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Triple Treat

 

How T-Series pulled off a ‘hat trick’ and hit the bull’s eye every single time in the span of a month!

 T-Series has done the unthinkable – and we mean that in a good way. Film producers and studios usually take a break between their films simply because there is so much at stake with each venture. There’s money at risk, reputations in the balance, and the entire gamut of marketing activities to juggle. It is no wonder most producers look forward to some R&R after they release a film.

Not T-Series. The production house is headed by the indefatigable Bhushan Kumar, whose passion for making films eclipses all logic. The film studio has released three films on almost consecutive Fridays: Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (February 23), Hate Story IV (March 9) and Raid (March 16). What’s more… each of these films has been successful at the box office, so much so that they are currently running simultaneously in cinemas!

What is even more interesting is that the production house has managed to grab the attention of different sections of the audience with the diverse content of these three films. While SKTKS is a superhit, youth-centric film, Hate Story IV is doing well with the masses; and Raid has gone from being a niche subject to a universal subject, considering its performance in cinemas and the feedback it is receiving.

In the last few decades, no other production house has achieved this feat, with such a positive response. We spoke to exhibitors and distributors across the country, along with the head honcho of T-Series, Bhushan Kumar, to get their take on this record-breaking accomplishment.

BHUSHAN KUMAR, PRODUCER

There are a lot of people who helped and supported us in achieving what we did with these three films in such a short span of time. I am grateful to everyone who has worked on these films, giving it their all. There was a certain method we followed because we wanted these three films to release in a particular time span and in a particular order. 

For Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, we targeted college kids and the youth. After watching the film, we were confident about this decision despite its release date changing. We were very sure that the film had to release in February, post-Valentine’s Day, and we stood by our release date. The theme of the film was a novel one: bromance vs romance, set in a Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! like family in 2018. These were the film’s two major draws.

We are aware of how good music can become a very organic marketing tool for a film, so we ensured the film had chartbuster music. You have to give credit to the way director Luv Ranjan conceived and wrote the characters, who were contemporary but imbued with a sense of tradition inherent in most Indian families. Today’s youth were able to identify with that aspect easily. In modern India, the youth values their friendships over romantic relationships and that touched a chord across all age groups eventually.

We wanted to release Raid in the month that marks the end of the financial year, when all of us as individuals and firms are trying to get our financial compliances in order. This real, parallel activity involving money, we feel, helped the film. So, this was an apt time to release the film. With regard to strategising for Raid, the title itself is self-explanatory. And, of course, Ajay (Devgn) did a fantastic job along with Saurabh Shukla and Raj Kumar Gupta.

The story, treatment, setting and characterisation were all so real. Sticking to the theme helped us portray the story in the best possible way. Ajay essayed a character who is fearless, committed and patriotic in a very credible way.  As part of the promotions also, we repeatedly emphasised Ajay’s character’s qualities.

Releasing three films back-to-back requires you to have your teams in place. Every single soul in our team worked day and night. We made sure that we facilitated a good release for all three films and that they were all different from each other in terms of the subject and its cinematic grammar.

When you have everything in place, even the exhibitors are very supportive. We received feedback that they were happy T-Series was releasing these three big films in the first quarter of 2018. Normally, only a few films work during this quarter because it is exam time. But our first film, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, worked in a big way. It surpassed everybody’s expectations.

That helped us gain the confidence and trust of the exhibitors. They felt reassured that the content that was coming out of T-Series had been vetted by the experts and promoted sufficiently to reach the target audience. They felt that our subsequent campaigns would be effective enough to draw the audience into theatres.

Filmmaking has always been a collaborative process. The combined confidence of the directors, the actors and teams helming these projects and our various partners made us feel that we would be able to pull off the release of all three films. We went in for nothing but the best media planning because of the strong conviction and confidence in our content, the directors and the actors and a very committed and hands-on team that rallied behind all three films. We are thrilled that the campaigns and strategies worked. The box office numbers speak for themselves. 

We are grateful to everyone who supported us and thank everyone, including the media at large, for being by our side. A special thank you to all our exhibitors, who helped give all our films a good release.

RAJESH THADANI, DISTRIBUTOR

It is usually very rare for a single production house to achieve something like this and I give full credit to T-Series for delivering back-to-back hits. In the past, Yash Raj Films may have had pulled off something like this but it is a rare feat to have successful films in quick succession.

It shows that the production house has been concentrating on scripts, the set-up and what works with the audience. They have been diversifying with genres, rather than concentrating on one particular genre. It is a good mix-and-match strategy and it is working for them.

