Founded by Madhu G. Bhojwani, Nikkhil Advani and Monisha Advani- Emmay Entertainment gave us films like D-DAY, AIRLFT and the recent political thriller television finite series P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke which was the much needed breath of fresh air for our audience who are bombarded with the insane done-to-death melodramatic shows.
I met them for an interview regarding the completion of 6 years of their production house and despite her leg being broken Madhu turned up for the interview with Nikkhil, while his sister Monisha was out of town so she couldn’t join in.
Interestingly the interview turned out to be more of an engaging interaction session where they opened up on various topics including why the debate surrounding Akshay Kumar’s National Award win was unfair and how Rohan Mehra doesn’t carry any baggage or have any airs about his father’s (Vinod Mehra) legacy.
They also delved upon how digital media is ‘The Future’ of this industry and a perfect platform for anyone to showcase their talent irrespective of the fact whether they belong to this industry or are a complete outsider. The duo also spoke about the lessons learnt from their failures (HERO& KATTI BATTI) and their upcoming project BAAZAAR starring Saif Ali Khan and Rohan Mehra. Read on…
Tell us what’s your upcoming film BAAZAAR all about?
Nikkhil: BAAZAAR is a very high energy film that deals with the power, money, greed and ambition. It is set in the city of Bombay. I had started it 2 years ago but now Gauravv Chawla is directing it because I am too old to direct this film.
Why are you saying so?
Nikkhil: Because this film is about people who when given the option of love and money they chose money. But when you are 46-years-old you still believe that somewhere or the other love is still greater than money. You have this very romantic and stupid kind of notion that love is more important than money.
Madhu: Actually that is very utopian and moralistic view of the way things should be. When you call it Gen Y, Gen X or millennials they live in the moment and for them it is more about ‘What’s in it for me?’
Nikkhil: Yeah for the millennials it is being ambitious and goal-oriented.
Does BAAZAAR draws any inspiration from THE WOLF OF WALL STREET or is it inspired by true events?
Nikkhil: BAAZAAR is inspired from real life characters because today thanks to the advent of the internet when you start a film and because you have done films like AIRLIFT and LUCKNOW CENTRAL both of which are very much based on true life incidents, (where AIRLIFT is based on the evacuations of Indians based in Kuwait (in 1990) while LUCKNOW CENTRAL developed from an article which director Ranjit read in some newspaper) we as a company want to constantly base our subjects on lot of good research so BAAZAAR is about the characters that are there in the world of business that you might have read or heard about. Whether it is Ketan Parekh or Harshad Mehta or any other person you hear lot of stories about such people so the character of Saif Ali Khan who is playing a cut throat Gujarati businessman is somewhat similar to them. He is extremely fierce and has reached a position after much hard work and now he is holding the reins of power in the city and it’s a tussle between two people.
Since you are launching Rohan Mehra with BAAZAAR, tell us how easy or difficult it is to launch a star-kid?
Nikkhil: We were given the opportunity to do that with Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty in HERO. With Rohan I think what we have done is that we have learnt from our past mistakes and have corrected those mistakes and in the last few years we all have worked really hard. Actually Rohan himself is somebody who is very talented as he has done drama, he plays a guitar and is into photography and somewhere it’s (acting) in his blood. So it was quite smooth working with him.
One quality about Rohan that you think is going to help him in establishing as an actor.
Nikkhil: Genuinely I have never met anybody with a nicer personality or a nicer boy than him. He listens which is a very good quality, he challenges himself so he will not be satisfied with a take. He always wants to do better so that’s an interesting aspect.
Madhu: I think he is relentless and very hardworking and extremely intelligent. And you will see that in his performance. He listens, questions and uses logic to understand and breakdown what you are saying to him and the one good thing about him is that he doesn’t work with any pre-conceived notions or perceptions of who he is or I come from this background or my father was an actor anything like that. He knows very well that he is starting from scratch so he doesn’t come with any baggage of sorts. So even after being a star kid he has absolutely no airs about it.
Nikkhil: Also when his mother was pregnant with him his father passed away, so he has only discovered his father over the last 2-3 years when he came to Bombay and when people said you are Vinod Mehra’s son he would say, “Yeah I am” and then he understood that his father has done films like ANURAAG and BEMISAL and only afterwards he started watching those films . So he came to know about his father’s legacy only after coming here.
What are your expectations from this film?
