Whether its debut production Rustom or the multiple film deals it has signed, including the much-awaited Toilet Ek Prem Katha, KriArj Entertainment has created quite a stir in the industry in a matter of a year. The production company’s young founder, Prernaa Arora in conversation with Shweta Kulkarni, talks about her journey and determination to make KriArj one of the biggest film production companies in the country
Interestingly, every second film that is announced is a KriArj Entertainment production. In a year’s time, your production house has bloomed, and how! Was it planned that way?
To be honest, it’s a dream which has kind of come true, because we really wanted this from our heart and soul. I always wanted to do this the right way, and we are really fortunate. When we signed up with Rustom, we put in our best, our focus was only Rustom. After Rustom became successful and the country loved and appreciated the film, we were in a better position to choose our next film. Of course, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha was signed with Akshay sir (Kumar) while we were still working on Rustom but all the other films happened to us only later. Things just fell in place the moment Rustom released.
You are relatively new to the business of making films. Apart from first liking the script, how do you determine whether a film is worth collaborating with?
For us, it’s slightly different. For us, first it’s the people we associate with because if you look at the filmmakers and actors we work with, all of them have great pedigree, all of them have quality work behind them. So for us that’s primary – who we work with. That doesn’t mean we will not work with people who are starting out, we too are new. But what matters to us most is the people and their intent, what they intend to do. That is the first criterion.
Then we get into the project and figure out how it’s going to happen, how we can do it, and then, of course, the usual process that everybody follows. But what is critical to us is that we do our job well. During Rustom too, we did what we needed to do best. So whether Akshay Kumar or Neeraj Pandey‘s company or anybody else we are associating with, they should see value in us. Money is not everything; it’s the ethics, the conduct that you have and that’s what matters. We hope we pass that test. Perhaps we have and that’s why Akshay sir, Neeraj sir and we are working together again.
And yes, we believe in people. We believe in Akshay Kumar, we believe in Anushka Sharma, we believe in Vishal Bhardwaj, we believe in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, we believe in Anil Kapoor, we believe in John Abraham because they are all intelligent people who have years of experience and a good body of work. So when we join hands with them, I know they are coming with great experience, more than we have. So we don’t have the right to judge them or ask them questions.
We give them a space because they are our producer-partners also. We have joined hands with John’s company, which makes him our business partner. Anushka and Karnesh (Sharma) are our business partners, so is Akshay sir. So they are the experts, not us. We are trying our best to be the best producers to them.
Did you face any difficulties when you were starting out or was it smooth sailing?
Nothing is easy, some struggles are external and some struggles are internal. But once you are determined and you are very clear about achieving your goal, then things do happen. All you need to do is grasp opportunities that come your way and put in all the hard work. If you do that, then everything falls in place.
You shouldn’t take it easy and be complacent. You should never think that, ‘One film is successful, now we will do our next film after a year. We’ll take a break now and revel in the success of this film.’ No, it’s all about attitude. My business partner Arjun Kapoor says that attitude is important, so we are working harder and harder each day.
It was never easy and the funny thing is, I think the higher you climb, the more difficult it gets. There are several other difficult things that you need to tackle, there are bigger decisions that need to be taken… So it’s never easy. But if you have the right attitude, then destiny and God support you and luck has to support you. The intent has to be correct, the attitude has to be right.
Although it is important to have the right attitude, the film business is quite tricky. There are so many risks involved, especially when you are signing so many projects simultaneously. Does that ever worry you?
Everything is a risk, we walk out of the door and there is risk. You can’t predict anything. The way I see it is that we are extremely fortunate to have what we have in terms of films and the work we have. Maybe it’s more work than we can handle, but we don’t want to stop the natural flow of things.
Our career graph… it is something that is coming our way and it is a good thing. One can’t predict anything, that is the nature of this business, you never know what can happen with a particular film. So, if we believe in a film and in our instincts, we instantly feel that this film has merit, and yeh acchi film hai and if we really want to make it, why not?