JASPAL DHINGRA, DISTRIBUTOR

In the past, Karan Johar has delivered consecutive movies and back-to-back hits. Now, the corporate culture does not allow them to release films back-to-back. Similarly, Akshay Kumar has also delivered back-to-back successes like Pad Man and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. These movies are content-based. With regard to T-Series, this production house is financially very strong, and having ample funds opens the door to opportunities. Moreover, when you have

the capability, you are able to explore those opportunities. This happened in the 80s, with music houses like Tips and Venus. The reason is the same. Whenever there is no problem with funding and you are familiar with the film industry, you get opportunities and you cash in on them. It happened with Gulshanji (Kumar) and now with his son Bhushan (Kumar). They are a big production house and they have a very good ear for music. Over time, they have developed the ability to identify good scripts as well and they have some really good people on their team. That’s how they are able to pull off back-to-back movies which are successful. Under these circumstances, it is critical to have an excellent team that can oversee everything and do all the spade work like whom to collaborate with, which producers to work with, etc. They also have a great music bank. When you have ample funds, you can make all your directors’ wishes come true. You can tell that a lot of time has been spent on these movies. With Raid, they were able to make the movie in one go. The thing with T-Series is that they have the capacity to produce even ten films simultaneously. This is not the case with everyone.

In the corporate world, clearing a project is a complex process, whereas at T-Series, once Bhushanji likes the subject and gives it the go-ahead, it’s all systems go. I have worked in this industry for a long time and I know of producers who are approached for six projects but can only take up maybe two at a time, whereas T-Series can go ahead with six. They have no issues with all-India releases either. For Hindi Medium, they associated with A A Films and this association worked in their favour.

BHUMIKA TIWARI, DISTRIBUTOR

Production houses today really know their audience. An excellent example of this is SKTKS, which catered to millennials and youngsters. They are categorising their film slates accordingly. They are giving newcomers a chance and bringing in new directors. They are widening the talent pool and it’s working. So, for example, at Zee, we have Manikarnika – Queen Of Jhansi, which is universal in nature. It will reach out to people of all age groups as it is historical in nature. Similarly, we have Dhadak.

So, every production house is lining up its projects based on where it wants to be and how it wants to be positioned. T-Series has been lucky to have these back-to-back releases. The same goes for Viacom and Yash Raj Films last year, with Ek Tha Tiger. The key is to know your audience and play your cards right.

You need the right line-up, you need to get the math right with your budgets. You don’t need to go overboard. If math and creativity are married, you get success at the box office. That’s how all production houses can stay in the business and the percentage of successful films will go up. Audience tastes are always changing but content will always be the driving force. Anything crappy will not work.

SANJAY GHAI, DISTRIBUTOR

What option do people have other than Bhushan Kumar? There are other production houses in the business but most of them are in the corporate sector and their working style is very different. And, yes, consecutive successes like these may have happened in the past. Yash Raj Films used to have two to three big releases in quick succession. Also, funding plays an important role. Hate Story IV has done not badly. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Raid are both winners, with the latter collecting over Rs 40 crore in its release weekend. And it would seem like producers and actors are happy with the terms and conditions of Bhushan Kumar. He is the one who calls the shots unlike corporate studios, where there are several layers and levels.

This industry belongs to certain individuals and it will continue to. Corporates are okay to a certain extent. At least, there are individuals who are holding the industry together. Who would have thought Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety would make Rs 100 crore at the box office? They are doing a good job.

BHUVANESH MENDIRATTA, AVP OPERATIONS, MIRAJ CINEMAS

All the three movies belong to different genres. Their target audiences are different. Bhushanji’s ability to partner with the right production houses and directors is phenomenal. He really gets into the details and promotes the movies and content extensively. He uses various media platforms to generate publicity for his movies. And he invests his efforts and money into the right content. Raid was a phenomenal film, so was Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety.

It is a huge feat for one person to release three different movies almost simultaneously. The audience appreciates multiple genres. They need a different kind of movie every week. They need multiple choices. T-Series is doing the right thing by offering such a variety of films to choose from.

BRIJESH TANDON, DISTRIBUTOR

It is good that a production house has been able to experience success like this. Two of the three movies are box office hits. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety is a huge hit and Raid is also doing well. Hate Story IV has had an average performance. All three movies are of different genres and cater to different tastes. T-Series has managed to understand and strategise accordingly. They have ample funds and are giving the audience the right kind of content.

ARUN MEHRA, DISTRIBUTOR

Good content of any kind will work. And when you are working on multiple projects, you have to keep switching genres so that one doesn’t clash with the other. That way, the public is also offered greater variety. I think it is a good strategy by T-Series. It is very rare for a single production house to have more than one movie running in cinemas simultaneously. Perhaps, it used to happen in earlier times. Studios may have had multiple releases, but maybe one in English and one in Hindi. To have three Hindi movies running at the same time is very rare. Today, not many movies have the legs to stay in cinemas until the next release. Managing the costs is also important and T-Series is very good at that.

