Piracy continues to be a major issue plaguing the Indian film industry, causing a substantial annual loss in revenues. However, the emergence of the digital world has made it controllable, says Bhushan Kumar, head honcho of entertainment conglomerate T-Series.
“Piracy is a very old issue. It has always been there. This is a serious problem for us, including digital piracy. But because of the digital world, it is controllable. Today people are not used to watching VCDs and DVDs… I feel digital piracy is not to that level. It is on the decline,” Bhushan said.
He believes so, even though several films have of late been leaked online before their release or immediately after. Scenes from big films like Mohenjo Daro and Rustom surfaced online, while the uncensored versions of Udta Punjab and Dangal were available too before their release.
But largely, filmmakers are seeking a pre-emptive legal measure called the John Doe order to fight piracy.
“Nobody wants to watch a camera print or a VCD or a DVD. If that was true, we would not be earning crores of rupees in business. For example, the way ‘Dangal’ made Rs 350 crore at the box office is exemplary. This kind of business would not be possible if piracy was at its peak. The maximum setback was felt when people were consuming content on VCD and DVD. That time, it used to hurt the theatrical business,” Kumar said.
The scene, however, is different when it comes to music.
“For songs, piracy is still there because there are still so many digital sites which are illegal, which earn money, but they don’t pay the fees to the rightful copyright owner,” rued Bhushan, whose T-Series label was established by his late father Gulshan Kumar in the 1980s.
Bhushan took over the company’s reins after his father’s murder in 1997. The label has grown by leaps and bounds ever since, having ventured into film production in a big way.
With the changing dynamics of Indian entertainment, Bhushan finds digital media “very big”.
“Given the speed with which the penetration of Internet is taking place, the digital medium is the fastest way to reach the audience and to be able to get a reaction out of them. In the earlier days, when we used to promote our music or films, we used to take the help of print and television mediums, but the audience reaction could not be gauged.
“Today, in two days’ time, we know that ‘Aashiq banaya aapne’ (‘Hate Story IV’) is a superhit. That’s a huge benefit. You get to know of the number of people who are watching your song or the trailer of your film. We get an accurate measurement of its reach. This is very important and beneficial in today’s digital world,” he added.
Good and memorable songs have always been a fixture in the banner’s films.
“Music helps a lot. People don’t understand how important music is to promote a film. When a film has good songs, apart from it being an independent music product for music companies, it is also a great promotional vehicle for the film,” Bhushan said.
Having said that, he adds that he cannot behave like a man who is only running a music company.
“So, I settle for a middle path. Now, some songs are made according to the films and some are made keeping in mind the commercial interest,” he added.
Currently, T-Series has several films like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Hate Story IV, Fanne Khan, Blackmail, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Arjun Patiala, Kedarnath, Cheat India and Bharat in its kitty.
There is also a biopic on Gulshan Kumar, but Bhushan chooses to stay mum on it for now.
“Wait for the announcement soon. We are still working on it,” he said of the project which features Akshay Kumar.
Then there is another yet-untitled biopic, to be directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, and featuring Piku stars Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan.