How KriArj has made an impact by producing movies with a social message
New Delhi: Despite producing only three films in three years, Prernaa Arora is slowly but surely crafting her way to success. Her production house KriArj Entertainment, which releases Anushka Sharma’s anticipated horror film Pari this week, co-produced by the actor, boasts of a pipeline few others in the industry can. There’s Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, based on the nuclear bomb test explosions of 1998, starring John Abraham, slated for April; musical comedy Fanne Khan, featuring Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Rajkummar Rao, scheduled for July; and a Shahid Kapoor film titled Batti Gul Meter Chalu in August.
The success of its three productions so far has put KriArj in good stead—Rustom, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Padman have made Rs127 crore, Rs134 crore and Rs76 crore (at last count since the film is still running), respectively, signalling the emergence of a company that believes in entertainment with a substantial message.
“It’s a very deliberate and conscious move (to take up subjects with a social message). I would want KriArj to be a pioneer in making films that are socially relevant,” said Arora, who founded the company along with her business partner and family friend Arjun N. Kapoor.
Even as a child she wanted to be a filmmaker but given the unpredictability of film business and the fact that it was a largely male-dominated industry, her father was not too keen. At some point though, Arora said, he gave up on her and she collaborated with Kapoor and they formed KriArj, which stands for Krishna-Arjun and embodies the philosophy of a warrior.
“These are all important subjects to me,” Arora said, referring to Batti Gul’s take on electricity, and Toilet and Padman, which dealt with open defecation and menstrual hygiene, respectively. The socially relevant themes tackled by veteran filmmaker Bimal Roy in the 1950s and 60s, have been a huge inspiration, she added.
“Today, when people go out and buy a Rs500-600 ticket, cinema automatically means entertainment. I want to bring in that quotient for sure, I could definitely make a comedy or a thriller tomorrow but at the same time I want to take up these special subjects. This is my signature style,” Arora said.
For a production house that is less than three years old in the industry, it’s quite an accomplishment to make such a big impact in such a short period of time, said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. That, while tackling relatively taboo subjects that have managed to make money and find acceptance with the audience.
“They have all been very smart movies and collaborations,” Mohan said. “They’re not a corporate house but are working like one.” By that Mohan means KriArj’s acumen in finding profitable partnerships with established entities and production houses that bring value to its projects—Toilet and Padman were co-produced and distributed by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment India, respectively. These projects gave them the wide reach and pan-India presence they were looking for.
Meanwhile, veteran filmmaker Vashu Bhagnani has signed a multi-film deal with KriArj to co-produce and distribute its upcoming projects for the next 2-3 years. Another lucrative partnership seems to be with Akshay Kumar, who has featured in all their three productions so far and is currently Bollywood’s most bankable star.
“They are collaborating with the right people who are established, resourceful and give them a free hand,” Mohan said.
The need to find the right partners, Arora said, stems from systemic issues one faces while working in Bollywood. Most importantly, star fee. “When you sign top actors it means guaranteed recovery, backend revenue like satellite, digital and music and a certain value to the producer,” Arora said. “But because they do not want to compromise on their fee, it prevents a lot of producers from making a lot of films. There are so many good projects that are announced but do not see the light of the day (because they are not financially viable). Somewhere, everyone from the director and the actor needs to come together and realize that everybody makes money if the film makes money.”
That is where a good partner comes in.
“Like with Anushka and her brother Karnesh (on Pari), there was complete understanding on and division between creative and business aspects. At the same time we knew we had to make the film within a certain budget,” Arora said. “The kind of person Anushka is, she brings value. As a producer also, she’s holding the film tight with us. I’ve been fortunate to have important and strong partners.”
Mohan, who cannot recall another production house to have worked with so many big names and made such an impact in such a short period of time, said KriArj has acquired a reputation for good cinema, regardless of the numbers each film makes.
“I want KriArj to be among the top eight production houses in this country in the next four years. And what we make will not be projects (a term commonly used to refer to star-driven spectacles without focus on a script) but different cinema,” Arora said, promising a set of announcements soon.
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