‘We don’t sign actors for deals; we rather create our own’ Mukta Arts CEO Ravi Gupta

They pioneered the march into the corporate zone, but somewhere situations didn’t progress and they managed to execute second rate products. Subhash Ghai’s Mukta Arts recently witnessed a lull phase in terms of production, but the masterminds were playing another set of cards in the meantime.

 


After setting up its powerhouse for emerging talent – Whistling Woods International and buying majority stake in Manish Goswami’s Red Carpet Films, the company has beefed up its production plans by announcing a slate of eight films.


 


These films will be made under various banners under its roof namely Mukta Arts, Mukta Searchlight, Red Carpet Films and its regional film production company MalPix Films.


 


Mukta Arts CEO Ravi Gupta has a wealth of media and corporate experience backing him. He has held board positions in companies in the UK, USA, Middle East and Africa, and then moved back from London in 2004 to join Ghai.


 


A post-graduate from IIT Bombay and an MBA from JBI, Gupta was the founding CEO of B4U, founding member of SRFTII, managing director of NFDC and has also been on the Governing Board of FTII. Here, Gupta gives Businessofcinema.com a lowdown on the company’s expansion plans, corporatization of the film industry and more.


 


Excerpts:


 


Mukta Arts was the one of the first film companies to go corporate but somehow things didn’t shape up well. What went wrong?


I agree. Our focus then was ensuring the organization on a very strong foundation; hence we got busy with that. For listed companies, which are looking out for quarter-on-quarter results and returns, our concentration was different. Our long term vision has already started paying off.


 


So what is the long term vision of the company and what measures are being taken to bounce back?


We now want to expand our bandwidth of production. One of the key requirements in this industry is ‘talent’ and unless we have that, we can’t think of augmenting expansion. There is a set of limited stars with which one intends to make movies; beyond that, we need to create stars.


 


We are creating a portfolio of films, inclusive of Mukta’s big and medium budget films and also the niche ones. The latest development at our end is the acquisition of Manish Goswani’s Red Carpet Films. Plans are also on the anvil to introduce digital film making.


 


The newbies from Whistling Woods will get a fair opportunity to make their first film in a digital format either for Red Carpet Films or Mukta Searchlight. Hence, we should be able to deliver much more with the emerging talent and prospects lined up. Continued… < Page Break >


 


Mukta Arts has announced a spate of projects, is it waking up to the entry of corporates? 


At the end of the day, we have to realize that from our family oriented business we need to adapt to corporatization, primarily because the requirements for funding films are very large along with the risks.


 


We are also witnessing the coalescing of smaller production houses, which will extend to six to eight big production houses operating in the industry. This certainly does not imply that individual producers will cease to exist; the creative work is such that it is individual oriented.


 


Corporates are good with certain kind of aspects of film making like finance, systematic work that require the structure, which is very useful. This conflict between the individual creative side and the corporate support has to be worked out. At Mukta, once the project is approved, we give complete freedom to our creative people.


 


What is Mukta’s game plan for Red Carpet Films?


It is our attempt to churn out at least three to four films under Red Carpet Films every year. Initially, the company has collaborated with Eros International, wherein the latter will fund and co-produce four films under this banner.


 


As far as the new company goes, it has just been setup and we are currently scrutinizing the scripts at hand.


 


Mukta Arts’ stock price has shot up by almost 80 per cent in recent times. Is the company reevaluating its stocks?


Our focus is not on the market but on our business. Frankly speaking, we are not here to think about the stock market, that’s for the shareholders to decide. Our agenda is to ensure that the company functions well.


  


You have been in this industry for a very long time, what’s your view on the changing phases of the market?


I would say that the industry has witnessed healthy growth; it’s wonderful to see the industry scrape through various stages. Having said that, I feel that the industry now has the strength to operate globally. Today we have the capacity to look and think beyond the Indian Diaspora.


 


We are now in a position to tying up and buying out companies internationally. Since it’s happening at the grass root level, on the film side theatrical revenues are increasing-thanks to the multiplexes. All this is basically interlinked with the state of the economy. As the economy booms, the spending power grows along. Cinema and music certainly ranks first in the entertainment bracket. Hence, there is no denying that whatever phase it goes through, it will certainly do well.


 


A part of the phenomenal growth is the spurt in radio, thanks to private FM. The government also plays a key role in shaping this business with the kind of policies that are there. Indian entrepreneurs can now think big. We now have bigwigs like the Ambanis entering the scenario who can take on the global market; Mukta may still be small. This kind of growth and expansion doesn’t allow me to rule out the fact that in a few years we will be dreaming major movements. Continued… < Page Break >


 


What about the company’s expansion plans?


We intend to use Whistling Woods’ brand equity to expand into franchise model where you have off-campus centers both nationally as well as internationally. Though we are still in the planning stage, we are likely to move in that direction very soon.


 


The idea is to give an opportunity to students all across the globe through WWI. Along with that, our production plans will spruce up. We also have our interests in the field of animation and gaming.


 


What is happening in terms of distribution?


Our distribution business is going strong. We have tied up with many multiplexes wherein we do their programming. The entire PVR chain, Adlabs in the north and a few more are done by us. We already have nine offices across the country, we don’t need more.


 


What went wrong with the digital cinema JV that was inked with Adlabs?


We sold off our share of equity to Adlabs. Basically, the problem was of scale and difference in vision. After Adlabs was taken over by Reliance ADAG, they had a totally different game plan. As long as it was Manmohan Shetty’s Adlabs, we knew the scale of thinking and they had different infrastructure.


 


You have shifted your loyalties from Tips to T-Series in terms of selling your films’ music rights. Reason?


At the end of the day if you are getting a better deal somewhere else, you are bound to move on. We still continue to have very good relation with Tips and Sony as well.


 


Is Mukta stepping up its regional films business after its first Marathi film, Kandhe Pohe, which is a co-production with Shreyas Talpade?


That’s right. We are looking at a few more opportunities, but nothing is finalized. We started off with Marathi films to see if it makes business sense.


 


 Lastly, is the company looking at signing any actors?


We are not in the league of signing actors. We rather create our own.

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