TARUN TANDON, DISTRIBUTOR

Kudos to T-Series for this achievement but this is not the first time they’ve done it. For a while now, they have been making films on small budgets. There was Hindi Medium, Tumhari Sulu and Aashiqui 2 earlier. They are able to work on small-budget movies and turn them into money-spinners. A lot of big production houses have not been able to do that. T-Series also has an amazing creative team focused on content rather than on the star power of actors or directors. With additional backing in music, they are leaders, and they promote their movies so well, that it helps the commercial side too. I am sure many production houses have the funding capacity that T-Series has. Many of them make Rs 100 core and Rs 150 crore movies, big-budget as well as small-budget movies. But the consistency of T-Series in delivering small films that are big hits is just great.

They know their audience; they make and promote their films to their target audience. Their content is strong and when they deal with commercials, whether satellite rights or digital players, they have everything in place. The songs of every film they do top the charts, whether Tumhari Sulu or Roy, though, the latter wasn’t a commercial success, the music was. So, it is a combination of content, music and promotion that is enabling T-Series to deliver such hits.

SANJAY MARUDHAR, DISTRIBUTOR

There have been certain studios like Eros that have had back-to-back releases. T-Series is a big studio and they can afford to do back-to-back films. It is coincidental that the release dates ended up so close to each other. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, for example, had been scheduled for release much earlier.

RAKESH SINGH, MAA SONA FILMS, BIHAR

Yes, T-Series has as many as three films running in theatres and each one is of a different genre. They are totally looking out for different content and that’s why they have achieved this milestone. Hate Story IV definitely has its audience and that’s why the fourth instalment released. Raid, very smartly, is being promoted by word-of-mouth, which is growing. SKTKS was loved by youngsters and everyone else too. The trailer of Blackmail looks very promising. This is commendable especially since corporate houses are reluctant to release even an English film and a Hindi film together.

DEBASHISH DEY, AUM MOVIEZ, DISTRIBUTOR

Hate Story IV has done good business in single-screen cinemas and is still running. The Kartik Aaryan-starrer Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety is all the rage just like Pyaar Ka Punchnama was, and youngsters love it. Last week, Raid took a slow start but with word-of-mouth publicity, the film will sustain in cinemas for a while. And the Irrfan-starrer Blackmail looks very interesting as it is in a space we haven’t seen before. It is indeed amazing to see a production house making films with such varied content, and every one of them working! Like with music, T-Series really knows what their audience wants and they focus on delivering good content.

JEETU KHANDELWAL, PIONEER FILMS, DISTRIBUTOR

I don’t know if it’s also just great timing but, sure, T-Series will hit the jackpot with Blackmail releasing next month. It will be their third film in a row. T-Series was earlier known for their music but now, it seems, they will dominate the content industry too. They know what works and where and they have a very strong research team. As a result, the studio is making various kinds of cinema. Many big production houses have been typecast but not Bhushan Kumar, who is not afraid of experimenting and is always on the lookout for good content. That accounts for their back-to-back releases.

BH BASHA, BAHAR ENTERPRISES, DISTRIBUTOR

Not every Hindi film works in the South circuit. But SKTKS has been doing very good business. Raid has started picking up and Ajay Devgn has his fans who love watching him in intriguing roles. And Blackmail is also tracking well. Bhushan Kumar has always created good music and now it seems he is also ruling the box office with films in a variety of genres. He also knows how to market a film, and all his films take good openings because of the music, which plays a very important role in the promotions.

GAURAV RUPAREL, SURAJ CINEMAS, EXHIBITOR

This year has taken a very slow start and last year didn’t have many successes. It was Hindi Medium and Tumhari Sulu that fared well thanks to word-of-mouth publicity. We all know that good content works at the box office, good content that entertains the audience, and that’s what T-Series is cashing in on. Over the years, they have had some really good scripts and have kept working on this principle. Now that’s paying off.

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety is a young film while Raid is an intense, socio-economic drama and Blackmail is a dark comedy. Earlier this year, they released the fourth instalment of Hate Story, whose investment they were able to recover. Never before has a production house had so many back-to-back releases and so many films running together in theatres. Even larger corporate studios plan their releases at least three months apart but Bhushan Kumar and his team have changed the rules with so many back-to-back successes.

DEVANG SAMPAT, DIRECTOR, CINEPOLIS

I believe it is great time for the Industry. One needs to be observing what customer want , make right budget for revenue with the given script and spend on production and Marketing accordingly.

T series has done brilliant job in positioning their movie and that’s the reason behind their success apart from selection of right subject

Bylines: Soumita Sengupta, Bhakti Mehta, Suranjana Biswas

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