Madhu: Our expectations are one to make sure that it’s a very good launch pad for young talent in the form of Rohan on screen and behind the camera Gauravv is being launched by us as a director. So I think we are launching the career of two very able professionals and I hope that the industry and the audience will accept them. Also you will see Saif in a very interesting portrayal so we have great expectations in seeing him in that role because that will be reminiscent of some of his very strong performances that he has given in the past and that’s what the audiences actually love him for. The film will be known for great music because Nikkhil’s working very hard at curating a fantastic album for this film. Also the film will portray a city like Mumbai in its true light. For Mumbaikars or people like us who love this city will see the city being treated just as it is.
Nikkhil: Also, physically it will show you Mumbai which is there for people to watch it but will also show you a part of Mumbai that most people don’t know about. And as far as Emmay Entertainment is concerned it will hopefully help us stamp this production company as a company that is doing very interesting, edgy and different films and also films like AIRLIFT which was made on a strict budget but it went on to earn 6 times of its budget. So our endeavour for films that we do here is to choose subjects that we know that most people will not find profitable but we will do it in such a way that when it does come out it will turn out to be a commercial success.
Madhu: Yeah something which is very entertaining and at the same time profitable as well.
Nikkhil: I think the key is to make content driven film and match them with big stars. We have done it with AIRLIFT and we will be doing it with BAAZAAR.
One reason why people should go and watch this film?
Nikkhil: It’s a high energy drama made very entertainingly and the one reason why you should watch this film I would say that it’s going to be a kick-ass film.
Madhu: It’s going to be a very entertaining film I think that’s why you watch films right. (smiles)
As your company has completed 6 years what was the vision behind creating Emmay and how your journey so far has been?
Nikkhil: Our 6 years journey has had its own share of ups and down I mean it’s great to have made debut with a film called D-DAY which was critically acclaimed and people said that it has re-written the way thrillers are made in this country. So it gives immense satisfaction. We also had two downs with KATTI BATTI and HERO where we made some mistakes. We forayed into television with P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke which was received with such love and critical acclaim and has personally satisfied ourselves as a production company and now with AIRLIFT a story that everybody knows and with LUCKNOW CENTRAL and BAAZAAR we are launching two in-house directors, these guys have worked with us and been with us for the last 6 years. So we are hoping this is going to help us in a big way as now we are signing other directors. People are also understanding that this is a company that can deliver what they promise. So I think that the dream was always to be able to travel a difficult path and make sure that by the end when you reach your destination your journey is worth it.
Madhu: This is our sixth year of operation and we have six full length features which is average of one per year, we have also done two short films and one mega television show, so it’s not a bad average but I think we certainly want to up that average and like Nikkhil said the graph has seen peak and drops which is like any business but the important thing is to be relentless in doing things you believe in. We at Emmay have worked very hard to become a platform to promote young talent which we have done from our first films to the one which we are doing currently. So it’s been a very interesting journey and like Nikkhil said we are living the dream every day. Hopefully we will continue to do more good work.
Why there was no other animation film after DELHI SAFARI?
Nikkhil: I don’t know why but it took me seven years to make DELHI SAFARI and yes I would love to do it again but DELHI SAFARI 2 is being made in Hollywood as they bought the rights to make its sequel.
Okay. So any other animation film on the anvil or any plans of directing a feature?
Nikkhil: I am directing BATLA HOUSE next and we are still in the process of casting for it.
As a filmmaker which one do you think was a game changer for your career – KAL HO NA HO, DELHI SAFARI, D DAY or AIRLIFT?
Nikkhil: It has to be D-DAY.
Since you have worked with Akshay quite often, do you think it was unfair that Akshay Kumar's National Ward win (for RUSTOM) was questioned?
Nikkhil: Have you seen AIRLIFT? Don’t you think it’s a good film?
Of course I do, but there was debate like how can an actor be given an award for two films (RUSTOM and AIRLIFT) at the same time? So what do you have to say about it?
Nikkhil: No, he was not given the award for two films basically it was said that he was given the award for his body of work that year. But I think he should have been given the award for PATIALA HOUSE or KHAKEE. Look at the choices of his films like TOILET EK PREM KATHA or PADMAN he is pushing the envelope with every film in terms of content.
Madhu: See there is no question of opinion I think he is very fine actor and Nikkhil has directed him in three films.
Mahesh Bhatt says Rajamouli’s BAAHUBALI is relearning process. Your comment.
