“Distribution requires some kind of passion” – Producer & Distributor Sippy Grewal
Posted by Navleen on July 12, 2015 | No Comments
In 2005 when he shifted his base from Punjab to Adelaide, Australia, films were nowhere on his mind. Like any other Punjabi he also moved to a foreign land for the sake of settlement. But when his friends – actor Jimmy Sheirgil and director Navaniat Singh approached him in 2009 for distribution of a Punjabi film called Tera Mera Ki Rishta, he didn’t really know much about the profile of a distributor. But there was a vague idea of the work he was supposed to do – “bringing every Punjabi to cinema halls to watch a film in their native language”. And when he successfully managed to do it that marked the entry of Sippy Grewal as a distributor and producer of the Punjabi film industry. And the rest is history!
After a foray in Punjabi film industry, Sippy has started taking small yet confident steps in Bollywood with his new venture Magic Cloud Media and Entertainment. As his brother Gippy makes his Bollywood debut with recently released Second Hand Husband that his new company is distributing overseas, he indulges into a candid conversation to shares his story so far.
Sippy who was brought up in a village near Ludhiana, spent his days as a youngster in SAS Nagar till he shifted to Australia. “When I was in India, I was studying and simultaneously working on road construction business. Then I also started a music company in India called Mehfil Music that used to produce and release songs. Labh Janjua’s first album was released by us. That’s how I got introduced to many singers. So when I went to Australia I immediately bought around 20 taxis and started a taxi service followed by buying a service station. I even opened a driving school over there,” recalls Sippy.
It is amazing to see that someone who was into all kinds of businesses but films, eventually ventured into distribution and producing of films. Telling how films actually happened, Sippy shares, “Eros was handling Tera Mera Ki Rishta that starred Jimmy Sheirgill and Kulraj Randhawa. And in a place like Australia the gross of any Punjabi film used to be 20,000 to 25,000 dollar. Since I knew Jimmy Sheirgill and Navaniat Singh, Eros handed that film to us via them. After Eros gave this film on 8000 dollar MG (Minimum Guarantee), the company thought that they have made good profit. But when the film made profit of 1.5 lakh dollars, each one was flabbergasted. Earlier Punjabi films were released with only two prints but we released it over six prints.”
The plan he followed to make the film a success was as simple as following some basic yet practical points. He tells, “Earlier films weren’t promoted properly therefore our major focus became promotions. From putting the fliers at areas dominated by Punjabis to putting posters on prominent places, cars, gurudwaras etc, we did it all.”
The change maker
After a month, Munde UK De came and Sippy got it for 22.5 thousand dollars of which he thought of putting a print in New Zealand. “During those days, Punjabi films weren’t released in New Zealand for the simple reason that no one had made an effort to do so but we managed to release it even in New Zealand. For this flick we called Jimmy and Binnu to promote the film overseas. Even this was a new thing for them. It changed the system completely. Even the filmmakers and actors got excited seeing the demand and success of Punjabi films overseas,” claims he.
Post Munde UK De, when Mel Karade Rabba in which Sippy’s actor-singer brother Gippy Grewal made his debut, Sippy created ripples everywhere. “As Mel Karade Rabba had Gippy in it, we pushed the film even more. This film did business of 2.75 lakh dollars. The extensive promotions of Mel Karade Rabba included artist’s interviews for radio channels and newspaper articles. This was a completely new thing for everyone. We promoted films like a concert over there. Films that are one of the cheapest sources of entertainment in abroad acted as a boon and provided an opportunity to the Punjabi families who crave to spend time with their family members. It was followed by release of Jihne Mera Dil Luteya along with which we organized a concert called Desi Rockstars. This film did business of 3.75 lakh dollars. So the graph kept increasing with each film,” says Sippy who is ten years elder to Gippy Grewal.
The list of films that Sippy then handled were Mirza, Dharti, Carry on Jatta, Jatt & Juliet etc. “Overseas, a film’s popularity is judged on the business it does after two to three weeks. Any good film would run for two weeks but if it manages to screen for around three to four weeks, then it is a blockbuster. Seventy percent gross happens in the first week,” reveals Sippy.
Wearing two hats
Eventually Sippy turned from a distributor to a producer with Punjabi film Carry on Jatta that released in 2012. “The idea of becoming a producer came over a small discussion with Gippy and some friends, when I casually asked that what all would it take to produce our own film. It was more of an experiment that turned to be fruitful. I didn’t even go to Carry on Jatta’s shoot but when I saw the post production I was convinced that it is a good film.”
Sippy who wears two hats one of a distributor and the other of a producer has climbed the ladder slowly and smartly. “When I started distribution a guy called Satti Grewal was helping me in it. Then I met a person named Nitin Talwar from New Zealand who also became integral part of my team. Similarly Pushpinder Happy in Toronto started looking after the Canada distribution. In the US a friend named Navdeep had his stores so we initially gave Mirza to him to look after and in UK Karan Parmar was seeing it. This was the way we got our hold in overseas distribution.”
What really makes one a successful distributor, Sippy replies saying, “Distribution requires some kind of passion. If one thinks that spending money is what it requires then they are wrong. A lot of people confuse cinema booking with distribution. The way we have handled movies is actually what distribution is supposed to be. Each and every person associated with the project will do it’s best in promoting and distributing the film. Whereas people in India, don’t really promote the films the way they should. I just believe in one theory that either don’t pick the work and if one has then you should give your hundred percent to it.”
Sippy makes another point by telling, “Often producer think that distributor hasn’t paid them properly. They usually complain that distributors don’t provide the exact picture. In our case, when we were producing and distributing ourselves, therefore there is no scene of blame game. Any work you do, consistency plays a major role.”
After making a name in Punjabi film industry, Sippy has recently started another production and distribution company called Magic Cloud Media and entertainment along with two partners – Smita Thakrey and Rajesh Banga. “We acquired international rights of three T-Series films – Baby, Roy and All is Well. We have also distributed Hindi films such as Ragini MMS2, Hate Story 2, Creature 3D etc. Besides distribution of films, we are also going to produce around ten films soon. Seven Hindi and three Punjabi films are on the cards. We deliberately ventured into distribution of Hindi films prior to producing it so that when we start producing Hindi films later, we should have the similar hold that we have in Punjabi films.”
There is definitely a success formula that Sippy has followed for the kind of attainment he has seen in his career of Punjabi films. He doesn’t mind sharing the details that helped him and his team in instantly kissing success. “Success has always meant satisfaction for me. But at the same time I believe in constantly working towards my goal. Now I want to take Magic Cloud Media and Entertainment to another level,” shares Sippy adding, “Problem in Punjab so far had been there is dearth of creative people and more of mediators. Most of the directors want to earn money instead of concentrating on coming up with something creative. In Mumbai finances comes later as their first preference is script whereas in Punjab half of the people sign film without even listening to the script but on the basis of the money they are getting for the project. Also in Bollywood, producers and investors are two different people whereas in Punjab it is the producer who puts the money. There are no investors involved. There is huge scope in Punjab provided the content of the film is fresh and unique.”