Eros International, the largest distributor of Hindi films abroad, is now poised to become a major filmmaker. Its first production is the Vipul Shah film Waqt -- Race Against Time, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. Shah had earlier directed them in Aankhen.
Kishore Lulla, managing director, Eros International, which controls 70 per cent of the Bollywood overseas market, told rediff.com in an exclusive interview, "We are no longer just a distribution company; we are on the model of a studio. We are now going into film finance and production -- just like MGM or Fox or Paramount."
The London-based Lulla, who also co-founded the digital Bollywood movie channel B4U, added, "The idea is basically to control the full value chain from the production of a film till it releases in the theatres. We also have plans to go into digital cinema.
"We know the ins and outs of the film industry. We have been financing films for the last 20 years. This project will be a budget-making exercise -- make the movies under this budget, include these aspects so distributors don't lose money... Obviously, we will retain the overseas rights, which is the major source of revenue for the film industry anyway.
"We will not just be investing in Hindi films," he continued. "We will be going into crossover films. You will hear from us over the next month; it may be something bigger than Bend It Like Beckham."
Lulla is also the overseas distributor for the Shah Rukh Khan-Juhi Chawla-Aziz Mirza production Chalte Chalte. The film stars Shah Rukh and Rani Mukerji. On the eve of its London premiere on Friday, June 13, at Leicester Square, Lulla said, "Shah Rukh called me about the reactions in India. Basically, people are saying, 'We love you, Shah Rukh.' He is the winner of all hearts today.
"Chalte Chalte is one of the best movies, that is what we are hearing. Shah Rukh had given a fantastic performance. If you love him, you will love this movie. If you don't like Shah Rukh, there is a 1 per cent chance you won't like Chalte Chalte. But I don't think there is a single audience that would say they don't love Shah Rukh today.
"Chalte Chalte is going to be a ladies movie. It will make them cry. It is about human relationships, about a relationship between husband and wife. The title refers to where they have reached today as they go through life.
"The husband and wife love each other but, sometimes, a distance grows. These are the stresses and strains of marriage, whether you are 30 years old or 40 or 60. Sometimes, you may feel you have committed a mistake.
"This film appeals to all generations. It will appeal to children because Shah Rukh is there and there is fantastic music and dancing; they love that. Others will identify with the film because it's about families, it's about themselves."
Lulla added that Shah Rukh has recovered fully from his recent surgery and said the 'housewives' darling' would resume full-time work from July 6. "He is totally perfect; he is moving about," he said. "He has four films on the floors already.
"Chalte Chalte will put him on the production forefront; it will show he can produce good movies also. You will see him producing more movies."
Asked if the big money is now in filmmaking or in distribution, Lulla responded, "Money is where your luck is, but experience helps. People learn from mistakes. I must have made mistakes 20 years ago; maybe I bought a film at a ridiculous price. As long as you can control production uniformly across technological platforms, you will make money.
"Money has not always been there in production. When the producer does not have the money, the financiers come in, others come in and they part with everything and they don't make much money. That's why we say control the value chain and that's where we are going in."