Producer-distributor G Dhananjayan, whose book, Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013, won him a National Award is now out with his next, The Art and Business of Cinema. It’s not every day that you meet a producer who also writes. “I have been constantly asked why I write. Some even worry that I let out trade secrets about films. But there’s no secret as such,” he says. “Nobody can predict the success or failure of films. Directors who understand audiences come up with successful films. Even that changes over a period of time. What was successful once isn’t successful anymore.”
Dhananjayan, the former head of Disney-UTV Motion Pictures (South), has produced films like Irudhi Suttru, and often shares his expertise over the business aspects of filmmaking. “I am eager to share my experiences as a producer and co-creator. Whenever I learn something, I write. Unfortunately, in Tamil cinema, people tend to learn only from their mistakes. But I always insist that we learn from others’ mistakes too,” he says. He believes that with such books, he’s addressing a crucial knowledge gap in the industry. “It’s not just enough to know how to write scripts. Directors today need to know the theatre business, the nuances of production and distribution, and marketing techniques too, if they are to be relevant in the long run.”
The Art and Business of Cinema has 104 chapters that talks about the importance of release dates, problems of unsold films, challenges in finding funds, art of survival in the film industry and so on. “Last year, around December, I decided to compile my writings into a book after realising their relevance for the industry folk. I wanted the chapters to be in a specific chronology to ensure proper flow of reading. So, that took a lot of time. Writing comes naturally to me as I am always full of ideas,” he smiles. The point of writing books, according to him, is to share information that isn’t available online.
Dhananjayan says many film personalities -- J Mahendran (director), Lenin (editor), Mohan Raman (actor), to name a few — were quite supportive while he was writing the book. “Mahendran sir wrote the foreword for two of my books, and this time, I approached Mohan Raman,” he adds.
There isn’t a whole lot of writing about cinema, especially Tamil cinema. Dhananjayan explains why: “Earlier, people used to think cinema was easy. There were 30-40 releases a year. But now, as many as 200 films are made. If you need to write, you need to substantiate your work with facts and figures, and that’s a tedious job,” he says. “The question though is, while there’s an increase in the number of releases every year, does it translate to an increase of revenue? The unfortunate answer is no.”
Does he intend for the book to be thought of as a bible by budding filmmakers? “I am not saying whatever has been written has to be judiciously followed. This is just a guide,” he says. “Cinema is an ocean. There’s no one way of learning.” The book has also now been made course material for aspiring directors at his BOFTA Film Institute. What he considers to be the biggest compliment is when assistant directors who read this book ask, “Enna sir, ivlo vishayam idhula iruka?”