BK: Yes, we have plans for that too. We are making a web series. We are getting into Marathi films, Tamil films, Telugu films and Punjabi films. We have 11 Hindi releases this year, all of them content-driven films. We have locked 12 films with big stars like Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, for which shooting will begin in a few months.
VB: I don’t think any studio has done this much in the last two decades.
BK: When we say ‘locked’, we mean we have locked the release dates and 50 per cent of the movies are complete. Some songs are left or mixing is left and work is ongoing.
BOI: How do the two businesses complement each other, music and film production?
BK: Very well, actually. Today, I am not dependent on outside film productions when creating music. Of course, we have our fixed banner-production collaborators, like Sajid Nadiadwala and Rakeshji’s (Rakesh Roshan) movies. Now, Viacom and Fox Star Studios are also doing films with us. That helps. Our music company is our first love, so most of our films are big on music. Look at the teaser for Raabta, it is a music-driven film, with seven or eight songs, and it will have a very strong album. Dinesh Vijan too has a good sense of music, so it’s a lethal combination of music and film.
Obviously, when you are making movies, you are able to serve your music label also by giving them great music, and when we are producing music we are making songs for that film, so we get a little leverage in terms of deciding what kinds of songs we’d like to include. When it’s not your film, there are many challenges because you are not creating the context, and others may not compromise even a little.
VB: Well, producers also know now that their content needs to be available on all platforms and all mediums, so they can’t be aloof. On song-streaming sites like Saavn and Gaana.com, they know their songs and dialogue promos will be promoted well. It’s almost like a distribution network. The reach has to be there. If it’s not available, it’s of no use.
BOI: Was business better before, with CDs and audio cassettes? Or is it better now?
BK: It is much, much better now.
VB: It’s convenient, actually.
BK: Earlier, you were physically selling something, today, it’s all paper deals. If I have to hand over some data, I simply put it on a pen drive or a hard drive, sign the papers, take the money and that’s it. The deal is done.
BOI: Now you have more time to produce films.
BK: Yes, but making music is also a very big challenge.
VB: Earlier, even transporting cassettes and CDs was a nightmare. Right from excise, everything was a challenge.
BOI: T-Series is known for its aggressive marketing and promotions. How does YouTube help you?
VB: Simple… with YouTube, we can reach 50 million subscribers instantly, at no cost. For instance, whenever we decide to make Aashiqui 3, we can generate interest based on Aashiqui and Aashiqui 2. On a television channel, it is a linear broadcast. Here, people can watch it whenever they please. It also helps us revive our catalogue.
And it’s not just YouTube. There are other digital platforms that are equally big and they also help engagement, which is not possible on YouTube. On platforms like Facebook and Saavn, we know how many people are listening. Earlier, we had to call our dealer and ask which cassettes were sold and we had to call 20 different places and ask which song people preferred. Now, all the numbers are visible. We can tell the age group, the target audience etc. If a song is not working, we can do something else.
BK: Today, the entire structure of business has changed. You can’t compare earlier times with these. I used to calculate how many cassettes we had sold and then only okay the weekly budget for promotions. Today, all the music you have goes out; all you have to do is upload it on the website. It’s so much easier to calculate returns too. Today, one can sell average songs on television channels etc, but quality music has long-term returns.
VB: Through the years, basically.