Given Queen’s success, Viacom18’s COO Ajit Andhare believes the company’s strategy to avoid formulaic scripts is justified
Ajit Andhare believes that cinema is an evolving phenomenon. As a reflective medium, it is one of the most influential factors that shape society. Andhare’s views on the subject should matter, given that in the last year alone, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, of which he is the COO, has released 14 movies—of which more than half were hits. Andhare, who spent 12 years at Hindustan UniLever before he founded Colosceum Media Pvt Ltd (they produced shows like Roadies, Splitsvilla and Masterchef India), has been at his current posting for a year. And during this time, the company has had successes like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Queen. With plans to expand to the South and Hollywood, he shares his strategy for the year:
How are you taking Viacom 18 in a new direction?
The key agenda is definitely to drive profitability in the motion pictures business—with our focus on well-written films with new talent. It is challenging to create concept-high cinema that is commercially viable. Once we shortlist a script, it goes through multiple layers of testing with the creative, production and commercial divisions of the studio. We have constantly picked differentiated cinema over formulaic scripts. Last year, we had an immersive biopic like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and gripping stories like Madras Café and Special Chabbis. This year, we began with Queen, which has grossed `100 crore (global ly), underscoring the triumph of content yet again.
Your views on regional cinema?
There is tremendous growth in regional cinema, as it has a better recovery model. Along with our Hindi releases, we are also about to roll out Nee Enge En Anbe (Tamil) and (Telugu)—remakes of the successful Kahaani, with actress Nayantara.
The biggest differences between cinema in the South and Bollywood?
The major distinction I find in the case of South Indian films is the consumption appetite. The South industry is also more disciplined and technically superior. Projects are finished in the stipulated time.
What about your Hollywood projects?
We market and distribute the lineup of Paramount Pictures in India. This year, Transformers 4-Age of Extinction will release on June 27, Hercules on July 25 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on August 8.
‘‘Our next release, Manjunath, is based on the life of an IIM graduate who was murdered for exposing the petrol adulteration scam in Uttar Pradesh in 2005. We’ve also produced Margarita with a Straw, by director Shonali Bose, starring Kalki Koechlin. We have Gabbar and Mary Kom lined up for the end of the year.’’
— Mrinalini Sundar