Five years ago, Anil Ambani entered the entertainment industry with a bang, acquiring Manmohan Shetty's Adlabs for a reported Rs 400 crore. Initially, Reliance Big Pictures had to bear the burden of previous commitments like Love Story 2050, Marigold and Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. However, 2010 opened well for the company with a huge spillover from 3 Idiots. Midway through the year though, it is reeling after two debacles, Kites and Raavan.
Trade analyst Vinod Mirani points out that when Ambani entered the picture there was stiff competition to grab big projects. "But they miscalculated their expectations from these films for which they had paid astronomical prices," he explains. "The company is now reworking its strategies and things could turn around with a few good films."
Sanjeev Lamba, CEO, Reliance Big Pictures, reasons that setting up a production division takes time, so acquiring films seemed the perfect way to start.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra attributes the losses to the corporate backing a project rather than the movie. "They banked more on the people involved, like Rakesh Roshan, Anurag Basu and Hrithik Roshan in the case of Kites, and Mani Ratnam, Abhishek and Aishwarya Bachchan and South superstar Vikram for Raavan, and ended up losing over Rs 100 crore," says Mehra.
Lamba insists that recession and delayed releases did them in. "In Kites, the delay was because we were considering an English version for the international market and in Raavan, because Mani took ill," explains Lamba.
Now the company has stopped acquiring films and has decided to only produce and co-produce films henceforth. "This will help us to keep a control over quality and budget. If it’s a co-production, we will willingly share the profits," says Lamba, optimistic about delivering on the upcoming Break Ke Baad, a co-production with Kunal Kohli, and Don 2 that is expected to start in September, wrap up by next April and open in December 2011.
Mirani shares his positivity: "They have an able team and, with the right scripts and budgets, should deliver." Mehra is more sceptical: "Only BR Chopra has a script and dialogue department with five writers permanently on his payroll. The corporates need to follow his example. And once the script is locked, they should not let stars dictate any changes. Eventually, only stories sell, not stars."
Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag
Do Knot Disturb
Break Ke Baad