Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

Prerna Arora is a young, confident woman, who knows what she wants, and clearly, knows what she is doing. After delivering three hits in a row, with Akshay Kumar itself, she’s now found her ground and attained enough goodwill for her company KriArj Entertainment. But no, that’s not enough. While they’ve come a long way, she has bigger aims for her production house and another long way to go. We catch up with the lady, to speak about the success of ‘Padman’ and the functioning of her production company. Read on…

What’s your reaction to the kind of response which ‘Padman’ got? Is this what you were actually expecting?
Firstly, when I started working ‘Padman’, after the great experience on ‘Toilet’ and the way a new revolution had begun, I thought it is very different. It was quirky, it was a love story but yes, it was based on a special issue. Comparatively, ‘Padman’ was a little more serious because it was on women’s welfare and women’s hygiene. The subject was never thought of – a man holding a sanitary napkin, the thought itself was so noble and such a big movement. I was very sure that whatever we do, whenever the marketing would happen, Akshay sir would plan things in a very different, extra-ordinary way, which he did. He was very true to the content so it reached out to a lot of people and yes, I’m very happy with the way the film has been appreciated and the kind of respect KriArj has owned. The point of making this film was, to be proud of something you do, setting up a different benchmark as well as earning that respect. The film has earned us a lot of respect today.

Even ‘Toilet’ created a lot of awareness, but on paper both these films may seem risky. What is it that gives you the gumption to pick up something like this?
First of all, my full faith and belief in Akshay Kumar sir. That’s the foundation of me believing in a subject because I know how deeply involved he was in ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’. I have experienced his passion and thought behind it for doing something for the country. And of course, when you have to create that aura for yourself, or prove that you’re different, then the idea is to do something which is good, and risky. On paper, it sounded as a big challenge; nobody would easily take it up. On table, it wasn’t something easy to take up. But the confidence and faith in the subject and doing something for the nation was enough motivating for me to come on board and present it to the world.

You’ve had a great association with Akshay Kumar with three films now, and all of them special in their own way…
I’m the only producer who has done three films with him in a row. ‘Rustom’ is very close to my heart because it was my first film and it was my best experience to begin with. Then immediately ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ happened and I knew that this had to be better than my first one. It was my second film with Akshay Kumar and we had to be on point, in terms of our execution, marketing, distribution and delivering. He is also the producer along with KriArj. So it was a task. We knew how he works; he works in a straight line. It looks tough, but if you understand his pattern, it’s the easiest to work with him. He has only taught us to deliver on time and he delivers on time to the producer. He is also very compassionate, kind and gave us his ears if we ever had a problem, he was accessible. He would always sort things out for the producer if we had a problem. He is a producer’s actor and as a newcomer, for me, it was a delight. First of all, his experience helped us a lot, so holding his hand was a cakewalk. Working with Akshay Kumar is so different, that I’m finding it very difficult today to work outside. I’m so used to his structure.

Being a producer is not easy, but what was the starting point for you to start producing movies?
I always felt you need to discover the talent that’s within you and be sure of your USPS. You need to be clear about what you are good at, how much ever people tell you, do this do that, it’s never going to work, until you feel it internally that you can master those skills. You have to be talented in the field you are in. So, this was a career choice I had made very early. I always wanted to make films. I was determined about it. However, to make it happen is an internal struggle because nothing comes easily, especially expressing yourself to people. When you say the word ‘female producer’, it wasn’t something people were used to. It was new. But the delivery of my first film ‘Rustom’ in a successful manner, changed everything. Before even coming to the industry, I had read so many stories and heard from people that here you need to be successful. Only then you’ve arrived. There’s no place for failures in the industry. There’s nobody to give you a helping hand, you have to be strong and become someone on your own. You need luck and talent both to favour you for that. There are so many talented people but of course there are many other factors which influence these things. For example, being there at the right time. I believe in luck and destiny so this is how I feel I’ve come here. Now I think I’ve got a grip of my films and I’ve delivered three films with him, I’ve learnt enough. I’ve made my other films now because of what I’ve learnt from him.

