Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Being a film which has broken records and continues to be the talk of the town – ‘Sanju’ has hit all the right chords! We catch up with Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios to chat about the success of ‘Sanju’ and more…

What’s your reaction to the kind of success ‘Sanju’ got?
Yes, it’s been really mind-boggling and extremely heartening and so are the numbers. It’s over 300 crores in India and it’s become the number one film of 2018 so far. What gives me utmost pleasure is that, Fox Star Studio is the number one studio now. Number one film from the number one studio is a nice feeling for us. It’s still running so I’m hoping it will close to be one of the biggest films of Bollywood. What makes it special is that all the other films which are ahead of us, have released in the holiday period, whereas we have released in a period where there was no holiday and the certification it got was a U/A. So, we missed out on children as our audience. Lots of records have been broken, even internationally, so it’s been a great run and we are thrilled. It’s been a satisfying experience.

From the script level to how it turned out on screen, how do you think the film evolved?
When you are working with a director like Raju Hirani and then, someone like a Vidhu Vinod Chopra, they are very experienced, creative people. We knew right from the beginning that we had an exciting script and some great story telling. In Hindi cinema, we’ve generally seen that every time a film works, it’s because of a great script and a director with a vision behind it. And ‘Sanju’ has re-validated that, so that’s a big learning which we are taking from here.

This year has been great so far, since we have seen a 100-crore film every month. How do you think it’s been for the industry?
At an industry level, it’s really good. After a long time, we’ve had a year which started very strong. This year has showed us that if you create content that can excite the audiences and give them a reason to come to cinemas, people will come in large numbers. I think it’s been lots of positive learning.

And from Fox Star, we’ve seen quite a range of films in the last 2-3 years. So, what is it that you seek while backing a film now?
We’ve been around for 8-9 years. We’ve made our mistakes and learnt along the way. Firstly, if the script is not solid, it doesn’t make sense to make the film. Secondly, it makes sense to make a great script into a film if it’s only going to be in the right budget otherwise you will end up regretting it. And then, it’s all about good collaboration and partnership. If you see what we’ve been doing in the last two years, we’ve been doing a lot of home productions like ‘Neerja’, ‘Jolly LLB 2’, among others where we are involved right from the script stage and we want to be working with great production houses and collaborate with them. We’ve been working with Dharma over the last two years. With Sajid, we’ve had ‘Baaghi’ and ‘Judwaa’. We now have ‘Housefull 4’. And similarly, we have started our relationship with Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Raju ji.

What’s been your learning from films that have failed to deliver, and then also the learning from a success like ‘Sanju’?
You’re right. It would be foolish on our part, not to learn from our failure. Every film will not be as big a hit, but if you continue with failures every time, it doesn’t make sense. The learnings are, like I said, it’s about having a great script, a director who has a great vision and makes it under a right budget. Finally, the marketing today plays a huge part. Even if you make a good film, it’s equally difficult to create the right buzz across social media and everywhere. When a film doesn’t work, it’s really disheartening but you need to understand there must be something wrong in the script or the execution of the script that it couldn’t hold the audiences. Some films are targeted to a very niche crowd, then you shouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are less.

What do you think is a challenge which the industry is facing today on the whole?
I think we all recognise that the environment in which we are operating is changing today – the digital market has changed and I believe that the digital disruption is the best thing for the film industry also. Up till now, the only revenue scheme we had was theatrical and satellite. It will help the business if digital starts to monetise more actively. Also, as we know, new players are coming in for digital and they have content so it’s getting competitive as far as the audience’s share of mind is concerned. That may force us to create better content, which is great. Hollywood is making franchises and their films are catering to a larger audience, whereas in India, films in India are pushing the envelope. So, it would help if films good scripts are made under the right budget, with great execution and marketing.

Tell us about the upcoming line-up of films from Fox Star Studios.
Our next big film is ‘Total Dhamaal’ next and it has a great ensemble. So, I’m excited about it. In the next 15months, we have four of our home productions – We are adaptation our Hollywood successful film, ‘Fault In Our Stars’ titled ‘Kizzie Aur Manny’. We are doing a film with Raj Kumar Gupta, then, ‘India’s Most Wanted’ with Arjun Kapoor. We are doing an adaption of a book ‘The Zoya Factor’, and we’ve just finished a comedy in the same zone of ‘Malamal Weekly’, with Kunal Khemmu. And then of course, with Dharma, we have ‘Kalank’ with that huge cast, and then ‘Housefull 4’. So, exciting projects ahead.

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