Ramesh Taurani (RT): We were initially a music company, which we launched in 1981. Since we wanted to get into films, we started buying film music in 1988. We wanted to buy the rights to big films and work with big producers, so we bought N Chandra’s Narasimha, Feroz Khan’s Yalgaar, Subhash Ghai’s Khalnayak, Indra Kumar’s Raja and made our mark. Everyone knew that Tips paisa baant raha hain, market mein naya murga aaya hain toh isko loot lo.
We were thus able to introduce good filmmakers to good music composers. Then with the music cassettes, which used to sell for Rs 18 a piece back then, we drove the price up to ` 55 apeice. So we have always given producers more money and brought in money from the audience.
We started our film production with a joint venture with Sajid Nadiadwala (Jeet), the Morani brothers (Raja Hindustani) and N Chandra (Beqabu). After we gained sufficient experience with movie production, we went solo. Coolie No. 1 was our first solo project. Vashu Bhagnani wanted to get into production at the time, so we made him handle the production of this film. From Auzaar onwards, we started producing our own films.
Auzaar to Ramaiya Vastavaiya, we have made 33 films, and 95 per cent of them have been successful. Among the few that didn’t work was The Legend Of Bhagat Singh but that’s because there were four other movies on the same person releasing on the same date.
We even spoke to Sunny Deol and suggested that we would discuss each other’s films and decide that only the better one would get made. We met with Dharamji and Bobby Deol but Sunny did not agree to our proposal. We even told him that we would make a big film with Bobby in it as Rajkumar Santoshi had another concept but he would not agree to anything we said.
BOI: From Auzaar to Phata Poster Nikhla Hero, what is the biggest difference you see in the industry now, especially in the Tips the banner?
Kumar Taurani (KT): The industry is much more organised, and corporate studios have upped the game. Everyone has to adjust to that and Tips too is in the process of doing that.
RT: Ours is an actor-driven industry and we all know it’s relationships that matter. I have never once told an actor, ‘Arrey, chalna baithte hain ek director ke saath aur kuch work out karte hain.’ Whenever we have wanted a big star for a film, we have presented a concept, whether it was Saif (Ali Khan) for Race and Race 2, Ranbir (Kapoor) for Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani or Salman (Khan) for Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai...
Sohail Khan narrated the script of Auzaar to us and we liked the story. Then we approached Salman Khan. We approach an actor only if the script demands their presence in the film.
Another difference in the industry is that everything is more professional; everyone is organised; everyone comes prepared, whether actors or directors.
Things were very different 15 years ago. Today, a new multiplex is opening almost every two months, and there are many more screens now. Had our Kya Kehna released today, it would have earned Rs 60 crore. Even The Legend Of Bhagat Singh would have crossed Ts 100 crore. Everyone compared our version of Bhagat Singh with Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, and the reviewers loved the film. It was also an entertaining film. We are currently in the best-ever phase of the industry, when good films are doing good business.
KT: The script and the actors are the most important factors; then the budget.
RT: There are times when we have loved a script and tried to bring a director and good actor on board and we have dropped the project if we haven’t been able to get who we wanted. If your casting is not right, the film will not work.
BOI: Speaking of Kya Kehna… The film was about a student getting pregnant. Why did you attempt such a bold theme at the time?
KT: It was a challenge then, and the trade tried to stop us from making that film. As a result, we had to stop work on the film mid-way, and when we restarted the project, people asked us why we were insistent on making that film. They said, ‘Who will watch Chandrachur Singh and Saif Ali Khan?’ Preity Zinta’s Soldier hadn’t yet released, so everyone was against us making that film. When we completed the shoot, no distributor was willing to touch it. Some even suggested that we release the film via satellite directly. But we had confidence in the film. We knew it was a new concept film and with proper marketing and good music, it eventually did very well.
RT: Yes, that film was definitely ahead of its time. Actually, when Honey (Irani) narrated the script to us, I liked the ending a lot. Saif’s character gets Preity’s character pregnant in the film but, in the end, when he apologises to her, she refuses to go back to him and chooses Chandrachur’s character instead. She tells Saif, ‘I don’t respect you since you didn’t respect me. How can I love you?’ This particular line stuck with me and I made sure we released the film. More than the pregnancy aspect, it was the women power that appealed me.
BOI: Speaking of women power… You have made films like Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai... and Raja Hindustani. And although you had Salman Khan and Aamir Khan as heroes, respectively, it was the actresses in these films that had a bigger role to play.
RT: I believe women-oriented stories always become super hits. Look at Prem Rog and Ram Teri Ganga Maili… maybe we are inspired by the RK Studios banner! We had six films that were on the floors at the time – Kachche Dhaage, Albela, Kunwara, Soldier, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai... and Kya Kehna. Distributors were interested in five of them but not Kya Kehna. But Kya Kehna was a blessing in disguise for us because we started our own distribution with it, followed by Soldier and many more films after that.
