Firm that co-produced Padman hopes to increase its presence in India

Feb 22, 2018, 14:38 IST | PTI

Showbiz is at an interesting juncture in India, says Sony Pictures Entertainment India Managing Director Vivek Krishani who is hoping to expand the company's presence in India by partnering with local banners and curating its own content

Akshay Kumar in Padman
Akshay Kumar in Padman

Showbiz is at an interesting juncture in India, says Sony Pictures Entertainment India Managing Director Vivek Krishani who is hoping to expand the company's presence in India by partnering with local banners and curating its own content. Banking on the belief that viewer habits are changing, SPE India has backed Akshay Kumar's Padman on the unusual subject of menstrual hygiene.

The company has co-produced the film, the first Bollywood film to release in territories such as Russia and Ivory Coast, along with Mrs Funnybones Films and KriArj Entertainment. It also handled the worldwide distribution of the film. "The success of films such as Hindi Medium and Bareilly Ki Barfi last year proved that if content is strong, you can market the film. In the case of big tent poles, some have worked, some haven't," Krishnani told PTI.

"Last year was an interesting year as it forced everyone to go into soul-searching mode to understand what kind of creative is going to drive people to the theatres," he said. Studios have been cautious about collaborating on Indian projects, particularly Hindi cinema, as there have been both hits and misses? Krishnani responds by saying they are not in a rush and have no set notions about the kind of films they want to back in India.

"Content should be able to justify the return. It should be a mix. That's a science that is slowly evolving. It is moving a bit away from gut to numbers... We need to figure out whether there is an opportunity for recovery and what kind of content people will come to see in the theatres. We have made investments in the past and we will continue to do so if the content is correct and appealing."

Padman, with its unusual plot line and the star power of an actor like Akshay Kumar, was perfect for them, he says. " Padman deals with a subject that has never been spoken about anywhere in the world. Its relevance cannot be questioned. We realised that we can take it to the world through our distribution channels. It has released in close to 50 countries. Our entire effort in co-producing it was the idea to give it a wide reach," he said.

Big actors are trying to move out of their comfort zone today, Krishnani adds, citing Akshay's trajectory. "He has taken calculated risks. He has taken the decision to back content that's absolutely different and balance it with commercial sensibilities." Krishnani is also confident about the next film on the company"s anvil -- 102 Not Out, which reunites Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor after more than two decades and is directed by Oh My God! fame Umesh Shukla. "It has ageless comedy and two legends who are back together after 27 years in an iconic setting. We are in the process of identifying such content that we feel will bring people back into theatres in larger numbers. At Sony Pictures Entertainment, we want to back great content."

Krishnani credits Aamir Khan for opening China's market for Bollywood films. "He has successfully developed that market with consistently good content. We have been distributing our Hollywood film there for a long time. We are looking to leverage our network there." Discussing the impact of streaming platforms, he said theatrical releases in India don"t face any adverse impact. Streaming platforms are largely limited to television, but have forced people to evaluate content before going to theatres.

"If the content is easily available on streaming platforms, viewers might easily choose not to go to the theatres. But if there is a difference in content and they are not getting it easily, they will go. Obviously, there are challenges from streaming platforms, challenges from changing consumer habits. The theatre business is all about footfalls."

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