Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar
Madhu Bhojwani who is the co-founder of Emmay Entertainment along with Nikhil Advani and Monisha Advani – is pretty much a tough taskmaster when it comes to budgeting and remains everyone’s favourite. Her know-how and deep insight about the business which she’s developed in the last eight years is commendable. Just on the occasion of Emmay’s latest film ‘Marjaavan’ hitting the theatres, we catch up with the lady for a conversation about the film and more…
How did the ball set rolling on ‘Marjaavan’?
So, ‘Marjaavan’ came to us about 3-4 years ago. Milap brought the script to us as a writer and Monisha had heard the script first and she really loved it. After which Nikhil and I heard it and we also really liked it. We brought him on as a writer and picked up the script. Then of course, we went on to ‘Satyamev Jayate’ but all the while we were thinking about who will be the right person to direct it. Once, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ was released, post that, we were all unanimous in the fact that Milap should direct it. He did very well in the action genre. More so, he was close to the script, he knew it best. So we thought he was the best guy to direct it. ‘Marjaavan’ as a story and concept – it was a very strong love story. At the core of it, that’s what really resonated with all three of us. We loved the idea and the rest is history.
Also, this is such a good change post ‘Batla House’…There’s been a good variety in all your films. Has that been one of the aims?
Absolutely! As a production company, we are genre agnostic. We don’t focus on just one type of genre like biopics or stories based on real life events. Of course, we do gravitate towards those because real-life stories when portrayed on big-screen, they have a very high feel. It resonates with people. Having said that, we love telling fictional stories as well. If you see our filmography, it’s a mixed bag. We are not really fastidious about making a particular kind of films. We’re open to making good stories.
Having said that, would it be right to say that ‘Satyamev Jayate’ and now ‘Marjaavan’ are the first films coming from Emmay which can be put into the ‘commercial masala’ or formulaic zone?
Yes, where ‘Satyamev Jayate’ and ‘Marjaavan’ are concerned, they are massy, commercial films. The sort of films that people like us grew up watching. At the end of the day, it boils down to the sensitivity of the director. So, each film that has come out of our banner has to have the conviction and sensibility of the director. Both these films are out-and-out Milap’s conviction towards mass cinema. You have to applaud him for that. We completely back his vision and are glad to add that facet also to the kind of films we produce.
People from your team joke that you’re a taskmaster when it comes to allotting budgets for the film, which also makes so much sense since it’s the key! So, how do you strategize on that aspect?
I don’t think any producer would be doing it differently and as far as being the tough taskmaster is concerned, every production house would need someone like that. It’s very important to understand that the science of making successful films lies in the budget in which you make those films. If the budget doesn’t match the film in terms of the opportunity it’s creating then it will be an imbalance. So, it’s important to do that and it’s important to understand that when you’re making a film – to know what are the sort of recoveries, what are the monetization channels, what’s going to be the breakeven point. Nobody knows it for sure, but at some point, you need to understand what are the sort of monies which one can expect. Of course, things can go wrong especially when it comes to the revenue streams from theatre. A lot of the non-theatrical revenues – one already knows what numbers you can expect before release. But if you’re heavily dependent on theatrical revenues then of course the risk one takes on has to be calculated. I think it’s no different for any other producer. Every producer or studio which releases a film would engage in this sort of an exercise.
Also, does that majorly depend on the script and change as per that?
I won’t say it changes for every script but depends on the film. Today when you want to make and release a film, there are various modes through which you can do that; hence you know what are the revenue streams. Of course every film have the amount of business which you expect it to do. Yes in that sense, the numbers vary for every film – depending on the cast and genre. Largely, it’s also a combination of the talent that you attach to the film. There are people who look forward to films from specific directors. So, there’s a certain appeal as well. One has to keep in mind those things so yes, every film requires a different budgeting strategy in that sense because the numbers will vary.
As a production company, Emmay has just completed eight years and of course, even the industry has changed so how have you evolved and been at par with that?
When we set up, Nikhil was not new to the business. Monisha and myself were first time producers with D-Day. From there to now, in this eight-year journey, I’d say we’ve learnt a lot and we’re grateful and lucky that we’ve had this platform, the industry has welcomed us and the films that we’ve made have been well-received. Of course, it’s a mixed bag. But largely, people have appreciated the films which we’ve produced. So, I’d say that the take-away or learning is that, it takes a while to perfect your art or skill and we’re still in the process of doing that. I don’t think we’re still perfect. But from where we started – today we are wiser. I don’t think anybody knows really what the audience wants. All we know is that, they want to be entertained with compelling stories and that’s what we are trying to do. I’d say we have also come a long way in working closely with a very interesting team. We’ve grown a very good team. We have a good bunch of directors with us on board today and they’re all working on interesting projects today. So, it’s been an interesting journey so far and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.
To start off with ‘D-Day’ as your first film as a producer, and to be backing newer scriptwriters, nurturing directors, to take such risks – what has given you this sort of a gumption?
When we did ‘D-day’, one of the first technicians we signed was a guy called Sheetal Sharma who was just one film old. He’s a costume designer. In these eight years, Sheetal has practically done 90 percent of our films. All three of us have a firm conviction in the fact that you just don’t build an army with one man. If you want to build an army, you have to spawn new talent. Out of the eight directors in our family of Emmay, four of them are home-grown. They’ve all assisted Nikhil for a very long time and each of them has now come into their own and we are very proud of that. It also re-assures us that we’re making the right choices. We have Mahir Zaveri who is again home-grown; who has edited 80 percent of our projects. We’re continuing to do that. With ‘Bazaar’ for the first time we launched a new face with Rohan Mehra. At some point, we were new in this business and we had to claw our way to where we are today. So, it was very important for us to introduce new talent and continue to do that. If we don’t do that, we ourselves will become irrelevant. There are young directors who have new ideas and interesting way of doing things. But with the experience of Nikhil, Monisha and myself, we are able to give them that guidance and be able to do what they love doing the most. I hope we ourselves will have the opportunity to continue to this talent pool, which so far, we are not at all disappointed by.