The distributors of the year’s highly awaited festival Bonanza – TUBELIGHT, NH STUDIOZ is a name to reckon with in Bollywood’s distribution business. Founded in 1980 with a vision to recreate the magic of blockbusters with repeated echoes and chorus by Narendra Hirawat, NH STUDIOZ today takes pride in owning rights of over 1300 blockbuster films in India in different languages. Having recently launched a state-of-the-art recording studio to offer comfortable and stress-free recording environment for the industry, the company is destined to spread its arms further in movie content marketing – be it digital or traditional.
As we sit with the young and dynamic Shreyans Hirawat – son of the pioneer Narendra Hirawat who is now the man-in-command and the entrusted shoulder to carry the fabulous 37-year old legacy, we are enlighten, enthralled and taken back to the glorious golden era in this heartfelt conversation that traces the impeccable, nostalgic and eventful journey of NH STUDIOZ – the pioneer in movie content distribution and copyright acquisition.
Excerpts from the interview:
For starters NH STUDIOZ is a leading distributor, which is gearing up for the release of its next biggie – TUBELIGHT starring superstar Salman Khan. The studio has tasted success with PINK, DEAR ZINDAGI, etc. and the market hails you as a pioneer. Kindly throw light on the 37-year-old journey of your company and on being called pioneers?
We started in 1980. My father Narendra Hirawat acquired the re-release rights of the legendary Dada Saheb Phalke award winner Manoj Kumar starrers HARIYALI AUR RASTA, HIMALAY KI GOD MEIN. We re- released those films primarily in the circuits of C.I. Rajasthan. Gradually my father moved to Mumbai and rereleased Manmohan Desai’s classic blockbuster AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY all over India. AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY was our first all India re-release. Movie watching is still an outing for families in India and during those times it was the primary source of entertainment. In the name of television we had Doordarshan, which had limited scope for entertainment and our film distribution pattern was not all India. So re-release of hits served as a medium to please the loyal fans and added an avenue for the distribution sector to add revenues. We used to have two different types of theatres – the one which showed the new releases and the other showed re-releases.
When did the term pioneer get attached?
When my father came to Mumbai, he started buying negatives of movies. Re-release was restricted to theatres but my father went a step ahead. He bought the negatives (all copyrights) from the producers over an agreed amount. He convinced the producer that since your movie is already released and earned enough you can still earn more by selling that film to me and whatever the profit or loss will be my luck. So he discarded the producer from his film and became the pioneer in this trade of buying negatives (copyrights) of films.
Can you elaborate on what terms and economy the deal of negatives used to happen during those times?
It was case-to-case basis. There were no digital prints during those times so deal used to be on either perpetual basis or on the number of prints. On an agreed amount the master negative – the negative from which prints can be made was acquired and the cost of print, publicity, etc. was borne by us. After the release the overflow was shared between the producers and us on a previously agreed percentage.
From when did the video/satellite right stepped in, you are called a pioneer in satellite right as well?
From re-release in C.I. Rajasthan, we went all India with AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY and from there we started buying negative rights (copyrights). Video came in during the mid-80’s and we started selling rights of our films to that platform. Slowly we started selling on other streams like Doordarshan and during 1992 the first break through in satellite movie broadcast took place when we gave the license to India’s first satellite channel Zee to telecast movies like HARIYALI AUR RASTA, JHEEL KE US PAAR.
How lucrative was the TV rights from the money earned from re-releases in theatres?
Both are different platforms and TV has a wider reach. The flat license fee to telecast a movie is for a certain period and if you compare the ratio between 1992 and today, it’s a huge jump. Suppose if a channel had paid me Rs. 100 for a certain film in 1992, I can take that lot today and demand an amount by multiplying it by 100 considering the reach, inflation, cost of advertisement, the revenue the channel can earn from its popularity etc.
'The success of DANGAL in China can work as a trend'
Which one is more profitable?
We are streaming on all platforms – theatre, satellite, DVD, digital, etc. Things change. The growth of a certain platform in distribution is somewhat connected to the drop of some other platform. Digital is growing and video rights sector has witnessed a drop. Nowadays a section watches movies on digital platforms. This section is increasing; they don’t buy CDs/DVDs. Our business is based on royalty and the boom of a certain sector is the doom for some another. The cycle changes!
Coming back from where it all began, how did you spread the awareness of re-releases?
Well during those times, media was limited and from that limited media very few covered the film industry. As we have discarded the producer by buying the rights, all the publicity activity was borne by us. We used to redo the posters, push some advertisement and ads but it had its limited appeal. Word of mouth played the biggest role in ensuring the success of re-run confirming that content is always the king.
Content will always be the King but the power of distribution also plays a big role, what have you to say about the precedence set by BAAHUBALI?
It’s a perfect example where powerful content is equally backed by robust distribution. Word of mouth is the biggest attraction and yes Bollywood movie distribution world is adapting and ready to take the market beyond India, America, Canada, UK and UAE. The success of DANGAL in China can work as a trend and BAAHUBALI is eyeing the Asian market. Increasing footfalls gives a big boost but in the end content is needed to support the huge screen numbers.
What’s the target number of screens for TUBELIGHT?
It will be a grand release for sure… we have still not zeroed down on the final number of screens. The announcement will be made very soon. We have huge expectations and we believe in the caliber of Kabir Khan and the power of Salman Khan.
So what are the criteria on which NH studio decides to allot screens to movies and why back to distribution after playing so well in copyrights?
It’s true; we are settled in copyrights. But I wanted to start from where it all began. It’s more than three years since I have joined and we have a plan/strategy to release a film depending upon its genre and the plot/content. Previous achievements of the maker helps but it’s not the only criteria. We started with PINK. The producers were making their debut, the director was making his Bollywood debut and I was making my debut as an all India distributor. Amitabh Bachchan’s previous release TE3N in spite of being a well-made thriller didn’t perform as per expectations. We went by the push and pull of the content. Had a planned release in specific properties to ensure that the movie reaches the target audience. Similarly, we planned the release of DEAR ZINDAGI, it was a SRK starrer but still we marked the properties accordingly. If we would have left PINK in theatres like Gaiety in Mumbai and similarly if we would have left DEAR ZINDAGI in theatres like MARATHA MANDIR in Mumbai, the purpose wouldn’t be served. We at NH STUDIOZ release films to cater to its target audience.
Pioneer in copyrights, satellite telecast, already making its presence felt in full fledge movie distribution in a short span of 9 months, what is the mantra of ongoing faith of NH STUDIOZ amongst the Indian film industry
Everything has changed and evolved in India’s movie production and distribution but one thing that has remained intact is honesty and transparency amongst individuals with whom we deal with. People say that this small film industry is a big family and it’s true. We stand by our honesty and transparency in our deals since 1980. We know each other and personal equation still matters in our world plus the goodwill. If somebody indulges in some cheating, it doesn’t get hidden and the industry comes to know. Am glad that the legacy of transparency and honesty plus the good will of my father – Narendra Hirawat who pioneered the negative right sales, will be the guarding force in my endeavours in future, after TUBELIGHT we have SRK’s next with Imtiaz Ali co-starring Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor.
(This is the first part of our series of interaction with NH STUDIOZ director Shreyans Hirawat, in the next part Shreyans Hirawat will speak more about movies distribution, plans to enter production and will share some interesting facts)