Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Saregama has gotten into film production with ‘Yoodlee Films’ and ‘Ajji’ was the first film from their catalogue. We speak to Vikram Mehra, MD, Saregama, to give us a sneak peak into the kind of films they want to make as a company and more….

What was the factor which drew you the most to make ‘Ajji’?
For me the most important part of ‘Ajji’ is that it talks about something which should trouble anyone and everyone living in India. And the treatment which we’ve given is not one of the escapist treatments where a superhuman comes in and takes revenge. A person takes revenge without being a superhuman. ‘Ajji’s’ entire revenge is taken keeping in mind a normal human like you and me. In ‘Ajji’, one finds everything that Yoodlee Films stands for. All our movies are very strong cinematically. Story is the real hero, we don’t make compromises on that at all. There are no sets in our film. Everything is shot in real-life locations. And we shoot with sync sound, there’s no dubbing. So, the maximum amount of dubbing done because of patchwork and all is 10 per cent. Apart from that, everything is sync sound. All are films are shot in 4k. Some of them are even shot in 8k. And we support 5.1 surround sound. So technically, it is at par with how higher end movies are shot.

What’s been the biggest challenge during the film?
The biggest challenge is, people thinking that when you make these films in about Rs. 4 crore odd, can you make these films with a great quality in that amount. That’s the biggest challenge for us also that how to make really high-quality films which people like us will like to watch, in a budget which is as tight as Rs. 4 crores. Some of the films can go to 4.25crores but that’s the range we are in. We are not making 10 crore films. That’s been the challenge for us, to keep the budget under control and yet not compromise on the production quality.

Do you work with any particular aim?
The moment we look at the younger crowd, all our consumer research tells us that these guys like big budget films but they also like to see real, gritty cinema and stories they can relate to. So, that’s the first part. When you are making real cinema, you need to make sure there is no compromise. You cannot have an item song coming there. You can’t have your heroes blowing car away. So, we know that the number of people watching such films will be a younger audience which likes this kind of cinema. And to ensure we don’t make any more compromises, we want to keep our budget under control. Anyone who likes escapist cinema doesn’t come to watch our film, we can still make it profitable. Our movies are clearly targeted at the younger age group who watches real cinema. To achieve that right now, we’ve tried our best to keep our cost under control while still giving the audience high production values.

And there are certain values that you wish to stand for? When it comes to the kind of films which come from your brand?
There are two things which are very important right now. We are going to make films without being worried about whether people are going to be comfortable with that topic or not. We are not making art cinema but our films are going to challenge the audience, ask questions to them. You are not going to keep looking into your phone while watching the film. It will keep you engaged, you agree or disagree but these films will keep you engaged. That’s why there’s no fakeness in our films. For instance, if we are showing a rich guy in London, we’re not going to show him talking in Hindi. He will talk in English only. Our films are for people who want to have high quality entertainment. Yoodlee is not just concentrating on one particular language or genre. Our first slate has got Hindi, English, Marathi, Tamil and Malyalam. Out of the first ten films, five languages right now. So, we are across genres. The only thing Yoodlee stands for is that the story leads cinema. Cinema has only one hero, which is the story. That’s the only thing Yoodlee stands for.

What is it that makes a criteria while choosing scripts, and have you been evolved in the choices?
The decision to like a script is with the top management so I don’t have any role. We have a group of eleven script-writers. They belong to various socio-strata of India. They belong to both genders. Some of them have studied abroad and some in India. So, they are a diversified group of people who go through every script which comes to Saregama. And they decide if the script is real enough or not, or if it’s fit to be a part of the Yoodlee catalogue. Only if these guys approve, then it comes to the senior management level for them to read. What that is ensuring right now, is that every script has to stand on its own. The scripts are approved without keeping in mind, who will act in them. So the star obsession isn’t out there, it’s just the story obsession.

The moment one says, ‘Saregama’, only music comes to mind. How is Yoodlee taking forward the music legacy of Saregama?
Every Yoodlee film ends up using some or the other song of the Saregama catalogue. Either in the film or in the promo of the film, there’ll be one or two earlier popular songs of Saregama. We’re also recording some brand new songs for our films. So, every film has an old song interpreted in a new way or an all new song. Our first film is ‘Ajji’, second is ‘Brij Mohan Amar Rahe’. This is a story of a man who gets convicted of his own murder. Then we have a film called ‘Noblemen’, it’s about bullying in school; that’s in English. We have a movie called ‘Ashcharya Chakit’. There’ a film called ‘Kuch Bheege Alfaaz’, and a film with Onir. Another interesting movie is about a young kid who is searching for his father called ‘Hameed’, and it’s based in Kashmir. We have a bi-lingual in Tamil and Malyalam called ‘Abhi and Anu’ – it’s a story of a young couple who are married and are about to have a kid and they realise they are actual brother and sister. At this juncture there are ten films which are at different stages of post-production. So, starting this month, you will have one movie from us coming out every month.

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