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“I have always had a lot of faith in Himesh…” An interview with Vivek Singhania
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He was the consulting producer of Aap Kaa Surroor The Moviee The Real Luv Story and the producer of other films including Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Chura Liya Hai Tumne. Now he’s back with another film—Karma—featuring a multinational cast and crew. You guessed it! I’m talking about none other than Vivek Singhania. Below follows an in-depth interview with Vivek Singhania, in which he discusses Karma, film production, plagiarism and piracy in Bollywood, and much more…

Tell us a little bit about your latest venture, Karma.

Karma - Crime, Passion, Reincarnation is an English language film made in India with a truly multinational cast and crew. The film deals with karma and reincarnation in mystical India in a mainstream format. The film was produced by me with two other Indian producers and directed by the famous Indian director M R Shahjahan. The DOP is Italian, the editor is Austrian, the production designer is Indian, the costume designer is Croatian, the make up and hair styling duo are English, as also for the location of the sound recordists, the composer is from the USA, one lead actor is the famous Vijayendra Ghatge (Devdas) from India, most of the others are from USA with one German-Polish actress.

This was my attempt at trying something unusual and futuristic. I think in view of the globalization scenario in most industries worldwide we in the cinema business too needed to make a start, so here we are with this film.

After producing mainstream Bollywood films such as Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne, it seems you are moving towards more international projects…

Yes, I am now interested to make more international projects and my focus is being diverted there, certainly. But, my interest in Bollywood remains and there are some interesting projects coming up here, too. But, in the next few years it is likely that I would be spending a considerable amount of my resources and energies on international projects.

What factors do you pay attention to when deciding to produce a film?

First and foremost the script, then the cast and the economic viability of course…the choice of director too, is vital.

You were the executive producer for Aap Kaa Surroor The Moviee The Real Luv Story, which ended up being quite successful at the box office. However, initially, did you have any doubts about how successful the film would be since Bollywood films featuring singers such as Sonu Nigam and Lucky Ali have not done too well in the past?

I was the consulting producer of Aap Kaa Surroor. Personally, I have always had a lot of faith in Himesh, ever since he composed music for me in my film Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne. I have also seen his meteoric rise as a singer and then stage performer. I was witness to the fans hysteria in Wembley, Kolkata, and many other places. His popularity is far far greater than what Bollywood has so far accepted and admitted. His fan following was far greater even before Aap Kaa Surroor than not only India's best singers but even some of our very very famous filmstars.

How did you get into the world of showbiz?

Well, it was by design, not by accident. Even as a child, I always wanted to make films and I'm very happy that I am doing, something that gives me great pleasure.

Being a film producer, I'm sure you've observed a lot about the industry and its trends. These days a lot of emphasis is given to the marketing/PR of films to lure audiences into the theatres for the first week, and most of the money is recovered through the first couple of days a film is screened at theatres. How much value do you give to film promotion? Do you think a good script is more important, or do you think it is how well you can market a script which matters, even if the script does not have much substance in and of itself?

Marketing and PR is very important today, but I still feel that a good script should be the start point of a film project. My contention is that good marketing and PR is certainly necessary for a bumper opening of the film, but it is only a good film that will sustain it beyond the first two weekends. And, if you have the marketing and publicity skills why can’t you simply work on a good script too, and a good film as well? It’s really not that difficult, and it should always be the filmmaker's goal.

Bollywood is a business, and like any other business, it involves a lot of financial risk. It is quite hard to predict the fate of most films since big budget films like Saawariya don't do too well, yet at the same time, low-budget films like Khosla Ka Ghosla end up being quite successful. What do you think are the main ingredients to a successful Bollywood film?

I don’t think any of us know the formula for making a successful film. If we did then why would so many of our films flop? And, I also think it is not just a good film or a good script coupled with good marketing that can make a film successful at the box office. There's a large LUCK factor involved as well. The timing of release, the exhibition plan, other events competing with the film's release, etc. all matter in the final run.

There has been and continues to be a lot of emphasis on the globalization of Bollywood—Bollywood films are regularly screened at foreign film festivals, and foreign companies such as Walt Disney, Viacom, Sony, and Time Warner have been investing in Bollywood. Due to foreign investment, the industry has grown a lot this year and Bollywood is predicted to grow to about 25 billion dollars by 2011. Why do you think it has taken so long for Bollywood to move towards globalization?

I personally feel that even the most successful Bollywood films will only appeal to a very niche international audience. I think the only countries where we find some fans and some following for mainstream Bollywood films amongst the local population (apart from non resident Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis) are Germany, Austria and Switzerland. To make a truly globalized Bollywood film, we will have to cater to a broader international taste.

Is this one of the reasons you film in foreign locations such as Germany, Austria, New Zealand, and so forth?

No, no. Filming abroad does not amount to making an international film. Those Bollywood films are still essentially meant for the Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi audiences in their own countries and those living as non resident abroad. I think for widespread international acceptance, the subjects must be more universally acceptable.

Bollywood is known for creating films that are very similar to Hollywood films, sometimes even to the extent that it appears to be blatant plagiarism. What is your take on this?

Sadly, this is true and must stop. All of us in Bollywood are always looking for original subjects and there are times when we hear or read a script that we like not even knowing that it has been inspired or lifted from another Hollywood film. I do hope we will have a far greater number of original scripts made into films in Bollywood than is the case now.

How do you think Bollywood can combat plagiarism and piracy?

I think plagiarism and piracy will gradually come to an end anyway as most Hollywood films are now released simultaneously in India in theatres and on DVD. Besides, on our part we should all obviously explicitly tell our writers and directors that we want original scripts, so they only bring those to us. Besides our stars too, must insist on only original scripts being presented to them—that will also help.

As Bollywood moves towards globalization, do you think that more production homes will be on the lookout for foreign PR/Marketing firms to promote Bollywood films to non-Indian audiences?

Yes, certainly. When we look at new markets we will need experts there to help us out.

What are some changes you would like to see taking place in Bollywood?

I think for the sake of better quality and better budget control, I would like to see cast and crew working on only one film at a time, unlike the present scenario where they are all too busy doing too many films. This is definitely not the best way to work.

What are some major issues you see affecting the Bollywood film industry?

Piracy above all. It is very disheartening.

The Bollywood scene is dominated by big production homes like Yash Raj Films, UTV, Adlabs, etc. which churn out many films each year. Do you see yourself moving towards that direction, or do you prefer to produce a select few films each year?

As a producer, I can always make many films at a time. But, I would like to concentrate on good scripts and good projects. If I can get many of those in a year then certainly, I would do that many. But, it is not always so easy to get so many good scripts and good projects ready at the same time.

Tell us about your forthcoming projects. Are you planning to direct any films in the near future?

I am not really looking at direction, at the moment. But, I will be announcing some interesting projects soon.

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