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The Walt Disney Co had acquired a controlling interest in Ronnie Screwvala's UTV Software and Communications Ltd in 2012, in a deal valued at Rs2,000 crore.
The Walt Disney Co had acquired a controlling interest in Ronnie Screwvala's UTV Software and Communications Ltd in 2012, in a deal valued at Rs2,000 crore.

Screwvala scripts big return to showbiz

Web suits RSVP, given Screwvala’s penchant for non-star driven, realistic and concept-heavy subjects

NEW DELHI: Ronnie Screwvala who quit showbiz nearly a decade ago after selling UTV Software Communications to Walt Disney, is scripting a big but quiet return. Officially, the 64-year-old media veteran speaks only of his online education firm upGrad and his charitable venture, The Swades Foundation, but his production house RSVP Movies has been making waves with its feature films and web originals.

In the last few months, a range of web shows across languages, such as anthology dramas Paava Kadhaigal (Tamil) and Pitta Kathalu (Telugu) on Netflix, romantic comedy Mismatched, mystery thriller Raat Akeli Hai, and a critically acclaimed short film starring Vidya Balan called Natkhat, have placed RSVP among the top content creators for OTT platforms. Web suits RSVP considering Screwvala’s penchant for non-star driven, realistic and concept-heavy subjects, a rule he followed even during the early days of UTV— one of the first corporate studios in an industry ruled by family firms.

The web shows were preceded by an impressive start at the box office with war drama Uri-The Surgical Strike, which made over 200 crore in 2019. He also had moderate success with Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer Kedarnath, earning around 70 crore .

Screwvala declined to comment on Mint’s queries saying that “storytelling at RSVP is purely a passion project for now" and that he prefers to focus on his educational and charitable ventures. Along with upGrad and Swades, he co-founded private equity firm Unilazer that invests in startups and sports league U Sports.

Media and film industry experts Mint reached out to said Screwvala’s return to showbiz wasn’t surprising.

“What is different about his second turn is that he is concentrating far more on delivering output for OTT than for theatricals. That works out well because there are few production companies in India currently that can churn out international-quality web originals of the sort that Netflix and Amazon want, with movie-level kind of production values," said a media analyst, seeking anonymity.

“The goodwill has remained but he is starting from scratch now," Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said. He has also had box office duds such as Karwaan and Bhangra Pa Le. However, with most big stars producing their own films and taking away a chunk of profits, betting big on the web is like being at the right place at the right time, Mohan added.

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