SIDDHARTH ROY KAPUR – CEO OF UTV MOTION PICTURES
Posted by Arjun Sekhri on June 8, 2009 | 26 Comment
Grew up in Mumbai, got my B.Com from Sydenham college, went to Jamnalal Bajaj for my MBA, did a stint with Proctor and Gamble in Brand Management. Moved to Star TV at an interesting time when they were moving from a half Hindi, half English to a full Hindi channel. Worked in Kaun Banega Carorepati at that time, which was the show that really turned the fortunes of Star Plus. Moved to Hong Kong, then Dubai where I looked after the sales and marketing for Star, moved back to Hong Kong, looking after the marketing for Southeast Asia, including China, Taiwan, India. Around 2005 began talking with Ronnie of UTV, was looking to come back to India since I had been out of the country for five years, since I really wanted to be where the action is, also at that time UTV was setting up a central marketing division to look after the movies, television, the entire gamut. I figured that would be a great opportunity with UTV, also having done a summer training stint in UTV I really believed in the vision of UTV. So I figured it would be great to return to India with an organization such as this, came back in 2005 and since then have been with UTV, started off working as a central Marketing Head across the various divisions, moved to the Movies division where I was looking after the revenue as well as the marketing and two years ago came in this position of the CEO for Motion Pictures in UTV.
Having seen some of the earlier films of UTV, at least the one’s that released in the US, like Parineeta and Swades, one got that very positive perception that here was a company that was looking to build a brand for the long term, as opposed to the “let’s get that big hit right now,” approach?
For a new player to come into the market and create some sort of a mark, it was essential to pick the right products, projects and scripts, to ensure that the branding was right, of course with commercial considerations too. Hence it was a joint call between the pedigree of the filmmaker and the commercial aspect.
Long before foreign tie up’s became a norm, UTV had already made the leap of faith with Hollywood. Talk to us about the thought process that brought this about and also how are you coping with the current global economic meltdown?
Yes that is true that we were the first to get into Hollywood. We had a good relationship with Fox and Fox Searchlight and when it came to the Namesake, which was our first co production, Mira Nair and Ronnie Screwalla had a great personal equation and they had wanted to work together for a long time. When we learned that she was going to be making a film out of Namesake, which is a fabulous book, that’s something we went after from the get go before she approached the studio and then we sort of approached the studio together , that is Searchlight since they fitted the profile of the film, so really it started from the filmmaker as opposed to the studio. Once the relationship was established with Searchlight with films like The Namesake and I love My Wife, then in the case of Happening again, it was the relationship with the filmmaker, M. Night, that got the project going, we had wanted to work with him for a long time, went with him to the studios and that is how that project took off. So it has been a combination of the strong relationship we have with the studios and the strong relationship we have established with the filmmaker. At this time, though, we are really focusing on the local language slate, the Hindi language that is, of course while looking from time to time, with movies from the West.
As far as the global meltdown is concerned, sure, liquidity has been hit. In the last couple of the years of the industry, India was going through a bit of a bubble phase. The global meltdown as you are calling it, actually has resulted in things getting a little more sane now. The industry has been forced to get it’s act together, become more lean, bring down the costs and become more discerning about the number of movies that come out in the industry
What’s upcoming from UTV?
A whole lot of films, different genres, established directors, rank newcomers. The movies include, Kaminey, Main Aur Mrs Khanna, Agyaat, Aage Se Right, Yahoo, Paan Singh Tomar, Hook Ya Crook, Season’s Greeting, What’s Your Raashee, Peter Gaya Kaam Se, Alibaba Aur 41 Chor, Film City, Shoebite, Delhi Belly, Arjun the Warrior Prince amongst others.
UTV Spotboy has been like a breadth of fresh air with movies like Aamir, which were more R o I driven as opposed to Gross Revenue, and they did commercially very well too. It was almost like a Fox Searchlight for the Indian cinema?
As far as the UTV Spotboy brand is concerned we have been considering it for a long time. We want to focus on movies that are on the cutting edge. Movies that might not have been screened in the past, but today you have an audience for them and therefore deserved to be made and also deserved to be marketed and distributed in the right manner, as well. In UTV Spotboy that really is the formula that we are working towards and with which we have found some success with, in the last year. To focus on new directors, new scripts, new ways of telling stories and also be able to promote those movies in such a way as to get a mass audience to come and watch them and therefore make it a commercially viable proposition.
In India we have had the studio model, with Mehboob, etc, then we went independent, now the studios seem to be back. What’s your take on where the future is headed, more studio, more independent, or somewhere in between?
I feel as far as production is concerned, you are always going to have independents out there. Studios will be into production, but will also depend on the creative individuals, who have a track record and a pulse of the audience and there are a lot of individual producers in that category, who I don’t think are going anywhere. As far as the distribution is concerned I do believe, there will be a consolidation that will happen, actually has already occurred. The larger distributors are going to be the one’s with the global releases and the bulk of the revenue is going to be coming out of them. Already you have Eros, Yashraj, Studio 18, UTV, and these four studios account for quite a large percentage of the revenue. So you will still have a lot of individual producers making movies, who will probably go to one of the larger distributors, to distribute their movies.