Ritesh Sidhwani started his career with his family’s home appliances business—Marlex Appliances. Soon, he gave into his passion for films and started a film production company, Excel Entertainment, partnering with Farhan Akhtar. Today, Excel boasts of titles like Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, Don, Honeymoon Travels and the recent blockbuster Rock On. In a freewheeling chat with FE’s Pritha Mitra Dasgupta, Sidhwani shared his plans to venture into television content production and launch shows Reliance ADAG channels. Unlike his partner Akhtar, who has worn many hats from director to actor, Sidhwani wants to enact just the role of a producer—“nothing more, nothing less”. Excerpts:
What was the trigger to leave your family business and enter the Indian film industry?
I completely got bored of it. Marlex is a professionally run company owned by my dad and his brothers. And I worked there for about 6-7 years but I wasn’t enjoying it. There was no pleasure, no thrill. I don’t think I was utilising myself completely and wasn’t adding value to anything. However, I learnt a lot from it. I was working in the factory, then I went into sales, then marketing and so I completed the cycle.
But why films…?
I was an ardent movie buff. I used to watch at least one film everyday at that point in time. I used to be in Gaity Galaxy (theatre in Mumbai) every Friday and whatever movies came I used to watch them.
In fact, I got admitted to a college in town so that I could go to Sterling, Eros, Regal and all those theatres. Finally, it just came on to me when Farhan wrote the script. At that time my father used to fund films as a financer. Farhan and I knew each other from school days and it just triggered us to form a company and make films.
How many lines of businesses do you have right now and which business is your primary revenue generator?
Even till two years ago we were doing distribution and commercials. But right now we are concentrating on films as we are doing multiple films. Earlier, it was only Farhan who used to direct but now we have a panel of five to six directors and each of them has been contracted for three films each. So that itself is a big responsibility. It is great to nurture new directors as there is a freshness in each one of them.
Tell us something about you television production venture.
We are staring to do television content production both in fiction and non-fiction/reality genre. We feel that the sensibility in the television module is very different. We are thinking of bringing the youth back to television. In India, I do not know anyone who watches TV. So we need to create shows that attract the youth. This mandate is extremely challenging for us and, therefore, we have set up a separate division. Farhan’s sister Zoya Akhtar is assisting us on this. By the end of this year we should have one show.
How do you plan to raise funds?
Fortunately, today you don’t need to raise funds. It is the other way round—the funds chase you. The company is owned by me and both Farhan and I work very closely. We have decided that we don’t want to do more than three to four films in a year. We have a very good tie-up with Reliance ADAG, who brought in their entire power and marketing strategy. We just have to create the content and they will distribute it. And most probably we will be making TV content for them.
When do you plan to venture into co-production and distribution of foreign films?
I do not know if we will get into that field. Currently, we are maximising ourselves into content creation. However, we have a film next year which we believe will be a truly crossover film in India. It is a Hindi film, which Farhan will be directing—Voice from the Heaven, starring Akshaye Khanna. It is set in the Calcutta of 1905.
Are you surprised by the kind of response and business that Rock On has received?
I am more encouraged to make such films and I feel that anything which has a good story will find commercial success. There is nothing called a formula in today’s world. Every film is redefining the industry.
Do you also believe in the studio model?
I like the studio model. It has got its advantages and disadvantages. You get assured of somebody exploiting a film. After the corporates have come the prices of actors have shot up. However, I do not believe that you need to pay 50% of your production cost to your lead actors. And luckily all those who have partnered with us, know these values and believe in the scripts.
7 months ago