Oh Paaji! It’s Dharam with Neha

By Ankur Pathak


Neha Dhupia who vanished from the Bollywood scene will soon be back to doing what she does best – grooving to a chartbusting track.  

Mirror has learnt that the actress has been roped in for a special song-and-dance appearance in Dharmendra’s first Punjabi film, Double Di Trouble, being produced by Subhash Ghai. Revealed a source close to the production, “Both Neha and her mother are big fans of Dharmendra. And the chance to match steps with him was too big a lure to resist.”  


The song has been composed by Meet Brothers of Baby Doll fame and sung by Gippy Grewal and Khusbhoo Grewal. It was shot over three days at a popular nightclub in Chandigarh. Confirming this Neha told Mirror, “Initially, I wasn’t convinced. But when my mother heard about the offer, she told me that there was no way I could turn it down.” Dharam is not known for his dance moves but that didn’t bother Neha. “He still looks so good that I almost forgot my own steps,” she laughs.


Credit: MumbaiMirror.com





Now Gippy in Comedy Nights with Kapil

ballewood copyKCN

In a 52 weeks window, competition is tough: Mukta Arts’ Puri

 By Adgully Bureau


While film making is more just an art any more, producer, distribution and exhibition outfits have now started to gain prominence in the film production process. Business heads are now very cautious of every penny spent and the returns it promises to the producers.

Also, production houses and other parties involved have moved beyond traditional methods of doing business. Following this sentiment is distribution company Mukta Arts, under its subsidiary Mukta Movies Distributors. Taking the plunge, Mukta Arts Ltd. has created its own brand of multiplex theaters MUKTA A2 CINEMAS by tying up with theater shells for development and management in malls and other complexes.

Adgully caught up with Rahul Puri, Managing Director, Mukta Arts Ltd. to know more about this new vertical of the business, the market scenario and more.

Edited excerpts below:

Adgully: You have been associated with Mukta Arts for about a decade now. How would you describe the company’s journey as a movie production and distribution outfit to know movie exhibition outfit as well?

Rahul Puri: I have now been with Mukta for over 10 years and have seen the company grow into where it is today. Then we had just started the programming and distribution business. In these 10 years we have moved into Exhibition and Education. The company has moved slowly but surely into areas that we believe are growth areas in the film business. I think when the need has arisen, Mukta has always been willing to move quickly. We showed that with our foray into education, being the first company to start Digital Distribution of film with our JV with Adlabs and now moving into cinemas with Mukta A2 to grow that business as well.

Adgully: You have recently taken over as the MD of the company. What are your immediate roles and responsibilities? What is on the priority list?

Rahul Puri: Firstly it’s a huge honour. Since inception, Mukta has had only one MD – the founder of the company Subhash Ghai. To follow him is really an honour and a huge responsibility. My immediate role is to continue the work he has started. Prioritise growth areas for the company and move execution teams in that direction. The key priority for me right now is to keep the launches of cinemas on track. We have launched Sangli and Hyderabad and I want to ensure we launch our other properties in a timely manner as well.

Adgully: Give us a sense of the overall market you are in? Also what is Mukta Arts’ share of the total pie in the industry? Also, shed some light on the business model that most companies in the domain follow.

Rahul Puri: The film business is very fragmented as a market. There are lots of players in production however distribution is now becoming more and more consolidated with the big studios. Distribution too is exceptionally fragmented along lines of geography. Again the large studios play the biggest role here but individual distributors also function in different states. Exhibition is perhaps the most consolidated with 4 major players in the multiplex market. The single screens are fragmented but come together through programming relationships with larger companies (like us). Difficult to say what our piece of the pie is, suffice to say that there is enough pie to go around. Different companies follow different models but the studios are now the drivers of the film models in terms of production and distribution and the large exhibitors are the key in terms of retail.

Adgully: The movie distribution and exhibition business is as competitive as movie production. How does the company deal with competition in all three verticals of the umbrella business of films?

Rahul Puri: Competition is part of any business and any industry. To be honest there are 52 weeks in a year so there is a window of opportunity for a lot of players in films. Yes, there are now a lot of films and therefore competition is stiff but the competition is for the release dates and the mindspace of audiences. The only way that a company can deal with all these competitive streams is to constantly be in touch with the audience and produce content and products that appeals to them. The company, now present across these verticals, can use its knowledge and relationships to its advantage.

Adgully: On the exhibition front, we are informed that MUKTA A2 CINEMAS is planning to launch 7 news cinemas in the coming months. With this thought, you have recently launched this property in Hyderabad and Sangli. Tell us a bit more about that.