Nikkhil: BAAHUBALI is a Telugu film dubbed in Hindi and look at its success. We have to stop thinking that the audiences only want one thing. I mean what Rajamouli has done whether it is EEGA or BAAHUBALI franchise is that he has constantly shown that as long as you connect with audience whether they are in Punjab or even in Kerala they will come to watch your films.
Dibaker Banerjee says his cinema is escapism without the opium, what’s your take on cinema?
Nikkhil: It’s such a deep thought and what’s my opinion about cinema well see I like to watch films I think that cinema is about telling stories and if you tell an interesting story in an interesting way it will always click.
Do you think cinema has potential to bring in social change?
Nikkhil: Of course it does and if it doesn’t do that then we should not be making any films. At Emmay Entertainment we are committed towards this view but at no point we want to make a film where we feel the reverse. Even if you are not bringing any social change at least make sure that it doesn’t promote any anti-social elements. Ours is a company that is led by two women so we are very clear that we will not have weak women characters in our films. We are also very clear that we will not do any storylines which is regressive, if you see P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke we have very strong women characters in it whether it is Amrita Puri, Sandhya Mridul or Rasika.
Any plans to make more finite series for television?
Madhu: Yes we are. Well I think if the right opportunity or story comes up also we are developing some stuffs so at the right time we will do it.
If given a chance which one of your films would you like to make again?
Nikkhil: CHANDNI CHOWK TO CHINA where I will correct the second half and it will become a very big hit.
Any film that you watched in the recent past and were totally taken aback?
Nikkhil: It has to be PINK I think it was a wonderful film which was written by Ritesh who is working with us, then NEERJA which was written by Saiwyn. These were very interesting content driven films. We are very lucky to be functioning at this time as a production company.
How did the idea of the new series ‘The Mini truck’ came up?
Madhu: Mini’s (Mathur) a very dear friend and she is as food obsessed as we are and Govindraj Etjiraj at Ping network is very dear friend as well and also it’s a wonderful digital platform which is one of the leading multi-channel networks today in the country and so we figured that since we are in the position of having access to stars and food truck today I think are a big rage so this idea came through about some brain storming and chatting and figuring out how do we marry all of these parts together and bring them together, so that’s how this idea came up. It’s going to be a season of ten episodes which will air on the Ping India Food Network so I think it has turned out to be very sweet and interesting series.
So apart from BAAZAAR what are other things you are working on?
Madhu: There’s BATLA HOUSE, we are also developing a film which would be directed by Saurabh Shukla and then there is couple of other stories.
Nikkhil: Also we have signed Jeethu Joseph the national award winning director of DRISHYAM then we have 2-3 in-house directors whom we are planning to launch.
Any plans to launch someone who is not from this industry, a complete outsider?
Madhu: Well if you talk about directors then we have already launched Ranjit and now with BAAZAAR its Gauravv and then two more in-house directors who have worked with us very closely.
Nikkhil: The advantage that AIRLIFT brought to us as a production house is, it allowed outside director to understand that we will not muck around with their vision. We will just convert their vision into film and marry it with big star who deserves a National Award (says this with a straight face and a twinkle in his eyes) and we will give them the budget and will do everything to make their dream come true. So lots of outside directors are coming to us and we are working together, listening to their stories and ideas so as Madhu said that we have done 6 films in last 6 years so hopefully in the next 6 years we will do 12 films. That’s the dream of Emmay Entertainment.
According to you what’s the future of digital media?
Madhu: I think it’s the game changer
Nikkhil: Digital media is the future (smiles) and it would also answer your previous question regarding us launching an outsider as with digital media that’s what happens for example you see just a YouTube clip and you understand the potential that wow this guy can be a good writer or this guy can be a path breaking director. I think it’s like a visiting card.
Madhu: Yeah absolutely and its giving an opportunity to lot of people who have thought of putting their work on the big screen you know if its web series or 5 minute clips which are made on shoestring budget I think that it will only benefit the eco-system of this industry. And it is redefining what this industry means and it is also suiting the convenience of the audience. Technology is changing everything even the way we experience life.
Nikkhil: And if you are going to oppose it then I think you are going to be left behind.
Any message for your fans?
Nikkhil: Our message to our fans is that we are working hard to give quality, content-driven subjects which I think everybody would be proud of so watch out for LUCKNOW CENTRAL and BAAZAAR and keep following us we are coming up with more interesting things.