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
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