Phantom Films in free fall: What's ailing the once promising production house?

Abhishek Srivastava

May,30 2017 17:24:25 IST

The ‘gang of four’ stood apart in the crowd and promised to deliver content that was fresh, unconventional and raw. The group was like a breath of fresh air who made promises of breaking free from the clutter. Six years down the line, the journey that had started with Lootera, it seems, has finished its run. Ego hassles, self-indulgence and an alleged sex scandal — this is what has kept them in news in the past few months and not their path breaking films.

That more or less sums up Phantom, the production house that was launched with much fanfare in 2011 with powerful filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and financial wizard Madhu Mantena as its partners.

(from L) Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, Madhu Mantena and Vikramaditya Motwane. Image from Twitter.

The production house was established with the sole aim of giving content to audiences, which hitherto were rejected by other producers. Phantom Films gave opportunities to filmmakers whose films did not toe the conventional path. Prominent among them were filmmakers like Navdeep Singh (NH 10), Vinil Mathew (Hasee Toh Phasee) and Abhishek Choubey (Udta Punjab). They made films which were appreciated and talked about previously, but despite the acclaim, Phantom is still to announce any film with them.

This can also be read backwards – that these filmmakers are not interested in making films for the banner, as sources suggest.

When Karan Johar joined hands with the Phantoms, it promised of a world which was an amalgamation of glamour, money and pure content. Few films, few press conferences and an acting assignment later, this too now looks moribund. The charm of SS Rajamouli is surely irresistible vis-a-vis the Phantoms.

Phantom began its southward journey with Shandaar, the film by Vikas Bahl, which had influences of Aki Kaurismaki plastered all over. Not many would have noticed but under the column of ‘produced by’ it mentioned ‘Karan Johar & The Phantoms’. It was a departure from established norms and ‘The Phantoms’ reeked of arrogance. Post then there has been a certain fall in the credibility associated with the house.

shandaar

The poster of Shandaar.

When nothing was going their way, it was Reliance Entertainment that acted as a savior and pumped in money to revive the fledgling company. The association will exist till 2020 and that also means that on the money front they have nothing to be bothered about. But what about the content front? The promise that was made with films like Lootera, Queen and NH 10 seems over now.

Despite the acclaim it’s been a task for Phantom to recover cost for their films.

Now picture the current status of the members. Anurag Kashyap is currently directing a film for director Anand L Rai’s banner Colour Yellow Productions and not for Phantom. Vikas Bahl’s film on the mathematician from Patna that was to go on floors has no status and looks as good as shelved. Vikas now hardly comes to the Phantom office. Madhu Mantena has now joined hands with south producer Allu Arvind to produce Mahabharata and Vikramaditya Motwane is busy giving finishing touches to Bhavesh Joshi, the vigilante hero flick for Phantom.

Sources also reveal the series that was commissioned by Netflix to Phantom based on Vikram Chandra’s The Sacred Game, and which was to be helmed by Anurag Kashyap, is now being taken care of by Vikramaditya, and Anurag is nowhere on the horizon.

Here's the baffling bit. How did a film like Bombay Velvet turn out to be a mediocre project despite the presence of best creative minds around? It only seems fair to conclude that Vikas Bahl and Vikramaditya preferred keeping their opinion about the film to themselves and never voiced things in the open. It’s also beyond comprehension that the Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt-starrer Shandaar’s flaws went unnoticed by the stakeholders.

The dip in quality of their films repeatedly reeks of ego hassles. As opposed to this, another instance that comes to mind is the initial days of Phantom when Queen was being edited. Anurag Kashyap took personal interest in the edit and ensured that the outcome was a blockbuster.

A still from Bombay Velvet.

I recently visited the Phantom office, which was a far cry from their earlier office. This time eerie silence greeted me with just few employees busy on their Mac drafting things. I even inquired about the deafening silence and was informed that most of the work force has shifted to a new office that has been provided by their new partner Reliance.

A lot could be derived from Anurag Kashyap’s FB posts on 5 and 8 May. They were cryptic but nonetheless gave evidences of the members going their individual way. There were also unconfirmed news of Anurag Kashyap confronting Vikas Bahl after the alleged molestation incident.

It’s still too early to say if redemption is in store for the production house but if it happens it will be welcome news for a devoted section of the audience. I count myself as one among them.

Updated Date: May 30, 2017 17:24 PM