IN HIS FA­THER'S FOOT­STEPS

Bhushan Ku­mar is the busiest pro­ducer around. In con­ver­sa­tion with So­ci­ety, the dash­ing scion of T-Se­ries dis­cusses films, mu­sic and more

Society - - MELANGE - | By SAN­DEEP HATTANGADI

Bhushan Ku­mar, the head hon­cho of T-Se­ries, is rear­ing to go with a kitty full of projects. Along with pro­duc­ing a string of con­tent-driven films, he is leav­ing no stone un­turned to re­vive the in­de­pen­dent mu­sic scene in the coun­try—a do­main which T-Se­ries ruled in the 90s un­der the lead­er­ship of his fa­ther Gul­shan Ku­mar. Over to the dy­namic en­tre­pre­neur, who af­ter his fa­ther, con­tin­ues to be a guid­ing light to many artistes even to­day.

A lot of ac­tors now have ac­tively got into pro­duc­tion and di­rec­tion—Ak­shay Ku­mar, Ajay Devgn, Aamir Khan, Sal­man Khan to name a few. Who do you think is a re­ally good pro­ducer as much as a good ac­tor among this new breed of ac­tor-pro­duc­ers?

I would cor­rect you here a bit. Not just a lot, but al­most all ac­tors have got into film pro­duc­tion. And why not? The en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness is grow­ing every year and ac­tors af­ter hav­ing spent so many years in the busi­ness have a fairly good un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try and film­mak­ing. If they are con­fi­dent and want to spread their wings as stake­hold­ers by get­ting into pro­duc­tion, they should. It’s a free world. Ul­ti­mately, only those who are telling en­gag­ing sto­ries will do well. I think cur­rently, all of them are do­ing a very good job in their re­spec­tive spa­ces.

So ac­tors in­creas­ingly pro­duc­ing their own films doesn’t pose a threat to the com­mu­nity of ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion houses like yours, does it?

No, that’s a neg­a­tive and nar­row view to take. Film­mak­ing is a col­lab­o­ra­tive process and a creative one. Ac­tors be­ing creative people also con­trib­ute im­mensely to the process of sto­ry­telling and bring their ex­pe­ri­ence to the table be­cause ul­ti­mately ev­ery­one wants to make a good film which will work and when the film works, ev­ery­one in the chain ben­e­fits. There are some films where ac­tors like to be in­volved as pro­duc­ers and there are oth­ers where they take a back­seat and are happy to act without the has­sle of hav­ing to look into pro­duc­tion needs.

Why did Ak­shay Ku­mar drop out of The Moghul— the biopic on your fa­ther Gul­shan Ku­mar? Who will be es­say­ing the role of your fa­ther now?

This project is still in the plan­ning stage. We would re­quest you to wait for a few more days for a proper an­nounce­ment.

You re­cently an­nounced an in­vest­ment of 500 crores in your fu­ture films…

The suc­cess of con­tent-driven films such as Hindi Medium and Tumhari Sulu boosted our con­fi­dence last year. Hindi Medium got the Best Film Award at Film­fare Awards early this year. Irrfan also bagged the Best Ac­tor award for the same film. Sim­i­larly, Vidya won the Best Ac­tress Award for Tumhari Sulu. In such a sce­nario, you feel ready to soar and take up more re­spon­si­bil­ity and spread your wings. By God’s grace, we have a very good team at T-Se­ries to look into the var­i­ous de­part­ments. So this year, we are pro­duc­ing around 10 films of dif­fer­ent gen­res and it re­quired that kind of in­vest­ment. I am sure you have seen Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid and Black­mail, films which have al­ready re­leased in the last quar­ter. Now, you tell us whether we are on the right track or not with our in­vest­ment in films?

What are the pa­ram­e­ters for you be­fore in­vest­ing in a project?

At T-Se­ries, we as a team, look for con­tent-driven sub­jects that are re­lat­able as you can clearly see in films such as Tumhari Sulu, Hindi Medium, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Raid. To a large ex­tent, I go by in­stinct. If a story idea ex­cites me on first hear­ing, we have crossed the first bridge. When we first got into mak­ing fea­ture films, we were kind of test­ing the wa­ters. With the suc­cess of Hindi Medium and Tumhari Sulu, we felt more con­fi­dent. We are keen on telling all kinds of sto­ries at T-Se­ries, pro­vided they are well-told sto­ries.

What’s your take on the dwin­dling mu­sic in­dus­try?

The in­dus­try is do­ing very well, thanks to new plat­forms on which mu­sic is now avail­able. Mu­sic stream­ing ser­vices such as Saavn and Gaana have made mu­sic a lot more ac­ces­si­ble to con­sumers. Ear­lier you had to phys­i­cally go to a mu­sic store to pur­chase a CD, which is no longer the case. In the digital age, that in­con­ve­nience no longer ex­ists. You can be sit­ting any­where and can lis­ten to any kind of mu­sic from the world, as per your mood. It is avail­able on de­mand on some en­gine or por­tal. Un­like in the olden days, you do not re­quire phys­i­cal space to store mu­sic, and nav­i­ga­tion and the search for mu­sic of your choice is a lot eas­ier. Thanks to tech­nol­ogy these newer plat­forms are able to recog­nise your taste and make sug­ges­tions of sim­i­lar kind for you to

lis­ten. Be­sides there are mu­sic chan­nels that play mu­sic all day long and YouTube is the best ‘on de­mand’ mu­sic des­ti­na­tion. Nu­mer­ous ra­dio sta­tions also serve the dose of mu­sic that lis­ten­ers need. The non-film mu­sic genre has also grown like it was in the 90s and early 2000s and is only ex­pected to grow big­ger.

