Why has Endemol decided to enter the film production area
Films is a logical extension of our television business. Endemol has been evaluating this space for a long time but we wanted to tee off with the right projects. My experience at Viacom really shows that the right projects can do wonders for this business. Kahaani is a fitting example. Viacom believed in the project and the rest, the audience delivered. So that was one of the first rights Endemol acquired. And we are now producing it in Tamil and Telegu. We are doing another project called Revolver Rani, which has actress Kangana and actor Veerdas in it. At any given point, we have at least 4-5 projects every year. We are open to taking gambles, but these will be calculated risks. We will probably do a Marathi or Bengali film next, but that will be a year or two later. Regional cinema today accounts for nearly 30% of the $2 billion revenue of the Indian film industry while 60% comes from Bollywood.
How is the Endemol role different from your previous gig
It is much the same. I was with Viacom Motion Pictures earlier. If you look at all our movies, movies from Tanu weds Manu to Kahaani, weve had a great many successes. Viacom was not averse to backing a lot of smaller projects Pyar Ka Punchnama, Shaitaanand there were a lot of learnings that I got from these small films. We had our big films too such as Son of Sardaar (SOS) and Oh My God. This business is all about backing the right projects and getting your costing right.. Here, since I am the producer, I have a lot more responsibilities.
Is this a good phase for Indian cinema
I think that this is a brilliant phase for cinema. Multiplexes are growing. A lot of concept films are doing well. With digitisation, you have more revenues in the hands of the broadcasters. You may find some of these broadcasters turning into producers themselves. For instance, Star network has just inked a deal with Salman Khan for the satellite rights of his films for the next five years. The Salman Khan deal speaks volumes about the direction in which the industry is headed. It is really a game changer and benefits all parties. If the multiplex growth continues, producers will make more money than they do.
According to you, have bubble gum romances outlived their popularity
We have such a diverse audience that its all right to have something for everyone. While the bigger celebrity films work for the masses, we have a Vicky Donor that appeals to multiplex audiences. What we are doing at Endemol, is a mix of everything. If its a comedy for the masses, we know what kind of stars to get in it. And if its a concept film, we know who its targeted at. Our strength is that we get the budgeting right. We are also bullish on certain IP (intellectual property)show formats that Endemol wants to convert into cinema. We are in the midst of a Bigg Boss film and are currently scripting it. It is a horror comedythere will be a ghost in the Bigg Boss house. This is a first of its kind and its not been done abroad.
Can a remake be better than the original Are remakes increasingly coming in because theres a dearth of good scripts
To answer your first questionwhy not Look at all the Salman remakes. Theyve all been blockbusters. In any case, a remake must not be compared to an original because there are two separate audiences watching it. If you get the script right, youre halfway home. There is no shortage of scripts, but at times, its easier for an actor to say yes for a remake because he knows that its been commercially successful. There are three more films for Endemol, at pre-production stage. One is a remake, and the rest are originals. So its not that we are depending on remakes or Endemol IPs. We are adding and developing our own stuff.
What are the big challenges before the cinema industry
Apart from taxation, one cause for worry is our over-dependence on celebrities. It restricts you if only celebrity films work. But in the last two years, theres been a change. A lot of smaller films have also done well, who have relatively smaller stars. The cost factor is also a cause for concern. Even if its a small film, the cost to bring out the film is still the same. If theatres could look at differential (variable) cost structure for small films, that would make life so much easier.
With early premieres on television, what happens to the home video segment
Yes, the home video companies are languishing. Perhaps, the YouTubes of the world will help take over the home video segment of viewing. Digital consumption of films is on the rise. With more satellite channels getting more money because of digitisation, their appetite to buy content is increasing. So we can expect a lot more films to put in an early appearance on television.
What is your competition
Studios are in a different league. Some of them are co-producing, while others are acquiring titles. We are more in the content creation space. Our strength lies in identifying projects - intellectual property and creating them. We are not in the last leg of the value chain at all, which is marketing and distribution. But I would say that we are a more professional set-up than many of the existing set-ups.
Is it difficult for a film to flop today considering the number of revenue streams
A film is a hit or a flop if it works in theatres. If the audience doesnt like it, thats where the buck stops. Because theatre is still 60% of the total revenues. The rest of it is decimal, in the larger scheme of things. Around 30-40% may come from satellite rights, 10% comes from digital, home video, etc.