One of the most influential people in the back-end operations of the Indian entertainment business, Prabhat Choudhary is a strategic advisor to Bollywood and the Southern film industry. Founder of the agency Spice Pr and Entropy digital, a key decision maker in the way films and OTT content are marketed and promoted, particularly in the post-Covid era, he is described as an industrialist in times of crisis. Change Manager and Brand Strategist, Prabhat helps business presentation stakeholders stay ahead of the curve.
Now, amid the pandemic, he believes in adapting to the new normal and has devised new strategies to do so. We talk to him about the changing landscape of Showbiz in the pandemic. Abstracts:
Being one of the most sought-after strategic consultants for Bollywood and southern stars, how do you see the future of entertainment after the pandemic? What will the new trends be?
For me, the future is a work in progress. Most of us have never seen a pandemic, so it’s hard to gauge how things will shape in the times to come. What seems certain is that we may never go back to what we were in the pre-Covid era. We will no longer work within those models. The future will focus on new fundamentals including new economies, new forms of marketing, and new, creative challenges. The future looks blurry but the past is gone. Chronologically, the pre-Covid 2019 era appears to be very recent but effective so far. Our past practices must be changed if they are not eliminated completely. Our challenges will be new and perhaps even more difficult than before. It won’t get any easier. In any case, change must always be managed and I do not mean that change means a crisis. If we can manage and adapt well, change can be handled. In this change, those who will not be able to adapt will die. It will be survival of the fittest.
Do you think that films like Sooryavanshi, Radhe & 83 and others have proven effective in rebuilding theatrical works? Will we see a revival of the big screen as before?
Today’s box office is a different algorithm. The big screen revival will take time to gain momentum. The theatrical experience redefined itself. It’s an event movie, a movie that attracts a huge audience and that’s what the theatrical numbers seem to be saying so far. What exhibitors can take heart from is that audiences are open to going to theaters because the numbers say so. Look at Spider-Man: No Way Home it did well. What’s amazing is that it has penetrated into Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities and has performed amazingly well. A place like Samastipur in Bihar, which one might have to find on Google, the movie did great business there. People who say theater entertainment is old, I want to tell them it’s not true. You need this movie to bring people to theaters. The integer game, the criteria for success and failure in the face of films is changing.
Speaking of the numbers game in Bollywood, what will the new box office success metric according to you be compared to the Rs 100 crore club?
It’s too early to say anything about that because we’re trimming the box office right now. Although new data appears. No one would have ever imagined that the Hindi dubbed version of the Telugu movie, Pushpa: The Rise Hindi, would be so disgusting. R90 crores as of today! This is exceptional. It is a miracle of a different order. On what basis, we can say that there will not be 100 crore films. Today, Bollywood seems to have a challenge ahead. We have to take it positively because it is not an insurmountable challenge. Hollywood has shown this penetration as well as films from the South but it is perhaps more evident. For now, with Spider-Man: No Way Home and Pushpa: The Rise, I’ve taken it to a different level. Pushpa’s numbers are almost equal to Bahubali 1, and Pushpa’s glory for getting them into a pandemic. Allu Arjun seems to have a different kind of following, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana, where one would not expect fans to follow an actor from the south. There is hysteria for him, which is extremely important and we must pay attention.
Do you think OTT has now largely taken advantage of filmmaking in this pandemic?
It’s a great time for content creators. You have plenty of options from long and short format, with new shapes emerging. As marketers, it’s going great. The creative ecosystem has been enhanced. Actors and writers all find work. It is a fertile environment now. But if you see the image from the lens of Bollywood cinema, then yes, it is better to pull the socks off. Today, audiences have a reference to Money Heist, Fauda and even Indian web series such as Paatal Lok and Mirzpaur that have raised a bar. The masses have a lot of options.
Do you think it is a cost-effective offer for makers to shoot movies on OTT directly instead of taking them via the cinema route?
Everything is viable, given the economic adjustment. If you ask, can Bollywood survive on OTT, this may not be the case. For the survival of an industry, play is a must.
As they say, digital is the future. How have promotional strategies changed, in terms of PR and marketing, in the age of Covid?
The future is not digital, the present. It is already here! The bottom of the pyramid is more digital than the top. Digital has permeated every segment of the economy, especially in low-income groups. They are mostly numbered because that is what they have to refer to. Whereas digital technology has just taken over promotions, communications and reaching out to the masses. It’s a great place to be. There is scalability to digital marketing and its reach is almost instant. You can change campaigns, if necessary. As a marketer, digital transformation gives you an edge because you have flexibility and feedback.