What do you want KriArj Entertainment to stand out for, considering the variety and the genres of films also lined up now?
To begin with, this is what I had really thought. To be a company which is recognised as a symbol of quality and intelligence. People have given me that kind of appreciation and even the actors who want to work with us because we made good quality films. That should be our signature style. And to go ahead, I definitely want KriArj to be one of the top ten production houses in the country. Of course, it’s too early right now, and we have a long way to go. But step by step, whatever I did, was because these things were just happening in my life. I didn’t plan it deliberately. I didn’t know that Akshay sir would plan ‘Rustom’, and then ‘Toilet’ and then ‘Padman’, and then ‘Pari’ would happen at the same time. Things just happened, I accepted and worked harder than I could. But now I know, I want maybe 2-3 films a year, so slowly I have a grip on maybe doing just two films but they should be game-changers. I want to work on specific subjects and we’re preparing for those. I want to do something on medical science, after electricity which is ‘Batti Gul’ with Shahid. Now I want to do something for humanity, so we are working on a great subject which is medicines. Then maybe a film on science fiction, so step by step, we are developing these subjects.

How have you been planning your budgeting strategy all through these films?
See with Akshay Kumar being a viable actor, a superstar – with him whatever you put in, you get your money back so there’s nothing to think about. It’s like recycling. You get more than what you think of because that’s the value he brings to a film, through all-India theatrical, overseas, satellites. All of it is done in a systematic way. Outside him, when I see actors of different viability, so it all depends. Today, what we need is, people coming together and collaborating as a team for a film; people need to understand that you cannot just ask the producer for your fees. That’s not working anymore, what are you bringing on table is what works today. Is your satellite getting sold? Is your digital getting sold? Are you a draw for the audience first of all? According to that, actors who aren’t the top ten actors are able to also co-operate with the producers then it doesn’t work. I had a problem with few, and it was difficult to make them understand. What I’ve realised is that some people only work here for money, they do not work for the film. If everyone works for the film, then everything is going to be sorted for all of us, all producers.

What’s the biggest challenge today for producers?
Content is great today and actors have become choosy. So, it’s good that you can get an actor on board only if you have good content. It’s not like money can buy an actor. That’s sorted. Everyone is trying to get good films. But again, it all comes down to budgeting, that’s the biggest challenge for everyone.

In the last few years, we’ve seen this trend of two-three production houses coming together for a film. For instance, after collaborating with Akshay Kumar, you now have ‘Pari’ with Clean Slate Films.

It’s a lot of help. The way Anushka and Karnesh have worked on the production, it’s been so smooth. I think after Akshay sir, this has been one of my best experiences, infact, even with Rakeysh O. Mehra now, it’s such a fantastic experience. It’s been smooth. Even ‘Batti Gul’ with Shree Narayan Singh and Nitin ji, that’s like home. They all have a lot of understanding as to how everything can be managed correctly and they are very co-operative. So, with this kind of bond and understanding, films can be successful, so it’s not one-sided.

Tell us about your line-up of films next…
So, now there’s ‘Pari’ which is just a few days away. It’s been great because I didn’t know that after ‘Toilet’, I will have ‘Padman’ and then ‘Pari’. It’s been continuous and as you can see I’ve worked very hard, and the churning which has gone in. Then I have ‘Parmanu’ on April 6. Then I move to ‘Fanney Khan’, after that and then we have ‘Batti Gul’. We’ve just finished on schedule of ‘Batti Gul’ and from March 3, we will have the next schedule. We’ll be done by April 10-15. We’ve wrapped ‘Fanney Khan’, just two songs are left to shoot. Then we’ll be moving with Vishal sir’s film with Deepika and Irrfan. Again, that’s my biggest project. So, many more tie-ups and collaborations. What I’ve learnt that it’s very important to spend time with the production houses you are working with, so that there are no egos. Trade Magazine