Rahul Puri: MUKTA A2 CINEMAS is trying to be one of the largest players in the exhibition space. We have plans to be present across the country with almost 100 screens by the middle of 2015. Currently we have 9 properties including Hyderabad and Sangli and will be opening a further 7 properties within the next 6 months. The cinemas are top quality providing patrons all the comforts at reasonable prices and giving an experience that will make customers loyal to the brand. Cinemas is an exhibition business. Its therefore important that we provide them all the facilities to ensure that MUKTA A2 CINEMAS becomes the number 1 choice in the locality.

Adgully: What are the basic criteria that are considered while choosing a location for setting up Mukta A2 Cinema? Which are the geographies that have performed well for the company till date?

Rahul Puri: The basic criteria is that the market has a strong appetite for watching films. There maybe markets where there is more than one cinema and there maybe markets where we are the only multiplex. However our entry will be based on whether there is sufficient demand or not. So far we have chosen well and all our properties are performing well. Specific theatres that are performing well are Jai Hind in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Baroda and Vizag.

Adgully: Shed some light on the marketing and promotional activities that go into the launch of these cinemas.

Rahul Puri: The marketing required for the launch of a cinema is basically awareness. Patrons need to know that there is a new property opening in their area. Clearly if you can get a big film to come with the launch then its better as there is already an in built demand for the movie. The property then piggie-backs on it. If you can get some film stars to the property for a launch event then that adds to both the brand and the awareness. Typically print ads, brand tie-ups and hoardings are the tools used to carry the communication which would highlight the facilities and perhaps offers of the new property but focus on the content which is what people come for.

Adgully: What are some of the challenges faced by the movie distribution and exhibition industry in India? How would you compare the industry viz-a-viz international counterparts?

Rahul Puri: Distribution struggles from fragmentation and now from the integration of production with the studios distribution. It means that the large films are not available to most distributors. Couple that with high rates of tax and distribution is a tough market. Exhibition on the other hand is about retail demand. Films luckily have a huge demand around the country and we are currently seriously under screened. Therefore there are opportunities ahead. However, Entertainment Tax and rates of admissions which are regulated are issues that need to be dealt with. Exhibition is a struggling industry around the world. This is in country which have large screen numbers but high ticket prices means admissions are on a downward trend. We don’t have that issue here. Distribution around the world is controlled by the Hollywood studios who have a stranglehold on most major markets.

Adgully: While India is the largest producer of feature films in the world, how do business outfits like your tap into (financial) opportunities offered by the Indian film industry?

Rahul Puri: I think opportunities exist because of the inherent demand for films in our country and the fact that we are still a growing economy. Yes, the last few years has seen the economy go off the boil but films are recession proof in many ways and this means that there will continue to be financial reward in this business. The challenge will come when the demand plateau’s and price will become more elastic for these products.

Adgully: If you have to highlight 3 things that Indian movie producers, distributors and exhibitors should learn from global players of the game, what would those be?

Rahul Puri: Best practices in production (which we are learning fast), marketing budgeting and impact in distribution (where we are not learning at all) and how to sell more F&B in exhibition. These are the areas where we still need to learn.

Prior to his appointment as the MD at Mukta Arts, Rahul Puri served as a Vice President of Finance & Strategy at the company. Puri serves as an Executive Director at Mukta Tele Media Ltd. He has been Executive Director of Mukta Arts Ltd. since October 23, 2007. He holds a B.Sc (Hons) in Business Management from Kings College London.

Credit: AdGuly


Double The Fun

 by Rohini Nag

Gippy Grewal is one of the most successful Punjabi film actors today. A multi-tasker who sings, produces and acts, he will next be seen alongside Dharmendra in Mukta Arts’ first Punjabi venture Double Di Trouble. In conversation with Rohini Nag, he speaks about his Punjabi film and his first Hindi film, Secondhand Husband.

How was Double Di Trouble conceived?

My collaboration with Smeep Kang, the director of the film, goes back a long way. We were planning our next film and we had done back-to-back comedy films, so this time we were interested in doing something different. I told Smeep that our next film should be different and big in terms of content. We were consistent with the kind of films we were doing, hence I wanted to expand and try something other than just loud comedy. At that time, Subhashji (Ghai) was interested in producing a Punjabi film and often said he wanted to do a Punjabi film with me.

