Reliance Entertainment productions include Singham, Bodyguard and Don 2. It doesn’t stop at Bollywood! Reliance Entertainment includes Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali Cinema as well as Hollywood- Scream 4 (co-production with Dimension Films) and Lincoln (co-production with DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century Fox) are just some examples.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Reliance Entertainment CEO Sanjeev Lamba and COO Mahesh Ramanathan to find out more on what goes into the key ingredients of a successful film, the making of a star, Hollywood, Bollywood , their dream film and of course…Besharam!
What would you say are the key ingredients to making a film successful?
Sanjeev: It depends on the film. I think it all begins with a story. And every story has got a scope. Some stories are large. Some stories are small. When some stories are small, the casting is appropriately small. I don’t mean small in terms of stature- newer people, younger people who haven’t been in the industry for a long time. Some stories need lots of money. Some stories need small amounts of money. So I would say horses for courses- you know. In many ways films are- you look at the story, you look at what segment of the audience or what size of the audience could this story appeal to. And how would you take it to the audience. If you’re comfortable with that idea then it’s an extraordinarily collaborative process.
There are hundreds of people who work on a film. But primarily, it’s a director’s medium. The underlying story is important. It’s important that the production goes well. It’s important that the stars feel really comfortable in terms of being able to deliver great performances. And after the film is done, it’s important that the distribution teams, the marketing teams and the sales teams have the same enthusiasm for the film as the production team did in order to take it widely out to audiences as much as possible. There are many moving parts to a film. And that’s what makes it an extraordinarily risky business.
Mahesh: If I may add to what Sanjeev has just said- we believe that if content is king, then distribution is God. In today’s business, the movie business, it’s very important to ensure for a studio like Reliance that stories travel. And stories travel as wide as possible. So you would also be getting information on releases going wider and wider, getting into many other countries than what normally Bollywood films do. So, we want to be on the forefront of it. We want to expand the geography for Bollywood films and take it to new territories. So the role of the studio, like Reliance is very, very important in the overall commercial success of a film.
What do you feel makes a person a star? What do you feel it takes?
Sanjeev: We are a very complicated country. We speak many different languages. We have many different cultures. We have many different habits. We have many different political beliefs. We are not really a country- that’s why people call it a subcontinent. I think you know, stars are extraordinary creatures. It takes a long time to mint a star. You know in India it can take anything between 5-10 years for somebody to actually become known in every nook or cranny of the Indian audience. But once they become stars you know it’s a risky business- some fade or some are gone for extraordinarily lengths of time- 30 years, 40 years. We have seen that happen too.
First and foremost I think it takes talent- there is no question about it. I don’t mean talent just in terms of an acting talent but an ability to keep a cool head in the face of all that fame. And to continue to make good choices and not get swayed by other people’s opinions and so on and so forth. Secondly- an ability to connect to a large amount of people. To be sensitive. Today’s stars don’t necessarily just stay on the screen, they come out and attend press conferences. They also talk to the media. They also go to malls. They promote the film quite relentlessly. And how people feel when they touch and see them is very, very important to do the merger of that star.
If you love somebody on the screen and you meet them in person to find them arrogant and offensive then it will affect your opinion of them on the screen. But if you love somebody on the screen and you meet them in person and say ‘what a wonderful person!’ – that only expands that person’s stardom. So many, many things come in. It takes a lot of effort on behalf of a big support team to make a star. You need great directors. You need great writers. You need great producers. You need great song writers- who all help the idea of the star to take place. So at any given point in time, there are no more than 10 stars you know, 10 big stars in the industry in a country of 1.2 billion people. 10 people- that’s a very, very small number.
Reliance distributes and produces in both Hollywood and Bollywood. What’s the difference between Hollywood production and Bollywood production?
Sanjeev: Hollywood is a very different industry- it’s much more mature and has a bigger global reach because of language. English goes to every nook and cranny, Hindi doesn’t. It’s a bigger global reach. The studio structure has been established there 70, 80 years ago. In India it’s only 5 or 6 years- in this particular form.… I think the comparison is unfair in many ways. If you produce in English, then you can take actors from India, England, Pakistan, Australia- because they all can speak English. If you’re making a film in Hindi then you can only take those who speak Hindi. It’s an issue of limitation. So there are some natural limitations but our stories are also very different.
Our stories are social, family, relationships, drama. We aren’t so interested in sci-fi for instance… We also have social restrictions such as in terms of sexuality, violence. So if you compare films from Bollywood and Hollywood, they are pretty different. Both are successful in their own respect. I don’t think they should be compared. Hollywood obviously, is all over the world. But India has many opportunities. Just 5 or 6 years ago, our films were going to around 30 or 35 countries- and only where there was a South Asian population. Pakistan also watches our films as does Bangladesh- I am saying South Asia, not India. Mahesh’s team who takes care of our international distribution and sales, our films are now going to 65, 70 countries. A day will come when our films go to 100 countries…
What would be your dream film to produce? – It could be set in any time period, with any star cast, within any genre…
Sanjeev: No such thing exists. You know- we do about 12 films a year and everyone is a dream film. Because every film has got different dreams attached to it. You can’t really say it’s got to be small or large. You can’t really say this actor or that actor- it’s a wonderful world out there. There are so many talented actors. There are so many talented writers, musicians and directors. I think the beautiful part is to be in a position to be able to help others dreams come true. And as many dreams as possible is great. Our dreams are just to see good, creative, well told stories and films succeed and as many of them as possible.
What are your expectations from Besharam? Dabanng for example did really well and broke records becoming one of the highest opening week grossing films of Bollywood. Have you set a financial goal for Besharam?
Sanjeev: We just want the film to be liked. We want Ranbir’s performance to be liked. We want Anurag’s hard work to be liked. If all that happens, then the money will take care of itself.
‘The Reliance Group (www.relianceadagroup.com) is amongst India’s top 3 business houses and has interests in telecommunications, energy, financial services, infrastructure and media and entertainment .’