T-Se­ries has had a huge con­tri­bu­tion in the in­de­pen­dent non-film mu­sic in­dus­try. Any plans of re­viv­ing that in­dus­try, which is on the verge of ex­tinc­tion?

In the digital age, where phys­i­cal sale of mu­sic is no longer what it used to be, it makes sense to take a slightly dif­fer­ent route. We re­leased sev­eral sin­gles last year which were hugely ap­pre­ci­ated. We flagged off our non-film mu­sic cat­e­gory this year with Ghar Se Nikalte Hi by Ar­maan Ma­lik. This year alone we are go­ing to be launch­ing more than a dozen sin­gles fea­tur­ing artistes such as Neha Kakkar, Akhil Sachdeva, Guru Rand­hawa, Ju­bin Nau­tiyal, Neeti Mo­han, Ari­jit Singh, Gippy Gre­wal among oth­ers. This is one of the big­gest steps that T-Se­ries will be tak­ing into the field of non-film mu­sic. The songs will range from party tracks to soul­ful ro­man­tic songs to up­beat lively tunes. That’s not all. The videos of each of these songs will be vis­ual treats and will be shot in var­i­ous ex­otic lo­ca­tions within and out­side the coun­try.

You have launched many singers who are pop­u­lar names to­day. Who are your favourites?

My fa­ther was some­one who in his time had launched many a new tal­ent, who are do­ing very well even to­day. Sonu Nigam is one of them. I am do­ing noth­ing new but walk­ing on the foot­steps of my fa­ther and I am thank­ful to God that new singers and artistes that we have launched to­day are also do­ing well. They have signed up with us and they are like family mem­bers

be­cause they are T-Se­ries artistes. They are all very dear to us and we are proud of what each one brings to the table.

When can we ex­pect a 24-hour mu­sic chan­nel from T-Se­ries?

That’s an in­ter­est­ing thought but we al­ready have a 24-hour pres­ence on YouTube. The T-Se­ries YouTube Chan­nel is num­ber one, not in In­dia but glob­ally. With its au­di­ence base spread across In­dia, US, Canada UK, Main­land Europe, UAE, Pak­istan, Bangladesh, ASEAN, Aus­tralia, New Zealand etc, T-Se­ries has ex­panded its pres­ence across mul­ti­ple digital plat­forms and now reaches more than one bil­lion digital con­sumers a month.

Your family, es­pe­cially the women (your wife and sis­ters), are all suc­cess­ful in their own right.

My wife Divya is an in­de­pen­dent woman and has man­aged to strike a fine bal­ance with man­ag­ing her ca­reer and family. She di­rected two films Yaariyan and Sanam Re, both were prof­itable for the com­pany. My sis­ter Tulsi is a very fine singer and is do­ing very well. My other sis­ter Khushali is a huge sup­port, do­ing very well also. She looks af­ter our work in the Delhi of­fice.

Tell us about your forth­com­ing projects.

We are bustling with en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm for 2018. Our forth­com­ing projects in­clude Fanne Khan, Batti Gul Me­ter Chalu, Batla House star­ring John Abra­ham, ed­i­tor Akiv Ali’s un­ti­tled de­but film star­ring Ajay Devgn and Tabu, Arjun Pa­tiala, Nawabza­ade, a dance film star­ring Varun Dhawan and Ka­t­rina Kaif, an­other film Time To Dance star­ring Sooraj Pan­choli and Is­abelle Kaif and Cheat In­dia, star­ring Em­raan Hashmi. In mu­sic we will be re­leas­ing a lot many sin­gles this year. You can see we have a lot on our plate in 2018. We are op­ti­mistic about the work we are do­ing.

What about web se­ries and short films?

Last year in early De­cem­ber, we re­leased Bul­bul, a short film based on a story by late Kun­dan Shahji. It was re­ceived with tremen­dous pos­i­tive re­sponse. The film was even nom­i­nated in the newly in­tro­duced short film cat­e­gory at the Film­fare Awards in Jan­uary. So yes, it is some­thing that is there on our radar and we will def­i­nitely ex­plore it in the fu­ture. Digital is the way to go. It is the fu­ture. Right now, we are con­sol­i­dat­ing our place as mak­ers of fea­ture films but yes, as some­one in the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing con­tent, web se­ries is some­thing that we will con­sider.

...wItH JoHn ABrA­HAm AnD NIkkHIl AD­vAnI, tHE pro­DuCEr-AC­tor tEAm oF tHEIr up­Com­InG film Bat­laHouse

...with wife Divya Khosla

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