Once, when I was visiting Mumbai, I introduced Sameep to Subhashji. At that time, Subhashji told me that Carry On Jatta, which featured me and was directed by Smeep in 2012, was often screened at his film school Whistling Woods International as a reference film for the students. That meeting became the stepping stone to developing Double Di Trouble.

Dharamji is one of the main protagonists in the film. How did you approach him for the role?

When the script was written, the film had two main protagonists in double roles and Dharamji was not in the picture. Other than myself, we had not thought of any other actor or the rest of the cast. The film is inspired by Comedy Of Errors, a play by Shakespeare. Here, we had father and son characters that have double roles. While I was reading the script, I realised that both the father and son roles had equal footage and are at par with each other. I was going to play the son and I wanted the father to be played by a very strong actor, someone who is much more flamboyant than I am. So I told Smeep that we would make this film only if Dharam paaji would agree to do the film. It was quite a task to convince him to be a part of the film. He knew me and Smeep very well but it was still tough to approach him for the film. We knew that whenever anyone approached him for a film, he would say, ‘Abhi nahi beta, thair ke karenge.’  But Smeep met him and tried to convince him and we showed him all of our previous films.

Finally, he asked us to narrate the script to him. Luckily, he loved it and he instantly said he wanted to make the film under his banner Vijayta Films. He wanted to produce the film and he said, ‘Mukta Arts mein nahi ye film Vijayta Films mein banegi.’ I told him I had already taken money from Mukta Arts and everything was confirmed but I assured him that we would do our next project with him. Finally, our journey of Double Di Trouble began.

What was it like working with him?

It was fabulous! I am a big fan of Dharam ji and everyone in Punjab is a big fan. He is a brand ambassador for Punjabis. In Punjab, the kind of respect and love he has can be called ‘devotion’. People believe there is no artiste other than him and that he is our only representative here in Bollywood. It was amazing to work with him. He is a great actor and also a greater human being. He treated me like his son on the sets and whenever I visit Mumbai, I make it a point to meet him as I have grown attached to him.

Were you ever intimidated while working with him?

No, he made me feel comfortable on the very first day of the shoot. It was very generous of him to arrive early for the shoot. On the very first day, he left a message for me to visit him in his vanity van. When I met him, he said if there was time before the shoot started, we could talk and play card games. This happened every day of the shoot. Interacting with him that way made it very easy for me to work with him as well. I realised much later that he did that so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed to act with him and so that we establish a comfortable rapport.

Even the big actors in Bollywood admire him. Aamir (Khan) told me once that when he met Dharamji for the first time, his hands were trembling as he had never seen such a big hand like that of Dharamji. Even I was awestruck to be working with Drahamji, a legend. But since he is such a humble person, I never once felt uneasy.

Subhash Ghai too is an institution when it comes to filmmaking. Was he creatively involved in the film?

From the moment we narrated the script to Subhashji, he told Smeep that he absolutely loved it. He said he didn’t feel he needed to offer any inputs as he was totally convinced of the script. He also said he would visit us on the sets but only as a guest. He said he would not involve himself creatively with the film. He told Smeep to make the film exactly as he wanted to. He said a very profound thing to Smeep, that ‘Har bande ka ek time hota hai aur aaj tera time hai. Main kuch creatively nahi suggest karoongaJis se tujhe lageke involvement ho rahi hai.

Did you even once think of making the film in Hindi instead of Punjabi?

The Hindi film audience is not new to double roles but the concept is very new for the Punjabi audience. We have had double roles in small scenes but never a film based on double roles of its two main protagonists. This is a tried and tested formula for Hindi films but a completely new concept for our industry.

Speaking of change in Punjabi films… Jatt & Juliet had a sequel which generated impressive box-office returns and you announced a sequel to Carry On Jatta some time ago. When is the sequel going on the floors?

Yes, we announced Carry On Jatta 2 a long time ago. Carry On Jatta gave me name and respect both in equal ratio and the same goes for Smeep as he garnered massive appreciation for the film.  A sequel will definitely get us money but it might cost us the respect we earned. This is the tricky part when making a sequel. When you have a successful film and plan a sequel, it is only right for the sequel to have something extra for the audience. The only reason to make a sequel is to have an outstanding script and concept that validates its existence. We have found a script which we feel is a match and even compliments Carry On Jatta. We have started working on the pre-production and we are planning to start shooting by the end of this year and planning a May-June 2015 release.

The song Angreji beat launched Yo Yo Honey Singh’s career in Bollywood. Not many people know that you too have sung that song. Why have you not ventured into Bollywood with your music?

