Shailendra Singh on the success of “Kanjeevaram”
Once upon a time NFDC-backed films used to win laurels at the National Film Awards. Today it is the corporate houses that are backing meaningful cinema. Priyadarshan’s Kanjeevaram, which has won the National Award for the Best Film, is produced by Percept Picture Company.
It is not the first time that Percept has backed cinema of substance. In the past its films like Page 3 and Traffic Signal have cornered glory at India’s most respected awards. “I have got my Oscar. It is the biggest high of my career. The award means more than crores for me,” exclaims Shailendra Singh, Managing Director of the company.
Shailendra says while other corporate houses are running a sprint, he is in for a marathon. “When I signed Abhishek Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty and Salman Khan, I could have easily made a blockbuster but I decided to go for Phir Milenge. To me content is the king and it depends on us how we market the content to the end user.”
Banking on relationships
The idea of producing Kanjeevaram, Shailendra says, germinated at an informal dinner meeting with Priyadarshan at Pune.
“It was after Malamaal Weekly. I was telling him that he has nothing more to achieve in the comedy genre and why does he not return to his Kalapani and Virasat days. He told me he had a script ready with him for many years but no producer found it commercially viable. I asked what it was about. He said the relationship between a father and his daughter. At that time I was contemplating producing cinema which would take India to the world stage. Firaaq was also part of this strategy. I said I would back it, for relationships bind the world. Everybody understands the language of relationships.”
Shailendra found an example of this at the Toronto Film Festival. “When the festival people put Kanjeevaram in a theatre of 942 seats, we dreaded the worst. But it was a house full and mind you it was not a free show. Everybody paid 50 dollars to watch it and at the end we got a nine-minute ovation. I have it on my camera.”
He reminds us that it is not a loss-making venture because everybody compromised to back a solid product.
“Priyan didn’t charge his usual fee of 10 crores. Similarly Prakash Raj didn’t ask for a huge sum. Now we have sold the satellite rights to Sun TV. So I have recovered my money. My job is to ensure that the product reaches the right consumer. I never interfere in the creative aspect.”
According to Shailendra, it is time Bollywood stars came down from their pedestals and did something meaningful, something lasting.
Taking a dig at other corporate entities, he says, “The success rate of big-budget films is not high anyway. Yes, there is a Lagaan or a Rang De Basanti but why back something like Daddy Cool?”
Shailendra is now focussing his energy on promoting his old faithful, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Jail, which is releasing in November.