Eros is the only studio to boast of two Bollywood successes this year over the quarter gone by. While Badlapur went on to cross the Rs. 50 crore mark in India, NH10 is still going strong after surpassing the Rs. 30 crore milestone. Meanwhile, there are around a dozen odd films lined up for release, with several big ticket affairs such as Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Gabbar, Bajirao Mastani, Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Dil Dhadakne Do to name a few. This is to not mention a superb line up of Tamil (Kamal Haasan starrer Uttama Villain, Surya starrer Rajini Murugan), Telugu (Pawan Kalyan starrer Gabbar Singh 2) and Malayalam films (Life of Josutty directed by Jeethu Jospeh of Drishyam fame starring Dileep) that have either been produced, acquired or distributed by Eros.
We get into an exclusive chat with the soft spoken Sunil Lulla, Director and Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Eros India.
The biggest release of the year is Bajrangi Bhaijan (Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui) which arrives on Eid. Guess the Salman Khan starrer big ticket affair is one film on which you must be counting a lot?
You can’t go wrong with Salman Khan. We have a big weekend ahead of us. On top of that we have Eid festival with us. It is all going to be huge, as Eid is a very good date for big ticket films. Bajrangi Bhaijaan, an acquisition, is going to be a very prestigious film for Eros. We are confident because we have a very good director with us in the form of Kabir Khan.
On the other hand for overseas acquisition you have an out and out massy film like Gabbar Is Back and a classy affair like Dil Dhadakne Do set to arrive this summer. Guess it is a good mix of films you have in hand?
Yes, apart from the rest of our lineup which we will release worldwide, we are also releasing Gabbar Is Back (Akshay Kumar, Shruti Haasan) internationally along with Dil Dhadakne Do (Ranveer Singh, Farhan Akhtar, Anil Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Shefali Chaya) and Bangistan (Riteish Deshmukh, Pulkit Samrat, Jacqueline Fernandez). We have a variety of films in hand and at the end of the day, it is content which is going to be a winner. While scale of a film is very important, at the end of the day it is the bottom-line that counts and we are very confident of that.
Your next release is Tanu Weds Manu Returns which is creating some good buzz at the poster state itself. That must be quite heartening for you as a producer?
Buzz has been really great for the film. Aanand (L. Rai) is a very talented director while writer Himanshu Sharma boasts of some very good ideas too; happy to partner with them again after Raanjhanaa. Audiences are looking forward to the sequel and the poster has created a good buzz. The trailer will be launched soon this month. But then as I said, it is content which is most important and we are very confident about this film.
The year would close with Bajirao Mastani (Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi). Considering the fact that you and Sanjay Leela Bhansali had also co-produced Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela before, it is pretty much on the cards that this one would be huge too, right?
Yes, this is set to be one of our biggest films ever. It is a big screen affair and everyone at Eros is very excited about it. It is going to be a Bhansali show all the way. He is a genius director and when he makes a commercial film, he is the best. The film is progressing really well and as per the timelines.
As co-producers, this year has been good for Eros so far with two supposedly risky films like Badlapur (Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and NH10 (Anushka Sharma, Darshan Kumar, Neil Bhoopalam) turning out to be successful. That must be a great feeling for you?
As a leading studio we dabble in big star cast as well as content driven films l. We know how to place these films and market them well. It is very important for such kind of strong content driven films like NH10 and Badlapur. At the end of the day, these are not risky films as they are rightly budgeted. It is only when films are not budgeted rightly when you go haywire. Today, a different kind of genre is working for the audience. While audience would go for big star cast films, they are also loving experimental affairs.
Last year though, there were some disappointments with big star cast films when Lingaa, Action Jackson, Happy Ending couldn’t go all the way. What went wrong?
Well, last year was not good for the whole industry. We are all aware how 2014 was a bad year for films. Still, with most of our releases, we were safe due to pre-sales and MGs (minimum guarantees). Then if a movie does well, we always have an upside.
So how is Eros looking at an upside from here?
Other than our future slate which is looking very promising, we have also launched a new motion pictures label called Trinity Pictures. It has been designed for creating franchises. We are developing that right now and a lot of writers have been brought on board to build some good quality content. It is going to be 100% IP (intellectual property) for us. We are working on different kind of franchises and you would hear announcements on these soon.
With digital the future of entertainment, we also launched ErosNow a couple of years back to engage a new digital generation of South Asians globally. It is an online entertainment service similar to the Netflix model specializing in South Asian content and a one stop to cater to all your entertainment needs. As a brand of Eros International, ErosNow has full access to the largest digitized Bollywood film library apart from film content by other Indian studios like UTV and Viacom as well as television content by Zee and Sony.