I am not focusing on that as much as I am on my acting career. I have visited Mumbai so many times only for my meetings with music directors who want me to sing for them. But when I hear their songs, I feel they don’t match my voice. I fear that I wouldn’t be able to justify the songs or that my voice might change the tonality of the tracks. I have been approached for some songs which are neither Punjabi nor Hindi but something in the middle… according to the music director, it is a Punjabi number but being a Punjabi, I feel it is a Hindi song. I also don’t want to disappoint my fans who expect a certain kind of music from me. As far as the song Angreji beat goes, it was a typical Punjabi track but it worked. Now the Hindi film I am planning to do will have a few songs sung by me. But if I am ever approached with a good Punjabi track for a Bollywood film, I would love to do it.

A lot of old Punjabi songs are being used in Hindi films. Has anyone approached you for your old soundtracks for their films?

Yes, even though I struggle to understand how they can use typical Punjabi numbers so well in Hindi films. But there is a problem sometimes and this happened with Angreji beat. Before the makers of Cocktail approached us for the song, many other producers had approached us for the same song. We tried to get them the rights of the song but what had happened was that in the UK someone else had the rights, in the US, someone else had them, and similarly in India, someone else had them.  So we could not get the consolidated rights. Similarly, a few of my songs had an identical problem and nothing worked out. Even for Angreji beat, we had lost hope but I don’t know how the makers of Cocktail got the song.

You had earlier signed Viacom18’s Hindi film Mubarakan. Why didn’t that work out?

We were talking but things didn’t work out. I am talking to some corporate houses for other films and I hope something works out. Box Office India will be the first to know when I sign any more films. It is very important to pick the right launch film.

You are venturing into Hindi films with Secondhand Husband, which is not only your launchpad but Govinda’s daughter Narmada’s launchpad too. How is the film shaping up?

Yes, we are going to start shooting for the film soon. It is a high-on-content kind of film like Vicky Donor and Kahaani. I have been contemplating venturing into Hindi films for a very long time but I was very conscious of the fact that there are two scenarios, one where the film works at the box office or it doesn’t; and the other where the film doesn’t work at the ticket windows but is well received and appreciated. As an actor, I didn’t want to disappoint my audience and wanted to do a film which would get my work appreciated. Whether a film works or not at the box office is not in our control but the quality of film and the amount of hard work we put into it is within our grasp. And it is our prerogative to give the best to our audience.

What kind of involvement did Govinda have?

He read the script, evaluated the project and loved the film. I feel the most important aspect of a film for an artiste is the script, and we were confident that our script was good. The film is not so out-of-the world that audience will reject it but the film is a good-new which regular people can adopt.  So after the narration, Govindaji didn’t think twice before saying ‘yes’. He didn’t suggest any changes. We locked the script and didn’t change a thing after that.

Are you anxious about your debut in the Hindi film industry?

Yes, since it my first Hindi film, I am going to work very hard. I give everything I do one hundred per cent. It’s the same with my music and acting careers. Our entire team is now focused on Secondhand Husband. For the next six months, I have no Punjabi film and we even postponed Carry On Jatta 2 so that our Hindi venture has our undivided attention. Our target is to be completely focused on Secondhand Husband so that there is no window left for mistakes. This will be our first step in the Hindi film industry and we are going to be judged by this film.

Credit: BoxOffice India



Rahul Puri : Offering affordable luxury

MD of Mukta Arts speaks on their multiplex chain and more… 

By Somdatta Sen

How did you come up with the idea of having  your own brand of multiplexes?


Mukta has always been involved in distribution. We were one of the first companies to have a nationwide distribution presence and from that, our programming business, where we booked content for many multiplexes for a commission, was born. This business is now worth almost ` 250 cr in top line and it gives us huge strength and brings great understanding of the market. Hence the move to the exhibition business was logical as we already had in place the relationships to tie up the content for all geographical markets – coupled with a keen understanding of how to efficiently and effectively produce high quality multiplexes, we entered a market that we believed was underserved and had a huge potential for growth.


The relations between production houses and theatre owners often turn sour. Is that the reason behind starting your own multiplex chain?


Not at all. We have always enjoyed good relations with producers and exhibitors. Infact, in the strike of a few years ago, we were perhaps the only party with Reliance, who were neutral due to our interests as a producer, distributor and also in the exhibition side with our programming relationships. I think our strong relationships within the industry across the board helps us in our exhibition entity immensely.


Many production houses are going completely in-house these days. Is Mukta Arts going the same way considering they already have a production and distribution company?