RT: It was our belief in the script and later it became our zidd. At that time, we had the music rights of 20 films plus six of our own films were under production. But there came a time when we didn’t release a film for three years. We were wondering how to proceed.
KT : (Cuts in) That was when major changes were being introduced in the industry. The music industry had all but lost its charm; the physical business of music was almost over and the film business was going through a bad phase.
RT: At the time, Reliance had taken over Adlabs. So Manmohan Shetty called us for a meeting and asked us to make ten films for his company. He said he would fund all these projects. He said we could make two films for our banner and ten for them. For three days, Kumar and I discussed the proposal, till it finally struck us. Why weren’t we making ten films on our own? We were working with top actors like Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn and Govinda. Then we realised that we weren’t making ten good movies because we didn’t have 10 good scripts. So we said ‘no’ to Shetty saab.
When someone puts that kind of faith on you, you have to respect their money. So he approached Vipul A Shah. When I met him at a party later, I asked him whether he was making those 10 films. And he said, ‘Kahan 10 scripts milte hain, Rameshji?’ I was happy that we had taken the right decision. Then they approached Ram Gopal Verma and he agreed.
You have to understand the craft very well to make a film. A banner is not a factory. This year, we have had four releases – Race 2, Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story, Ramaiya Vastavaiya and Phata Poster Nikhla Hero. Our next film will release in May next year, which is It’s Entertainment. And, no, we are not insecure that we don’t have any releases before that. We have a great line-up for the next few years, aapko toh sab pata hai, sab chhap chuke ho aap log. Aur aap logon ke readers padh bhi chuke hain. (Laughs)
RT: Agar bata diya toh aap likh doge aur sabko pata chal jayega, aur alag nahi rahega phir! (Laughs)
BOI: As you mentioned earlier, there was a time when you used to release six films a year.
RT: (Cuts in) No, no. We used to work on six films simultaneously and space out their release.
BOI: OK, how did you manage to make six films simultaneously? And, has the promotion and marketing structure changed over the years?
RT: We were the pioneers of film promotion as well as audio promotion. Humare promotions ki misaalein dete thhe log industry mein. If we bought the music rights of a film, we used to do the entire promotion of the music. So all our films, whether Soldier or Kya Kehna, took a fantastic opening at the box office.
Before Soldier, Bobby Deol ne do dabbe diye thhe in Kareeb and ...Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya. The very first trailer of Soldier created a buzz among the audience. So his past flops didn’t affect our film at all. We were supposed to release Soldier during Diwali but Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan were releasing, so we postponed the release of our film.
KT: We were making posters of Soldier with Rahul Nanda, who had designed a poster where Bobby was stopping a train with his leg. Suddenly, Amitabh Bachchan walked into his cabin and he saw the poster and loved it. He even said, ‘Yaar, yeh toh maine bhi kabhi nahi kiya.’ We have always done things that were ahead of their time.
KT: Since the cost of music rights was beginning to exceed our budgets, we began to collaborate on films. Once you get into production, you can manage all the music of the film. We work really hard to create good music. So, whether it’s Race 2, Ramaiya Vastavaiya or Phata Poster… all these films have great music.
RT: Yet, we have never made a film simply because of its music. When we were making multiple films simultaneously, we were working with different-different music directors – Kya Kehna had Rajesh Roshan, Soldier was with Anu Malik, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai... was with Jatin Lalit, Kunwara had Aadesh Shrivastav and Raja Hindustani had Nadeem-Shravan. Every composer worked separately on their film.
BOI: Although Tips Films is known for making larger-than-life films, you also make small-budget films at regular intervals.
RT: Kya Kehna, Ishq Vishk and Raaz were small films. Then we made Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai and Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya. So we always have a mixed slate. After every three big films, we make one small-budget film. We had done the music for a few of Bhatt saab’s (Mahesh Bhatt) films like Ghulam and Tadipaar and we also talked about what kind of project we should work on. One day, he asked me what kind of film I wanted to make and I said, ‘Mujhe na Ramsay genres ki film mein hamare type ka music dena hai.’ He narrated the idea of Raaz and we made the film and it turned out to be the biggest hit of that year. Obviously, the music of the film was also the biggest for that year.
BOI: Then why didn’t you pursue the Raaz franchise?
KT: Chhodi nahi, usne poochha hi nahi uske baad. But now we are working on something again.
RT: We will see.
RT: We have always maintained excellent relationships with the people we work with, and I believe that’s how we have survived. We have always looked for quality scripts like Race 2 this year. Now everyone wants to know when we will make Race 3. But we won’t make another sequel unless we get a great script. So, we believe in maintaining quality and that’s why we have survived.