We are working with people, in collaboration, with the likes of Neeraj Pandey, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Vishal Bhardwaj, who are known for their execution capabilities. Clearly, at this stage, we won’t have a similar level of execution capabilities, so we are very happy to let that process be led by them. We are looking forward to doing more and more work with people like them.
To what extent do you get involved with a project?
Right now, we are observing and learning. Right now, we don’t want to get into that space… there is nothing to ask for because we have complete faith in the people we are working with. We know what they are going to deliver to the audience. So we are enjoying that process right now, we are doing our job on the business of the film, the release of the film, the marketing of the film and putting the film together. We are presenting the film. So Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a presentation of KriArj with Viacom 18. Rustom was our collaboration with Zee Studio to present the film. It’s the same with all the other films too.
What would you say were your learnings in this one year?
We are relatively new to the business, we are learning the ropes. How the business operates and the different aspects to the film business. We have learnt to associate with the right people and then provide them the respect and the position and the love and the space for them to bloom, for us to do well at what we are trying to do. That’s primarily a learning.
Among the many things I have learnt is to not be very generous. Earlier, I used to wonder why people fight over scripts, rights etc., but now I know why. I think I have learnt to be careful and not to be generous. You have to be kind, you have to be compassionate, you have to be sensitive towards people but you also need to use your head. You need to strike a balance between being emotional and being practical. That has been my learning.
Interestingly, when most women would be attracted to the glamour of the film world, you chose to be associated with the business side of it. Why?
I always wanted to be a filmmaker, a producer. I always admired Yash Chopra’s cinema and since I was a kid, I have been surrounded in an aura of mystery with regard to cinema. When I would watch any film as a child… my first film was Anupama… I used to always wonder how this world was created, how does one make a film? I was really young but I was already fascinated by how this world had been created.
My grandfather, my mom’s dad, owned a circus and my mom always told me you need to produce films. She had this dream for me and put this idea in my mind. In fact, she was the one who introduced me to all Bimal Roy’s films and Shakti Samanta’s films. Their films inspired me and I was drawn to doing something with the business of films. There are so many films that have influenced me… Guddi, Mili, Vijeta, Kora Kagaz. Vijay Anand was my favorite director… And I was always, like, how are they doing it? I was always in love with cinema.
Coming back to KriArj Entertainment… it has become very big, very soon. Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
We want to do a lot, we put in a lot of work. Of course, a lot of people put in a lot of work. We have a vision to be doing great work and do it bigger than anyone else. So there is not a single stage or pedestal we can point at and say ki hume wahan pohachna hai. The fact is we want to reach the top.
We want to take KriArj to the top, for sure. It has to be one of the biggest production houses and it should be recognised for intelligent cinema, great cinema and for good people. I want people to know us as good producers. That apart, we also want to reach out to a lot of people, people who are genuinely talented but don’t know where to go.
There is so much talent outside and we hope we can some day be instrumental in bringing their talent to the fore. In the next few years, I will be in a position where we can reach out and help as many people as we can. We want to be very kind to anyone who approaches us and help them.
Will KriArj also venture into the regional space?
Right now, no. We are new, so for three to four years, we want to focus on Hindi films as I am really passionate about that. Having said that, once we are in the position to understand more, then we will get into something we can explore.
As mentioned earlier, KriArj has already collaborated on several projects. What is the slate looking like at the moment?
Right now, we have Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which is releasing very soon. Then we are shooting for Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, which is releasing on the 8th of December. We have started shooting for Anushka Sharma’s Pari, which will release early next year. Then we move into shooting Fanney Khan with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Then we enter a film with Junglee Films, it’s a biopic on Abhinav Bindra. We are still discussing a few details. After that, there’s Vishal Bhardwaj’s film. Then we have more films with John, more films with Anushka and, hopefully, we’ll have a few more.