EXCLUSIVE: RRR is a title that has swarmed international audiences’ gaze towards India. It created history by bagging the first Golden Globe for the country and now anticipates the Academy Awards. The song ‘Naatu Naatu’ is nominated in the ‘Original Song’ category, which was once won by AR Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire. Composer MM Keeravani and lyricist Chandrabose will be competing with stars like Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
Penned and helmed by SS Rajamouli, (Rise, Roar, Revolt) is a historical fantasy that tells the story of two revolutionaries who fight against British rule in India – superstars Ram Charan and Jr NTR play the lead roles. Bollywood’s Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn have extended appearances too. Among India’s most expensive films, the dazzling action epic has been a huge box-office success – not just locally but also in the US. The Hindi dubbed version of the film on Netflix was among the platform’s Top 10 most-watched titles in the US for weeks when it was released in May 2022.
Dr Jayantilal Gada, head of Pen India Ltd, is the man who presented the epic to Hindi audiences. With over three decades of experience, He has successfully led the company through the transition from video, audio and terrestrial to satellite and now digital. Pen movies, which began as a popular video library, is now distributing and backing some major film titles. This mainstream transition began with Kahaani (2012) and in 2022, commenced the year thunderously with Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Mr Gada joins Filme Shilmy exclusively to discuss RRR’s global acclaim and his vision of acquiring Indian film titles.
Congratulations on RRR making waves globally at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and now, the Oscars. How do you feel this success will help not just Pen Movies but India as a whole?
For RRR we are just not a distributor, we are the presenter of the Hindi release, and we hold electronic rights to multiple languages. We are proud to associate with it. The film has proved what I always believed, that India has talent like Rajamouli and the ability to produce content that can go global.
It surely helped Pen Studios and we thank Rajamouli Ji for giving us a chance to associate with him for such a mega project. We have had a terrific year – the world is talking about RRR today, and the film has been in news for a whole year now and will continue even further with it being nominated for Oscars as well now.
Having distributed and presented the movie, what have you discovered the most about South-Indian cinema’s appeal and audience base?
We have had a history of associating with south content since 2004, we dubbed a film called Anji in Hindi as Diler which starred Chiranjeevi. Add to that we have been one of the biggest aggregators of south films, so this wasn’t new. In fact, Pen Studios has associated with over 1125 films so far and a huge chunk is from the South. We believe in content that can entertain the audience, it can be from any language or part of the world. We are always happy to associate with a good project.
RRR has been sensationally appreciated by Western audiences. Why do you think this movie has really struck a chord with them?
We had anticipated that it would be appreciated across the globe. S.S. Rajamouli has the ability to produce content that can strike a chord with everyone on this planet. Pen Studios plans to release it in as many as 50 languages. To date, released it in Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, English, Portuguese, Turkish, Spanish, Marathi, Oriya, Bengali and Bhojpuri. The movie is already sold and is running successfully on various national and international platforms. Negotiations are going on for more languages. Many viewers watch it again when it’s dropped in their own language. Rajamouli’s blockbuster RRR is a phenomenal film that has crossed all language barriers, and we want the film to reach everyone in every corner of the world.
From foreign conquerors to colonialism, India as a country has endured a lot. How important is it for commercial movies like this to address this to international audiences?
RRR is purely about entertainment, the film has no agenda to showcase anyone in bad light or good light. It’s driven by content for entertainment purposes only.
South-Indian cinema has evolved and becomes hugely popular. There were collaborations with the Hindi circuit too and it’s great that crossovers have increased again. But for how long do you feel this ‘pan-Indian’ trend will last?
As I have always said, southern films, actors and vice versa were always appreciated. It’s just that people have taken notice of it in a big way now. Add to it, the Pandemic opened the doors for OTT. Content from across the world poured in and was available on one platform. People had a chance to not just sample it but understand it too. Hence, it grew.
…And going forward, how will you know what type of product to invest in?
We also follow a good script and good content. We have associated with very good makers like S.S. Rajamouli, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Shankar and Sujoy Ghosh etc. That’s the aim is always to work with good directors, actors and technicians that strive to give their best. So do we.
Hindi cinema unfortunately has faced a huge backlash from audiences and several major titles have failed at the box office. Why do you think this is the case and What can be done to improve the quality of cinema?
It is not about a genre or story. Look at Pathaan, it has smashed all records and is a deserving blockbuster. Then we have RRR, which has received so much love. We have a Gujarati film Chello Show (The Last Show) that was famously recommended to the Oscars. Audiences love a good film, and it’s the audience that makes the film big or we can say hit or flop, it’s not the makers. Pen Studios itself has had mega box office success multiple times in 2022 with films like Gangubai Kathiawadi, RRR, Vikram, PS-1, Sita Ramam and others.