Distribution is no easy task. After being a part of the industry since ages, and knowing it inside out, Marketing Head of Cinemax, Girish Wankhede, is confident about his role as a 'Release Partner' and supporting the struggling independent filmmakers. Here's a tete-a-tete with the man himself!
Why do you want to go ahead with independent cinema?
When I started my career in Bollywood, 15 years ago, that time was basically time of independent producers, who’d make independent films and release them. Now, these independent producers were like Kuku Kohli (Phool Aur Kaante); Saawan Kumar Tak (Souten); Vimal Kumar (Suno Sasurjee); K.C.Bokadia (Teri Meherbaniyan); Salim (Doodh Ka Karz) and many more. That was the time, when independent producers would make big films and release them in a big way. Gradually, the Studios started entering Indian market and the independent producers started fading away. The traditional Production Houses like Yash Raj Films, UTV, etc also started making more films in a calendar year. Now, with the Studios coming in, they had their own mechanism of distribution and the whole scene of production and distribution shifted to a few Indian traditional Production Houses and a few international Studios. So, the current state is all dominated by the international Studios like Sony, Warner Bros, Fox Star, etc and traditional Indian Production Houses like Yash Raj, Dharma, Balaji, etc. In this scenario, there is very little room left for independent filmmakers. It becomes very difficult for independent filmmakers to make films with big names and distribute them reasonably. Many good films are being made with initial euphoria, but, later die down due to lack of funds for marketing and distribution. Passionate filmmakers are there, but are insecure about the marketing plans and distribution chains. This is the time, I feel, that is right to support such independent filmmakers and enter this field.
So, how do you plan to go ahead with this?
There are films like ‘A Wednesday’, ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’ and ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama’, which were distributed by reputed studios. But still there are a large number of similar good films, which don’t get patronage of these studios. There, we come in the picture. We want to support independent films, through our chain. Having a pan-India presence with 141 screens across 40 locations, it’s natural progression for us to start distributing films now. A good film released in our 100-120 screens, across India can also be a respectable release. If needed, then we can accommodate the other chains also, wherever we’re not present.
Since when did you start distribution business and what are your future plans?
We started six months ago with a Marathi film, Adgula Madgula. We have 66 screens in Maharashtra and have presence in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Pune, Malegaon and Nagpur. We accommodated some more screens from some other chains in Aurangabad, Latur and did a release in 80 screens, because naturally, it’s a big release for a Marathi film. And, here, am talking only about multiplexes. So, this is a good proposition, as being one of the largest multiplex chains in Maharashtra, we can release Marathi films with strong marketing support. Then, there was another Shemaroo film, ‘Staying Alive’ starring Anant Mahadevan and Saurabh Shukla, which was released across India in select screens. Then, we did some more films and now, we’re looking out for two major releases in the coming months. One of them is Anant Mahadevan’s Jackie Shroff starrer ‘Life Is Good’ and Ujjwal Thengdi’s (Vajir fame) ‘In The Name Of Tai’. Also, lots of other deals are in the pipeline.
How will you turn this into a full-fledged distribution strategy?
We like to call ourselves as ‘Release partner’ (smiles). Now that, the specific branding space and trailers cost money, we support the film by running the trailers in select screens for 2 weeks. Specific branding sites and standees and backlits are all provided and our website and Facebook page is used vigorously to promote the films. Our newspaper ads in respective cities give prominence to these films. And various events are planned. We do first look launch, music release, city tours, radio activation, and consumer engagement programs across India to create buzz around the film. With 360 degree marketing plan, we promote the films in every possible capacity. With tremendous marketing support, coming out from a chain, while distributing the film, the producer saves lot of money and hassles, and is also sure about the confirmation of shows. We watch the film and guarantee a certain no of shows, early at the beginning of the negotiations. It gives clarity to producers and they become more confident about the release.
How do you select the films, which you want to distribute?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. So, we watch the film and decide. We see the film along with our team and brainstorm. With an experienced team, we have a certain sense of cinema and we work on that. If the film excites us, we readily agree to distribute it and go full fledged with the promotion. Of course, the commercial terms are discussed beforehand and a marketing plan is elaborated. We’ve been very selective so far and confirm association, only after internal discussions and evaluation of various probabilities. I meet 5-6 producers every week, and attend several screenings. In the process, I happen to strike gold. It’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes. But as long as we’re enjoying it and getting the right films, we’re game.
Has life got busier for you, after being conferred the title of ‘Busiest Man in Bollywood’?
(Laughs) Life is same as before with marketing, customer activation, public relations and distribution, you are in constant flow. Being in mainstream cinema, gives you great satisfaction, when you see your contribution being recognized. I am much honored and I am more motivated now, than ever before. Am just like any other individual in the film industry, who wants to give his best and take the industry forward.
Being in the industry for so long, and having worked in all facets of movie making, we’ve heard that, you’re working on your own script…
(With a coy smile) You seem to know more about me, than I do. I’ll let you know at the right moment. Till then, it’s all under wraps.
(Girish gets busy and it’s time for us to leave)