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‘We Fundamentally Believe In The Co-Production Model…’

Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox Star Studios, gives us an insight into his company’s dazzling line-up for the year

What are Fox Star Studios’ plans for 2012?

We have a very exciting line-up. We are starting the year with AR Rahman’s musical Ekk Deewana Tha (EDT) directed by Gautam Menon. EDT is a remake of Gautam’s Vinaai Thaandi Varuvaaya, which he directed in Tamil and subsequently in Telegu. It’s a musical love story.

In March, we release an exciting genre-defining romantic comedy, London, Paris, New York, which is targeted at the youth, starring Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao. The theatrical trailer has already generated a lot of interest and the music has been composed by Ali Zafar.

We are proud to be associated with two very exciting films with Vishesh Films – both are sequels and hugely anticipated, Jannat 2 and Raaz 3. Vikram Bhatt understands the 3D format the best in India, and our Hollywood colleagues are working closely with him to enhance the 3D experience.

We are also working with the very talented Vishalji (Vishal Bhardwaj) on his next film, which will be announced shortly. Also under production is a social comedy called Jolly LLB, written and directed by Subhash Kapoor. It has a powerful script and stars Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani.

Our biggest project of the year is Bol Bachchan, directed by the very successful Rohit Shetty starring superstar Ajay Devgan. It’s a mass-appeal film with a pan-India appeal as also internationally across the diaspora. The combination of Ajay and Rohit is hugely anticipated and it’s a really funny action film. It opens on July 6.

Finally, we are currently shooting our second Tamil film, which has been creatively produced by AR Murugadoss. As you may know, we released our first Tamil film Engaeyum Eppothum in September 2011, which has gone on to become the biggest non-star driven Tamil film of all-time.

To add to this, we also have a robust Hollywood pipeline of 14 films that we will distribute and market in India including James Cameron’s Titanic in 3D, Ridley Scott sci-fi thriller Prometheus, ice Age 4 in 3D and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi in 3D starring Irfan Khan, Suraj Sharma and Tabu.

After My Name Is Khan (MNIK) there have been no big releases from your production house. Why is that?

Our strategy from Day 1 was to release five to six films locally every year, and to adopt a portfolio approach. So a mix of big, medium and small films. Over the last two years, we started with MNIK, and then released two mid-level films (Dum Maaro Dum (DMD) and Force) and two smaller films (Stanley Ka Dabba (SKD)and Khichdi). We are very happy that DMD and Force are amongst Abhishek and John’s bigger solo hits respectively. And SKD made it to all the major Top 10 Film Lists of 2011.

We fundamentally believe in the co-production model, where we work with our co-producers as genuine partners – with both parties working in a transparent manner and contributing to the production and marketing process. With My Name Is Khan, we were able to demonstrate our leverage both in India through the Star Network as also internationally using the Fox distribution muscle.

Also, the business model of Bollywood over the last two years has seen some changes. We didn’t want to be doing deals where the risk-reward ratio does not make sense. We would rather walk away from a project than do a bad deal. Finally, it’s all about doing commercially creative projects which make financial sense.

At a time when other corporate production houses are making films with big stars, why is your company working with newcomers and new directors?

Our line-up suggests that we are working with some of the biggest talents in the business. We also believe that as a studio, we need to expand the market by fostering new and emerging talent.

What is the criterion that Fox Star follows for taking on a project?

It’s got to be creatively exciting and financially sensible… and structured so that all stakeholders participate in the upside.

What is the best way for a company to sustain itself – being a part of a project from the initial stages, or acquiring a project when it’s almost done?

As I said earlier, we fundamentally believe in the co-production process where both parties work in the true spirit of partnership with complete transparency. It is only when all parties’ interests are aligned that you can hope to have a sustaining relationship.

Having said that, we will be looking to selectively acquire Category A projects – but the criteria of creativity and commerce must be in harmony.

What about Hollywood’s film business in India?

Hollywood has been growing very well over the last 12-18 months. Every successive blockbuster, just as in Bollywood, is clocking bigger box-office numbers. The audience are seeking content, especially action, sci-fi, fantasy genres in English and regional languages, and with the growth in multiplex screens and an increase in dubbing, we are able to provide entertainment to the audience in languages they understand. 3D is also a game-changer and it is key that multiplexes continue to expand along with 3D screens.

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