Praveen Nischol, producer – director of the 1996 Shah Rukh Khan starrer English Babu Desi Mem, is currently holding the reins of Adlabs’ film production department as its chief executive officer.
In conversation with Businessofcinema.com’s Rohini Bhandari, Nischol fields questions about Adlabs’ corporate image, film deals and the ongoing corporatisation phase of the film industry.
In your view, how has Adlabs’ film production division shaped up since its inception?
It has shaped up very well. Adlabs started off by producing a few small budget films and now we are churning out several big films. We have increased the scale and quantity of films. Compared to two films in 2006, we will have 10 to 15 film releases in 2007.
So, Adlabs’ film production is doing well and is profitable as well. Even if a particular film may have not done well at the box office, Adlabs is doing all right. Earlier, we did have a couple of flops, but we have been secured due to the ‘pre-Friday’ policy I follow, wherein I make my money before Friday. As long as we follow this policy, we are safe business wise.
Can you elaborate on the ‘Pre-Friday’ policy?
In the ‘Pre-Friday’ policy, we work on minimum guarantee in the distribution system, as per which we do pre-sales. In pre-sales, if your homework is done correctly, then you will know exactly what the estimation of your sales is. If it’s correct and your budget is less than that, then you are plus. So whether or not your film does well at the box office, you are at par if you can control your budget versus recovery.
In the ‘Pre-Friday’ policy, there are losers as well, though. Distributors can lose money but distributors have their own working system wherein they distribute 10 films a year. They win some and lose some, but at the end of the year, they have to be profitable and that is what matters to them.
At Adlabs, I mostly follow the ‘Pre-Friday’ policy unless there are some exceptions – wherein we have a good new script and we have a gut feeling that the film will do well like, for example, Harman Baweja in Love Story 2050, which we will work out on a Post Friday policy, by taking the movie to the audience and waiting for recovery from them.
What matters more at Adlabs – quantity of films or their quality?
Quality of the films is important and that is precisely the reason why we have upped the investments. But there could be times when we do not get quality films, so subsequently our investments will decrease. But Adlabs will not be associated with a film just to build up on quantity. Quality of films is more important than the number of films we turn out.
Classifying the films we have done so far on a quality – quantity basis, I would says that all of them fall under the quality league, but then there are levels of quality too. Apaharan is a quality film, with a small niche audience; Namastey London is a quality film in a different segment.
But if you have above Rs 10 billion (Rs 100 crore) in your kitty, it needs to be deployed and you need to get a certain amount of films as well, so that is where quantity plays an important role too.
Soon after becoming a part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Adlabs made big announcments, but of late, it has been in the news for deals that have turned sour. Comment.
Why do you say that? The Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar deals were all media generated. Has anyone ever received any information on this from Adlabs?
Adlabs was never in talks with Akshay Kumar for any movie deals. Vipul Shah, who has a deal with Adlabs, had an understanding with Kumar for working together in a few films, so we asked them to go ahead, so this has been termed as Akshay’s deal with Adlabs by the media.
Contrary to some media reports, our deal with Vipul Shah still stands, and he is free to make a film with whoever he wants to, as long as it is a viable project.
Has Adlabs signed film deals only with directors or will these also be extended to actors in the future?
They might get extended to actors, but so far nothing has happened on that front. Right now, we have signed co-production deals with directors. But for Adlabs’ home production department, we may sign deals with actors as well.
People say that ‘Corporates are overpowering the film industry but they don’t know how to make films.’ What would you say to that?
I cannot speak on behalf of other corporates, I can speak only on behalf of Adlabs. I, myself, am a producer, director and writer. I am from the core of the industry, so how will I not know how the industry functions?
We at Adlabs are making films and we are doing so very successfully. It has nothing to do with whether we know the industry or not. People get intimidated because corporates are cash rich. If you look at the brighter side, funding of movies is no longer a problem. Films are still being made by directors and writers, so how are corporates overpowering anyone?
Earlier when a filmmaker would procure funding for his film, it used to be considered a big deal and now money is their last worry because even banks are funding films now. Now the problem is whether we have a script and a star to work in that film. A good script is the one that Shah Rukh Khan likes; otherwise without a star, it is just a beautiful script.
Is the role of a corporate limited to just financing a film or can it make out a good script from a bad script?
I have produced and directed English Babu Desi Mem with Shah Rukh Khan and Sonali Bendre, I have made a serial Shreekanth, which was the first TV serial to be shot on film and shown on the BBC. I have dealt with bad scripts and good scripts myself, so why shouldn’t I know a good script from a bad script?
There are certain skill sets that you require to make a film. When a corporate steps in, these filmmakers will have no financing problems, everything become more organised and systematic. We corporates still have to hire the skill sets to make a film.
But gradually, corporates will take over. Now even individuals are turning into studio systems, which have been there earlier in India in the form of theatres and talkies. The economics are changing again, and the corporates will be able to do things, which an individual cannot. Even Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai are operating like corporates.
So how exactly does Adlabs participate in the making of its films?
When we produce films, we are partners from the very beginning. So whatever happens is with mutual consent. Our basic emphasis is on funding and marketing of a film. We don’t like to interfere too much in the aesthetics of the film. All discussions are done prior to the shooting and after that, we like to give the creative people a free hand. We don’t work with people we cannot trust.
What is the short term and long term vision of Adlabs in the film production space?
We are doing very well in Bollywood. We have touched the regional and international film markets. Growth in all these areas in what we are going to focus on. We want to emerge successful in regional and international markets. Home productions too will start releasing soon.