It's a reality that masala entertainers still draw the big numbers: Producer Priti Shahani, Junglee Pictures
The producer, who has delivered two of the highest grossing Hindi films of 2018, Raazi and Badhaai Ho, and proved the box-office potential of content-driven cinema, talks about his production choices
After establishing herself as a formidable Bollywood producer with films like Talvar and Bareilly Ki Barfi, Junglee Pictures president, Priti Shahani, caused a major shakeup in the Hindi film industry with two breakout hits — Raazi and Badhaai Ho — in 2018. Both films, made on moderate budgets and riding heavily on their content, earned nearly Rs 200 crore at the global box-office and received both critical and audience appreciation. Considered a leading rule-breaker responsible for reshaping our notions of the mainstream, Priti credits Indian audiences for initiating this welcome disruption in the Hindi film industry.
How do you feel after the success of Raazi and Badhaai Ho?
It's the most ecstatic feeling. We are strong believers in the stories that we want to tell, which have ended up receiving so much love across the board. In our business, when you get a combination of critical and commercial success at one go, it's truly overwhelming.
This year, we have witnessed several small-to-mid budget films performing exceptionally well at the box-office, almost threatening to overtake the bigger releases. The industry, collectively, seems to be in a better place.
2018 has been a fabulous year for the industry. Just look at the diversity of the content that has been appreciated by the audience. But we cannot look at this success in isolation. For this year to have happened, there's been concerted and dedicated work over the last three years. I think the disruption was caused by the audience. The audience today has become far more demanding and discerning about the films they want to see. Not taking anything away from Baaghi 2 or Race 3, we have witnessed the rise of films like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raazi and Badhaai Ho which have proved to be outliers by doing the kind of numbers they have done. So the main focus of the whole industry right now is to deliver good content.
Digital content and OTT platforms have emerged as a new player on the horizon. How is Junglee adapting to this change?
At Junglee Pictures, we have moved ourselves to turning into a content company and not just limiting ourselves to feature films, even though that will remain our mainstay. Digital platforms allow us to tell stories in their required formats. Some stories cannot be told in a 2-hour format and just require the long-form approach. For instance, we started developing a project with director Abhishek Chaubey in the feature film format, but after our research, we realised we’d be doing a grave injustice to the story by limiting it to a certain time frame. Thus, we decided to expand it into a series.
Can we expect you to venture out into the big-budget, hardcore commercial space anytime soon?
Look, we tend to slot films into their budget sizes and that's unfortunate. I believe every script has its in-built budget, and sometimes, the budget pales in comparison to the concept. I am here to stay. It's a reality that masala entertainers still draw the big numbers. So they are not going away either. As for us, we have never said we will focus only on smaller, high-concept films. It's just that we have been more attracted to them in an organic way. Going ahead, there are some concepts in development which will require a grander scale and suitable talents to tell them properly. We will be producing them as well.
What’s the line-up for Junglee Pictures in 2019?
First up with have Junglee, starring Vidyut Jammwal, which is a family adventure, targeted at children. We have worked with elephants in the film. It's a very entertaining and engaging film, which also makes you environmentally conscious. We have collaborated with American director, Chuck Russell, on it. There's also the Abhishek Chaubey series. And there are three other projects that we will be announcing soon. The first draft of Abbotabad (based on the bestselling book, The Exile, on the last years of Osama Bin Laden) is also ready.