Also, we have a great relationship with exhibitors and distributors. They know that apart from giving them good content, we also go all-out to promote our films too. That’s why exhibitors allot us multiple screens and shows. If you don’t compromise on quality, you will go the full distance.
BOI: You earlier mentioned that you started your own distribution department with Kya Kehna. Have you shut it down?
KT: No, we have both models just like corporate houses have. Also, we have a great working relationship with UTV Motion Pictures.
RT: Their understanding of cinema is great. Siddharth (Roy Kapur) is passionate about cinema; their marketing team is very good. So, if they have any suggestions to offer, they are always welcome. Yes, like with Race, our marketing budget was Rs 1 crore and they were supposed to shoulder the regular promotion budgets. But our music promotion cost more and we spent Rs 2.5 crore on it. We didn’t question the cost. If someone else is distributing our film, we should give them a quality product. It is our responsibility to make sure that everyone earns and no one should lose any money.
BOI: How does the company take care of the music business and film production?
KT: I handle the music business. For films, we have two divisions – Ramesh looks after his own films and I handle my own films. I handle distribution too.
RT: Jab music company strong chalte thhe and physical sales was on high, I was only making movies and spending money. That was the only thing I had to do. Mujhe paisa kharch karna hota tha jo bahut easy kaam hai. But Kumar used to look after the factory, distribution, marketing and promotions and bring in the money!
BOI: All the stars are unanimous that, during a shoot, Rameshji handles his stars very differently than other producers do.
RT: (Cuts in) We share a special friendship with them. They have seen us grow and we have watched them grow.
BOI: Is it very difficult to handle actors?
RT: Not at all. As I said earlier, they know we work very hard on our films. We get involved at the initial stage unlike earlier, when we used to handle the music, we did not get involved as much. I have always believed that a producer’s work starts after the shoot is complete. Earlier, once they completed a film, they used to be in a hurry to release it. Today, we look for a proper release window.
Even back then, I used to advise them to promote their films before release, and to get the timing right. Even after Kya Kehna released, we took Preity on city tours to promote the film. So every actor knows that we are very honest with our films. The most important thing was ek film ki opening lagwana which we had successfully done all over the years.
BOI: How many films do you plan to release every year?
KT: We are looking to make four to five films. This year, we had a release every quarter.
BOI: Are you open to acquiring films?
KT: Not yet, but we are planning to do something out-of-the-box. After Phata Poster… we have a huge gap, so we might look at this.
BOI: The music industry went through a massive transition when everything started going digital. Have you experienced a similar transition in the film industry?
RT: Yes, films have also gone digital and that’s a big transition.
KT: The entry of multiplexes was a big transition and I think another big change will be 4G. Once 4G comes in, the Internet will bring in massive revenues. Satellite is already booming and revenue from this source will only increase.
BOI: It is said that there are no permanent friends or foes in this industry. You made The Legend Of Bhagat Singh with Raj Kumar Santoshi; then you had differences with him; and then you delivered a superhit in Ajab Prem… Now you’re back with his next film Phata Poster…
KT: Woh Santoshi ek hi aisa aadmi hai jissey jhagda hota hai phir dosti hoti hai phir jhagda hota hai but he is unique. Even though we have our differences, we still break bread at the same table.
RT: After Bhagat Singh, we have attended the screenings of every single film he has made. Yes, we did have a misunderstanding after the release of Bhagat Singh but it’s all sorted now.
KT: We share a common birthday. (Smiles)
BOI: Kumarji, you are an active member of the Indian Music Industry (IMI) and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and you’ve seen the benefits of an industry speaking in one voice. But we don’t see the same in the film industry. Why do you think there is no unity in the film industry?
KT: That’s the saddest part of our film industry. There has to be one driver. Jo top two three banners hain na, they already have their camps. Today, we have the corporates whereas earlier, there were solo producers. I believe even solo producers are creative people and don’t always see eye to eye. It’s not business ki apna fayda dekh liya aur kaam kar rahe hain. Corporate studious have a very structured way of functioning and they should take the lead in this matter.
RT: The problem with producers is, there is no unity among us. Territories like CP-CI-Rajasthan have one association of distributors. Kitna dada giri kiya unhone sab jaante hain. Ab produceron hi ek jaat hain jinki chaar association hain. It’s a very sad state of affairs. Har department hamara fayda uthata hai, whether it’s a vendor or line producer, everyone takes advantage.
KT: We should have a website where we can share our problems and other details. This will help introduce transparency and introduce a sense of awareness and fair play. Everyone assumes that there is loads of money in the film industry but it’s actually a very tough business and there are no guarantees.
RT: Everything can change from one Friday to the next. You might invest Rs 25 crore in a film and the return on investment could be Rs 30 crore or Rs 50 crore or even Rs 10 crore. Alternatively, you may even lose.