Well we are now a completely integrated company. Exhibition now links us in the value chain like no other company. From our interests in producing talent in education all the way to having the content that talent creates delivered to the customer. I think Mukta exists in these areas because each of them provides real opportunity for our business and of course there is a large benefit to be gained from being present across all areas.


How do Mukta A2 Cinemas aim to be different in service and experience?


We aim to supply our patrons with a very homely feeling. Each theatre intends to be the place where patrons feel comfortable. We localise the content, the food, the experience to match our patrons tastes and needs. We then ensure that our managers and staff understand our regular customers, know their names, their consistent orders, etc. We believe this adds to anyones overall experience at a theatre and therefore adds to loyalty to that experience. Our theatres aim to imbibe the immortal line from the TV series Cheers. ‘The place where everybody knows your name…’


How technologically advanced are your cinemas in terms of picture and sound systems? Would it have Dolby Atmos, the latest innovation in sound?


Our theatres are on the cutting edge of technology both in picture and sound. We are using 3D projection both in 2K and 4K and have dolby surround as standard. Some theatres will be equipped with Atmos and others with Auro depending on the need and the market in which the property is in. We have used the best reclining seats so patrons can be extremely comfortable and enjoy the movie in a relaxed manner. Without question our theatres are extremely high quality, even in some smaller centres where these facilities are not available.


Share something about the technicalities of the theatres (Capacity and number of screens)


We currently have 24 screens running and a seating capacity of about 5,500 per show. The coming months we will be launching another 5 properties which will take our screen number up to almost 40 and double our capacity


How do you aim to be cost effective to the audience considering it’s a multiplex with high-end facilities?


We operate on a different model with the mall owner where the theatre is based. As we aren’t paying out high fixed rents, we can afford to keep prices at a level where the patrons can pay comfortably. We have properties in Andhra Pradesh where the pricing of tickets is regulated by the State too. In addition, I will say we are also working hard to crack the best deals to keep our investments at a good size so even a lower ticket price becomes viable in that case. However, we are not running low cost theatres. We are running affordable multiplexes.


There are already a lot of multiplexes around. How do you aim to initiate brand awareness?


It is getting hard as most of the competition provides the same technology and the same content as we do. Some are well established as well as compared to us. I think its about the experience of the customers. We have only been around for a few years in Baroda and Ahmedabad but have established ourselves as a prominent cineplex in the locality and are the first choice for patrons who wish to consume English content in that market. I think brand building is about that. It’s about finding a niche and delivering to customers of that niche in a way they want to be serviced. Mukta A2 Cinemas will work hard to do that and we will build on that with the usual tools of brand awareness.


Being a part of Brand Mukta will help or create more pressure for brand building?


I think it can only help. Mukta is a well-known and well respected brand. So is Subhashji who is our founder and Chairman. Mukta A2 Cinemas though has to establish its own brand and its own credibility. However well-known the Mukta brand is, this business can only imbibe those qualities but it still has to deliver them itself and I believe we have a strong management team in place.


How do you plan to popularize regional cinema which have a limited release? Would you have special shows?


The geographical regions our properties are in means that regional films have a pride of place in our product catalogue. We are present in the heart of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra, hence all these locations need constant inflow of regional content to service the patrons. In Telugu its easy as they make over 250 films a year and even Marathi has seen a marked increase in the number and business of its films. I think Regional cinema, like say International cinema is a key component of any multiplexes product offering and we would continue to give it a strong place in our programming line-up depending on the property. 


Which other cities do you plan to expand to?


We will next open in Bhopal, Panvel and a second theatre in Mumbai in Goregaon (W). Other properties lined up are Aurangabad and Nainital plus a number of others across the country. We are not looking to focus on any geography but expand into cities and towns where there is a strong capacity for cinema viewing. 
Do you think having own set of cinemas might affect Mukta Arts films’ deals with other theatres?


I don’t think so. Like I mentioned, we have managed these relationships now for over 30 years. I think other companies will welcome Mukta A2 Cinemas due to it delivering great numbers in terms of occupancy.

Credit: Blockbuster.com


Mukta Arts launches 5 screens


Propeties are located at Sangli and Hyderabad

Mukta Arts announced the launch of two properties under the brand name ‘Mukta A2 Cinemas’. Mukta Arts started its operations at Sangli with 4 screens on 25 July 2014 and at Hyderabad with 1 screen on 27 July 2014.

With the addition of 5 screens, total 24 screens are now operational. The Company plans to add another 30 screen over the next one year.
Credit: IndiaInfoline


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