Bhushan Kumar gets candid about T-Series' hits and misses of 2019.
In a conversation with indianexpress.com, T-Series head honcho Bhushan Kumar spoke about the company's biggest hits and misses of 2019 and what T-Series has in store for the audience. Bhushan also shed light on the biggest change in the Hindi film industry.
Excerpts from the conversation:
T-Series bankrolled some of the most successful films of 2019. What is your process? How do you select films?
We started as a music label. From there, I think we have come a long way. Initially, I had an ear for music only. With a lot of research, we tried to find out what people want to see in films. My father always wanted us to be an entertainment company, not limited to music. So, when I took over the business, it was my wish to make his dream come true, and we started producing films.
We made Aashiqui 2, Ready with Salman Khan, Bhoothnath with Amit sir (Amitabh Bachchan), and never looked back. What we always had in mind was what kind of films the audience is liking and who are the stars they want to see in these films. But as time passed by, we realised that we can’t only focus on the stars, we have to chase content. Cinema was changing. The way people are watching films has changed drastically in the last five years. We had some movies that didn’t work in 2018 as we were in our testing phase. With trial and error, we have had a better 2019 and expecting an even better 2020. We know that it can be achieved only by giving the audience what they demand. We are also aware that we will not always know the pulse, but we will keep trying to hit the right chords.
Prabhas starrer Saaho released in 2019 but did not perform as expected.
This year you backed a big-budgeted film, Saaho, but it didn’t do the kind of business it was expected to do. What do you do then?
People have told me that the film didn’t do as well as it was expected to do. But the way I do business, it is a little different. When I back big movies, I always have a safety net. And when I back a content-driven film, I make sure that it resonates with the sensibility of the audience. Even if Saaho didn’t do as we expected it to do, with the mass audience, it was a super-duper hit. It did decent numbers, and we made a profit out of the film.
At a time when people are chasing content-driven films, you backed Kabir Singh and Marjaavaan.
Whatever you say about Kabir Singh, it has benefited us a lot. Even Batla House did that. But when I was making Marjaavaan, a lot of people told me that it was such a cliched film, even dated. But when it finally released, the mass audience loved it.
We have different audiences liking different films. Just because we are in a time when content-driven films are working, does not mean we don’t make films for the masses who go to watch films for the dialogue-baazi and action. That is also our audience. We are not only catering to the multiplex audience. We want to entertain the masses as well.
Kabir Singh received a lot of flak but managed to dominate the box office.
What are the lessons you have learnt from 2019? And how do you want to change your game in 2020?
I want to improve my sensibility when it comes to what the audience wants. I want to cater to the audience’s taste. I have done some films in 2019 which have not done well at all, and that has taught me not to commit the same mistakes next year.
We have a very positive year ahead. We are looking forward to Tanhaji, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and Street Dancer 3D to start our 2020. The year is looking very promising. With all the films we are backing this year, we have made sure we don’t get too excited. We want to be as calculative and creative as we can be in putting out good content.
What is the biggest change that filmmakers swear by today?
I think the biggest change is that while the biggest actors have a fan following, the audience doesn’t care. They don’t just want to see a movie because big stars are attached to it. The audience has become very calculative. Filmmakers and stars will have to stop underestimating the audience. They are intelligent and are choosing only good films that truly entertain them. If we don’t care about what the audience wants, your film might open well on day 1, but it will fizzle out. It has happened a lot in the last couple of years, with the biggest stars in the industry. Content over star power is the biggest and most welcoming change in the industry today. People in the industry have become very upfront and conscious of what they are getting into and the content they are putting out.