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Baby Steps

The corporate studio is where its all happening

Once upon  a time, in the beachy town of Penang in Malaysia, a five-year-old boy used to gorge on Hindi movies shown at the local club. This was no Cinema Paradiso, but it still was a heady start.

I took my first metaphorical steps in the field of advertising. After 14 years of directing commercials, along with TV content creation and broadcasting, the calling was far too intense to ignore. The professional seeds were sown as early as 1989. I was a management trainee in the very popular magazine Stardust and I was exposed to some of the workings of the Hindi film industry. The calling intensified.

In early 2003, I forayed into the corporate studio system, with UTV. With the advantages of structured systems and processes, along with a hugely motivating leader like Ronnie (Screwvala), it was a great start to a reasonably smooth ride, given the mentoring and hand-holding that only a robust organisation can provide.

It was truly gratifying to be part of creative gems like The Blue Umbrella by Vishal Bhardwaj, D by Ram Gopal Varma, and Main Meri Patni Aur Woh by Chandan Arora. Going forward, it was overwhelming to have been part of institutions like Rang De Basanti, Life In A... Metro and Fashion.

I was also fortunate enough to have experienced the buzz and ‘deal-making’ environment of international markets, along with a short stint in Hollywood that broadened my horizons.

Indeed, UTV was my IIM and in the seven years that I spent there, I gained a well-rounded, 360-degree understanding of the creative and business aspects
of films.

Eros International is a rock-solid player in the business of movies. I was very fortunate to be part of the company for a good two years. Led by spirited visionaries like Kishore Lulla and Sunil Lulla, the organisation has an inherent sense of dynamism and it is here that I learnt to be two steps ahead of the competition. At Eros, I got the opportunity to be part of amazing movies like Desi Boyz, Chalo Dilli and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, among others. There, I was able to add to and enhance my skill set.

One of the biggest assets in both these corporate movie studios is the people who work there. Unlike in the IT sector, where the technology dominates, or in a manufacturing organisation, where the raw materials hold importance, in a creativity-driven field like filmmaking, it is the people who are the soul of the process. Efficient and driven colleagues add value and further accentuate a well-oiled machinery.

My co-workers at both studios were exemplary and passion-driven. It is the heart and soul that these human resources put into the creative, production, marketing, operations, distribution, syndication, finance, legal, digital and international sales divisions that are the very DNA of any motion pictures studio.

Working with a big movie studio or a ‘corporate’ (as we call it) in the film industry has numerous advantages. Take talent, for example. Talent, whether actors, actresses, directors or writers, tunes into you better within the framework of a huge and effective infrastructure. And, yes, accessibility to talent is easier, faster and a much smoother within a studio system.

Access to a strong legal, financial, revenue monetisation and marketing verticals makes the process of filmmaking within studios smoother and thus enables multi-tasking. This results in the ability to produce a slate/varied bouquet of
films simultaneously.

I cannot emphasise enough on the importance of an efficient legal department, keeping in mind the newly incorporated copyright laws. After this, a number of legal situations have been arising, given the fine line that divides copying and being inspired by an existing creative, whether it’s a song or a story, a remake or a sequel.

In a studio, one has, let’s say, the standing/respect and financial muscle to sign up an actor/actress or a director for two to three movies. The script is then worked around them, which, in turn, hastens the process of those films being made. Obviously, this is also possible with the ‘big-time’ solo producers, but there are very few of them today.

As part of its up-scaling, it is easy for a studio to add to the slate with regional quality content. It is clear economies of scale as it appropriates the same marketing, revenue monetising and functional teams that handle the ‘Hindi’ slate.

Turning entrepreneur has not been a bed of roses, and Rampage Motion Pictures hasn’t been an easy ride. Clearly, working without a mammoth infrastructure and back office support has its pitfalls. The opportunities one gets in large organisations are enormous and the cushioning of competent co-workers who share the load make it much easier to focus on one’s own strengths.

As a small boutique company, one can’t afford to take those risks and hence the successes may be few and far between. One must be willing to unlearn only to relearn; one must realise that no job is too small to do. These are important points that my stints in both movie studios have taught me.

Yet, on the other hand, there is a sense of ownership and pride, fuelled by the visible potential for growth. After all, Rome was not built in a day…

Rampage was incredibly blessed to have Vicky Donor as its maiden venture and is eternally thankful to Eros. John (Abraham), Shoojit (Sircar), Ronnie (Lahiri), Sheel (Kumar) and Juhi (Chaturvedi). Rampage along with various other partners is also part of the remake of Zanjeer and David. With Shootout At Wadala, I am involved only in an individual capacity.

You need to give miracles a chance… and they do happen.


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