Present in the Indian entertainment scenario for over four decades, Shemaroo Entertainment today has turned to being one of the bigger content production houses.
In a chat with Businessofcinema.com, Shemaroo Entertainment vice president Hiren Gada discusses the growth of the empire and talks about the progress on the various fronts.
The last few months, Shemaroo has woken up to distributing films in a rather major manner.. Comment.
Well, we have been in distribution for many years now; it’s only that we have been distributing on different mediums and formats, such as cable, video and television. The only thing added now is the overseas component, but even there we have been in the business for sometime. It’s just that we have added new films to our portfolio.
Also the way we have been strategizing, is to become an integrated production and distribution house. Along with production we need to have distribution presence, capabilities and strength so it becomes an integrated approach.
If you look at overseas, we started in a phase manner. We started by virtue of our old catalogues and penetrated deeper into the international markets. This gave us an understanding on the Indian Diaspora and the characteristics of various market. Then we expanded into the physical part. Now we know the kind of collections to expect from each area. To be of any significant presence, you need to have a set of activities to be able to sustain. That’s precisely what we have been building.
What are the films Shemaroo will be distributing this year?
So far we have distributed Raqeeb, Anwar, MP3, Nehle Pe Dehla, Apne and Fool N Final. Coming up, we have Dhamaal, Fauj Mein Mauj, Naya Daur (colour), Manorama Six Feet Under, De Taali, Anuranaan, Staying Alive, Jimmy and Ghatothkach. It’s quite a handful and the year is not done yet.
Is the move towards increased distribution of films a conscious effort?
Yes absolutely. We need to have a certain amount of activity and market presence to be taken seriously by distributors, exhibitors and international audiences. More so for us to be able to sustain a certain amount of marketing activities.
What is scenario on international distribution of films?
We basically have a US subsidiary and we have a person in New Jersey. We are in the process of finalizing our office space. Very soon we will have that in place and once that is stabilized, we will look at setting up office in the UK. That is likely to happen towards the end of 2008 or first quarter of 2008.
Can you elaborate on the company’s Rs 1.50 billion (Rs 150 crore) expansion plans?
Essentially the expansion will be in the few growth areas that we have identified. It is more in the acquisition space, which is where the additional investment will happen. Similarly there is production, animation and studios where investment will be made. I can roughly tell you that around Rs 500 – 600 million (Rs 50 – 60 crore) will go into production, Rs 200 – 250 million (Rs 20 – 25 crores) into animation and the rest into distribution.
What is the plan on the production front?
We plan to produce three to five films a year. This year, we have two films, which includes Manorama Six Feet Under. There are other three to four projects at different stages of development. We have a Priyadarshan’s project, for which the casting is going on. The shooting for the same should start by September. The story has been locked on but it’s too early to talk on that.
Like UTV, Shemaroo is looking at a world cinema label in the home video space. Can you throw light on the same?
When we acquired the titles, we were not actually aware about the UTV venture. It is coincidental that we have been working parallel with the UTV-Palador world cinema venture. We have acquired a few of the top filmmaker’s films from various countries.
Currently we have acquired approximately 75-100 titles. We are in the process of forming the overall branding plan. World cinema is at an experimental stage and the market itself is very niche. We have tried to keep in mind what the Indian audiences would like to see, as the genre of world cinema is very wide. As far as theatrical exhibition of these films is concerned, it may only be at an experimental level and we may tie up with a few multiplexes.
We are very passionate about this venture. The time has come for people to know the kind of cinema that is being made around the world. We are counting on the current audiences being mature and the latent audience growing to that taste, which requires a sustained effort. We are essentially trying to see how these works can go with minimum of cuts.
What about the DVD pricing of these films?
With the current market being such a niche market, it will definitely not be a mass priced item. But we don’t want to out-price ourselves. It will be at a balanced price level. We are contemplating whether to launch VCDs too or just launch DVDs. A lot of it is still under the planning stage. We need to see how we can create and move with the audience.
Will Shemaroo be involved in producing regional films?
Not immediately. We have one Marathi film called Bakula Namdev Ghotale. Apart from that, not really. Regional cinema is quite exciting but there are a lot of nuances that need to be captured. In the current phase we want to look at mainstream movie audiences.
What about the mobile entertainment space, any plans there?
So far this space has been led by audio, in terms of ringtones. I think the next phase will be of video. We are sitting on tons of video content and we will be looking at distributing that content on the mobile platform at the opportune time.
So what is the core focus area for Shemaroo?
Primarily we are a content house, so creation of content is a natural extension for us. This helps fill our pipeline. Then there is distribution, wherein we also look at external content.
Thus owning, creating and distributing content across all platforms is our business model. Some of the trends we have seen in the last year or two is that various sets of producers and creators are getting aligned to fewer houses that are then looking at creating the distribution activities. In fact, we have also been moving in that direction. We are in the consolidation phase and it is an integrated approach.
The second part is digital distribution. We are in talks with various players to supply and aggregate content.
Why is it that Shemaroo is not wholeheartedly present in the audio scene?
We have a miniscule presence on the music front, essentially we are distributing what we produce.
In the last six – seven years the audio industry has taken a beating. Physical formats have nearly diminished. Of course the mobile formats have been providing the needed respite. So far we have not found it to be a viable business.
Also if you see the trend, all major audio companies have diversified into video. They have added video component to boost or sustain profitability. So far, we have consciously kept away from audio but going forward with the integrated approach, it will fit in somewhere. However, there are no concrete plans as yet.
Where do you see Shemaroo Entertainment a few years down the line?
A year down the line, one will see a different Shemaroo than what it is today. From the background that we come from, we still have a “home video company” tag attached to us. Home video contributes to less than 50 per cent of our turnover and going forward with all these initiatives, it will be less than 20 per cent of our turnover.
The most important thing for us is to move into a wider and larger entertainment platform. With the kind of international releases that we have, there is a different kind of branding that we have in the international markets. Hence one year down the line a lot of these things would have been manifested.
Our objective right now is that the production area and overseas front need to reach a critical mass. In fact, in the next phase of expansion, we will also be looking at theatrical distribution, which we don’t do currently.
The beauty of the way in which we are moving is that we are not dependant on one revenue stream.