hear their stories.