Jan 7, 2009

Entertainment - India;Top 10 Film Executives

MUMBAI: Our Top 10 series first featured the top 10 happenings of 2008. It was followed up with The Top 10 executives from the television business. Now we present the third in the series called Bollywood's Big Shots - the Top 10 executives from Hindi cinema. Culled together by the editors of indiantelevision.com, each of these executives came out tops by the sheer dint of their performance during the year. They have not been ranked in any order of importance or ranking but have been randomly listed. Read on to learn more about Bollywood's Big shots.

Aamir Khan: One man army

Aamir Khan: Perfection is his middle name and passion his alter ego. Known for his almost flawless acting and now directorial skills, year 2008 saw him putting his heart and soul into being a producer with Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. This Rs 80 million film garnered Rs 560 million worldwide. What a take!!

In the process, it became one of the few films to notch up box office success. His other film Tare Zameen Par which he co-produced and directed was released towards the end of 2007 and did phenomenally well at the box office in 2008 raking in Rs 1.31 billion at the box office.

Then he acted in the year's biggest blockbuster Ghajini which has already raked in Rs 1.7 billion. He is believed to have been actively involved in Ghajini's promotion, bringing in a new form of meticulousness to movie marketing. The method actor has been seen at various events connecting with his fans, promoting his crew cut and muscular body.

Founder of Aamir Khan Productions, Aamir Khan, who began his professional career with Holi (1984), has also launched two new films as a producer - Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly - which are expected to rock 2009.

Siddharth Roy Kapur: The professional
Siddharth Roy Kapur: Roy Kapur works very closely with his boss Ronnie Screwvala, the head honcho of the UTV group. Along with Screwvala he has developed this innate ability to spot a winner. The year 2008 saw his studio strike up a couple of big whoppers: Jodhaa Akbar and Race.

The former Star TV professional has come a long way from his days in Hong Kong where he headed marketing, and even a longer way from his time at Procter & Gamble, where he cut his teeth in marketing. His professional exposure has helped bring the much-needed professional touch to UTV Motion Pictures and in the process earned him the trust of his boss. Roy Kapur's big dream is to come up with that ultimate Indian crossover film which will appeal to worldwide audiences.

These days he is busy nurturing, along with Vikas Bahl, UTV's alternate cinema studio UTV Spotboy. It has had a good run with Aamir, A Wednesday, Mumbai Meri Jaan and Welcome to Sajjanpur.

Allu Arvind: Telugu player turned Bollywood champion
Allu Arvind: The Tollywod film producer and distributor is the real force behind the year-end blockbuster Ghajini. With 25 Telugu films under his belt, he decided to venture into Hindi cinema. And his choice for his debut was an Aamir Khan film.

Promoted extensively and at a time when most films were bombing - the exceptions being Karan Johar's Dostana and Adi Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Dhi Jodi - Ghajini has since gone on to collect Rs 1.7 billion at the box office, probably recording the maxium revenues for a single film in the history of Indian cinema.

Ghajini has ended serving as a benchmark for Hindi cinema on how a film can be marketed and promoted extensively. The Indian Film Company probably did play a large role in it, but both Aamir and Arvind did have a say in it too.

His company Geetha Arts is a powerhouse in Telugu Cinema and has now made a name for itself in Hindi with this mega film. He is the brother-in-law of south Indian megastar Chiranjeevi.

Dhillin Mehta: The Outsider
Dhilin Mehta: Number crunchers seem to rule in the film industry. Take Dhilin Mehta, the promoter of Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision. An MBA in finance, he oversees the entire transactions and operations of the company. Beginning his career with small budgeted films like Funtoosh and Agnipankh, and later distributing films like Fida, Dus, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Paheli, Aitraz, Garv and Main Hoon Na, he has emerged as a player of note in the film space. To his credit are films such as Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, Golmaal - Fun Unlimited and Bhagambhag. 2008 saw him release Golmaal Returns which raked in the moolah and Kidnap which had a reasonable run, following on the heels of the successful Jab We Met at the end of 2007. He also had some duds such as Yuvraaj, and Mahaarathi, which simply failed to inspire audiences.

Mehta, however, has some big releases planned this year in Blue, Run Bhola Run, Luck (starring Shruti Hassan, Kamalahasan's daughter), apart from signing on several A-list directors, writers and actors. He's a young man who has emerged as a tour de force in the industry.

Harish Dayani: Homing in on video
Harish Dayani: Harish Dayani, the CEO of Moser Baer Entertainment, is busy changing the fundamental economics of the home video business. After spending years at Saregama India to grow the music and film business, Dayani first came out with a mass-based pricing for DVDs and is now lapping up Hindi movie content with an aggression that critics say is making the home video market "unviable."

Dayani was quick to spot the gap in the market nationally, pertaining to home video in all languages and he made the first marches in regional and Hindi library film content. He simultaneously exploited his skills to build a pan India 'FMCG-style' distribution network.

But a big cloud hung over the model as recent Bollywood titles were hard to get because Bollywood producers like Yash Raj and Reliance Big Pictures have their own home video labels. Picking up recent individual titles like Golmaal Returns and Kidnap in 2008, Dayani pursued the chase and was rewarded towards the end of the year with a UTV deal for 25 movies.

Dayani will get to celebrate 2009 with the distribution of film titles from UTV that include Jodhaa Akbar, Race, Fashion, Khosla Ka Ghosla, A Wednesday, Fashion and Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye. His challenge, though, will be to build a broader base for sourcing recent content.

Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani: The founder promoter duo of Excel Entertainment showed that they have what it takes in 2008 by experimenting with a film about aging rock musicians wanting to make a comeback. There was no big star cast and a newcomer actor in director Farhan Akhtar. Rock On!! proved a good draw at the box office and went on to become a cult and path breaking film with its snazzy cinematography and its music selling like hot cakes.

Ritesh Sidhwani: New generation movie makers
The duo has previously tasted success - either at the box office or critically - with Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, Don, and Honey Moon Travels. And they look set to replicate that in the coming months with Luck By Chance which should once again pull in audiences into the theatres.

While Sidhwani focuses on budgets and marketing, Akhtar keeps his eye on the creative aspects, directing, acting and scripting. A team that has brought in new sensibilities into the world of Indian cinema and one which will continue to do so in the years to come.

Ajay Bijli...
Ajay Bijli and Sanjeev Bijli: The two brothers made the world of Indian cinema sit up and take notice of them. Starting out as exhibitors, probably the first to introduce multiplexes to India in the nineties, they have moved into film distribution and even production.

They were behind one of the biggest blockbusters of the first half of the year, Jaane Tu Ya Janne Na, which they co-produced with Bollywood's new heavyweight Aamir Khan. And then they also had a hit towards the end of 2007 in Taare Zameen Par which they once again co-produced with Khan. The film went on to gross Rs 1.31 billion worldwide and even had Disney buying the home video rights for an international release of the film.

Sanjeev Bijli: Power players
Not just that: they are also seeking to invest close to Rs 1 billion in films by the end of this year.

Their vision to be involved in the vertical value chain of the movie business got the thumbs up from ICICI Ventures and JP Morgan when it invested Rs 1.2 billion for a 40 per cent piece of PVR Pictures, an unlisted subsidiary of PVR Cinemas, giving the startup an awesome valuation of Rs 3 billion.

Additionally, their plan to set up 250 multiplexes is progressing - they already have 100 screens or more running nationally. The brothers Bijli have emerged as a force extraordinaire in the business of Bollywood.

Aditya Chopra: Fought his way back
Aditya Chopra: December 2008 and it looked like the miserable run India's premier film studio had been having would continue. Yashraj Films had had a string of non-performers right from 2007: Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Aaja Nachle, Tashan, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, Bachana Ae Haseeno and Roadside Romeo. Clearly, the brand Chopra looked eroded and jaded.

Then came Rab Ne Banadi Jodi. A film about a commoner undergoing a transformation into a dance-loving dude to win over his wife's love. Aditya Chopra decided to helm it after a hiatus of eight years - he had last directed Mohabbatein, which too was a mega hit.

Starring Shahrukh Khan and newcomer Anushka Sharma, RNBJ, struck a chord with the masses despite a lukewarm reception from critics. It went to take in record collections of Rs 900 million in its first week of release and at the time of writing had collected Rs 1.2 billion worldwide. Brand Adi and Brand Yashraj got a shot in the arm.

Adi also collected points during the year for releasing India's first international quality full length animation feature Roadside Romeo as a co-production with Walt Disney Co. While the film bombed because Indian cinema viewers are apathetic towards animation movies, the mousehouse must be pleased as Roadside Romeo was a generational leap for India's animation sector in terms of the film's animation and production values.

Vipul Shah: The man with the midas touch
Vipul Shah: His talent and demonstrated understanding of Indian audiences has forced Indian cinema to rethink the demographics of its targeted audiences. While his directorial venture Namastey London only led to creating a new set of audiences amongst the NRIs globally, his production Singh Is Kinng created history by grabbing almost Rs 1.07 billion at the global box office in 2008.

Result? His magic touch got Fox Star Studios to knock at his door. The Murdoch-owned studio took first major stride into the over $2 billion Indian cinema industry by signing a multi-film deal with Vipul.

For 2009, Shah will initially partner with Fox Star Studios for the production of two films - a romantic comedy and a special effects driven action movie. He plans to utilise the best of Hollywood in terms of technology, writers and, of course, marketing and distribution skills to channelise his products into the global market.
Fox India is also looking forward to remaking some of 20th Century Fox's Hollywood films in Hindi with Shah. Vipul seems to have a lot of pull.

Additionally, Shah, who has always piggybacked on the success of Akshay Kumar, one of the costliest Bollywood stars to be a customary in all of Shah's movies, is set for his litmus test. His next big budget movie London Dreams boasts of a stellar cast with Salman Khan, Ajay Devgan and Asin, who would be seen for the second time in Bollywood after her debut in the Aamir Khan -starrer Ghajini.

Sandeep Bhargava: Risk Taker
Sandeep Bhargava: Sandeep Bhargava has an appetite to take risks. The former advertising professional and Sahara Motion Pictures betted big bucks behind big ticketed blockbusters in 2008. And he came out tops. Singh is Kinng was the year's biggest hit, until he distributed Ghajini at the year end. The latter went on to break records and emerged as the biggest grosser by taking home Rs 1.7 billion. He also did well with Golmaal Returns.

And that came on his follow through when he distributed 2007's big grossers Jab We Met and Welcome.

He also had his lemons in Bhoothnath. Several new projects are on the shooting floor, either being produced, co-produced or distributed:: Hhey Gujju, Fruit 'N' Nut, Kaun Bola, Life Partner, King Kaun, Road Movie, Paanch Pandav, Kidnap, Golmaal Returns, Dil Kabadd, Little Zizou, Loot, Shorkut - The con is on. A powerful roster of films if there were any. Bhargava obviously believes in doing it with a bang.

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