NEW DELHI : For a man looking to invest nearly 600 crore in his multiplex venture NY Cinemas Llp over the next five years, Ajay Devgn appears unusually calm. Dressed in a dark blue T-shirt and brown trousers, the 50-year-old actor looks amused by the title track of his popular action film Singham blaring out in the conference room meant for media interaction to discuss his latest project. To begin with, Devgn plans to open nearly 250 screens starting from the northern and western parts of India. The first is due for launch this June in Madhya Pradesh’s Ratlam.

NY Cinemas will target people who don’t have access to modern movie theatres in small towns. The theatre chain is a startup that has stemmed from his love for cinema and the fact that he sees the medium as an equalizer given it is a source of mass entertainment. So, movie theatres should not have a high-end ambience, he said. Unwilling to elaborate much about the project, Devgn said it will be unlike any other in the market.

Competing with mainstream players like PVR Ltd or INOX Leisure Ltd won’t help because the audience will simply get divided, Devgn said, adding footfalls will only increase when you build theatres for people who right now are not able to go to one.

The actor will acquire single screens as well as build new theatres to meet the target of 250 screens in the first phase of the venture. He has already bought two single-screen theatres in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur and Ghazipur. He will look for investment partners only after the first theatre comes up.

“Our prices will differ depending on location and property but the idea is to have as many people watch films as possible, irrespective of where they belong to," said Rajeev Sharma, chief executive, NY Cinemas. Some of it, he said, stems from the kind of mass mainstream films Devgn is known for.

“It’s not about whether business acumen is important for an actor, it’s about whether you like to do these things, do you want to grow that way, and I believe I do," said Devgn, who, under his production house Ajay Devgn FFilms (ADFL), has co-produced some of his recent hits like Total Dhamaal, besides critically-acclaimed projects like Parched and Aapla Manus, and TV series Swami Ramdev-Ek Sangharsh.

His visual effects firm NY VFXWAALA has done movies like Simmba, Bajirao Mastani and Shivaay.

Though, his own firm is handling a few digital projects, Devgn said going forward, big-scale spectacles will be needed to draw people to cinemas. His next, Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, is a big-budget period drama on the Maharashtrian military leader.

“I believe in that kind of cinema," Devgn said. “If it’s a niche, simple film, you may not mind watching it on a hand-held device or television. But to go to the theatres, you want that experience. So, we are moving towards that. It’s tough because there is so much international exposure, like Avengers right now. It’s not like we can’t do it, we have the technicians and the technology. But what Hollywood can do in 5,000 crore, we have to attempt in 100 crore. That is the challenge."

He pointed to Hindi films doing well in China, some of them owing to wide theatrical release as China has a huge number of screens. “We have a population which can compete with the whole world, but we don’t have the theatres," said the actor whose last three hits—Total Dhamaal, Raid and Golmaal Returns have together earned over 450 crore in India alone. He also has a release scheduled for this Friday, De De Pyaar De.

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