Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, is a happy man. And why not? It’s been less than three months since we rang in the new year and his company has already delivered not one but four successful films including one in the South. Here’s the ecstatic CEO in conversation with Vajir Singh
Four successful movies (Vettai in Tamil, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu(EMAET), Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya (TNLHG) and Paan Singh Tomar(PST) in 2012 already. How does it feel?
It feels very good. As you know, this is a very volatile and unpredictable industry and with four movies back to back working at the box office, I feel this is quite an achievement. It started with Vettai, which was our Pongal release and a huge hit in the South, which we are planning to remake in Hindi as well. From now on, we will be looking at more films in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam also in the range of six to eight movies a year, across all three languages. With Ek Main Aur Ekk Tuand Paan Singh Tomar as well as Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, all our films have performed very well and we are very excited with the first quarter of the year.
Reliance Entertainment adopted a similar strategy when they first made Singham in the South and then remade it in Hindi. UTV did the same with Vettai. Will this be a new trend?
The reason we are looking at the South as an area for growth is that filmmakers there are writing very original stories. The scripts are original and to be able to get that to translate into Hindi is really high. As a blanket rule, every South film is not transferable to the Hindi space. If we do that blindly, we would be setting ourselves up for failure. But if we pick the right subject, one which has the sensibility to translate into Hindi with only a few structural changes, then we will definitely look into it in the future. TNLHG and PST grew due to word of mouth.
Does a good film always work well at the box office?
This may sound like a cliché but it’s true. It has happened with us many times in the past with films like A Wednesday, Dev D, Khosla Ka Ghosla and Welcome To Sajjanpur. These were films that grew with word of mouth and that’s the way to grow these movies. Take PST, for example. Regardless of what you do, a film like that will not get a massive opening on Friday. We have seen that happening with big-ticket films over the last few weeks. A movie, which is not led by very big stars and great music is unlikely to take a big opening on Friday. So we have to build a movie and have a distribution plan.You limit the availability of a film so that it keeps building. That’s what we did with PST. We reached out to 80 centres in the first week and restricted the number of screens to 300. We kept occupancy really high as a packed auditorium works very well for word-of-mouth.
This could be a new trend: If you have a solid product, save money on marketing and promotion and wait for word of mouth to kick in.
Since Khosla Ka Ghosla, you know the number of small films we have made. We feel this is the perfect strategy to release a film. You do a primarily digital release if you can help it to save on costs. You ensure that the film is widely watched and you also curb piracy because with physical prints, the chance of piracy increases and with digital prints, it’s less. Second, you deploy your marketing post-release. If you’re sitting on a good film, the likelihood of releasing it and then spreading word-of-mouth is much higher post-release than pre-release. So the profitability of the film will definitely increase. Then you can increase the breadth of your distribution from the second week onwards, which is what we have done. We went to 20 more centres in the second week for PST. We have broadened the film’s release. That has helped the film to grow.
The success of PST is greater than that of EMAET and TNLHG. While the first film was produced solely by UTV, the latter two were co-productions.
How can you ask us which film is better? They are all our films. But I have to say that the success of PST is very gratifying because we believe it is a film that no other studio would have made in the first place. We were able to give it the right scale and the right design of release for it to shine through.
Khosla Ka Ghosla was kept on the backburner for a long time and that happened with A Wednesday, Chillar Party and PST too. Was this deliberate?
You should not release a film till you get it just right and are creatively satisfied with it. That’s why these films worked.
What is more satisfying? Making a small-budget film on a small scale or making a big film?
Both have their thrills and kicks. I think the success of Raajneeti is something we would revel in because of its scale. It means our creative instincts were proved correct that film worked purely on the strength of its creative. Both are kicks in their own ways.
With Walt Disney coming in, will we see any changes in UTV’s approach?
We will be following the same process we have used so far. The association with Disney took place to be able to leverage the skills we have in our country, to continue to make the sort of films we have been making. But we will be making more Disney-branded films as well. So on a slate of 12 films that we make a year, we will try and make three Disney films and put the Disney brand on these movies. This means they will be family entertainers. Our other films will have the UTV Motion Pictures or UTV Spotboy brand.
By Disney-kind of movies, do you mean movies aimed at children?
No, they will be family entertainers. That’s why I am specifically using this term. We would like the Disney brand in India to be associated with family entertainers, which the family brand in India can enjoy. Going forward, two to three films will have the Disney brand.
The first three months of 2012 have been very fruitful for UTV. How do you view the remaining nine months?
It’s really exciting. Starting with Rowdy Rathore to Barfi!, Heroine, Race 2, Luv Shuv Te Chicken Khurana, the dance film with Remo ABCD – Anybody Can Dance and we already have our slate lined up for next year including Ghanchakkar, Ahmdavad and several other projects.