How did you get interested in cinema as a distributor and then producer?
I came to Mumbai from Ahmedabad to build a life and make a living. Let us just say there was a fire in my belly that needed some kind of an outward expression. The first manifestation of that desire was of course my real-estate business. It satisfied me to build a legacy for my family but Mumbai also made the cinephile in me, a bit restless. Like most children from middle-class families, an outing in my childhood meant going to the movies with my parents. It was the ultimate treat to go and watch a blockbuster with loved ones on the big screen, see these larger than life characters and imagine myself as one of them. Films have always motivated and inspired me to grow past setbacks and have been a source of inspiration and joy for me. Eventually I also ventured into cinema to relive those wonderful memories and to recreate some of the magic that I had imbibed. It is a privilege to make and distribute films because I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would actually be a part of this industry. Making and distributing films has also given me an opportunity to form strong and invaluable friendships.
How did you find the process and journey since your background is not cinema?
Cinema like any other creative field is driven by passion and as I said before, I have plenty of it. The rest you learn from experts in the field and am lucky to have met stalwarts like Jeetendra ji and Amitabh Bachchan very early in my journey who have guided me every step of the way.
Is there a kind of content you support? What is it?
Whether Anand Pandit Motion Pictures is distributing a film or producing it, what I am looking for is relatability and connection. Audiences love a film when they can see themselves in it so that is what I am looking for in every story. There is no formula that guarantees success except that a story should strike a chord like it did in the case of ‘The Big Bull.’ Also with time, every story-teller has to evolve. How you pick a subject and the way you treat it decides whether it has any relevance for the audiences in the here and now. The emergence of OTT platforms is bound to impact how cinema also approaches entertainment.
Tell us about Chehre. You have worked with Amitabh Bachchan in it. You also worked with Abhishek earlier. What has the experience been like?
It was a pleasure to work with him in ‘The Big Bull.’ I have waited a long time to work with Amit ji and it was a privilege to watch him work from close quarters in ‘Chehre.’ His enthusiasm and passion for work remains undiminished even at this age and his professionalism is unequalled. Be it the 14-minute monologue he pulled off in one take or his resilience while shooting in the sub-zero temperature in Croatia, he just dazzled all of us with his energy. So many of us have grown up watching him on the big screen and he continues to set the bar higher for younger actors everyday. Every single person, who has seen the rushes of ‘Chehre’ has told me that this is one performance that will even set a new benchmark in histrionics.
You raised funds and facilities for Covid relief with Mr Amitabh Bachahan. Tell us about it?
Amit ji has been a major orchestrator of COVID 19 related activities and when he heard what I was trying to do, he instantly came on board and has been involved in every single detail. Along with Ajay Devgn and Amit ji, I have opened COVID relief centres, complete with beds and oxygen support in Dadar and Juhu areas of Mumbai. More work is on and I will continue to do what I can. I also plan to start private medical camps because the health infrastructure is so overstretched. During the first lockdown, my team and I provided medical kits and funded medical check-ups for those who could not afford it. I also gave around 250 apartments to the BMC (The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) to accommodate around 1000 patients. I will also be sponsoring a vaccination drive to help all workers associated with IFTDA (Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association).
What is your opinion of the new talent we see around?
The proliferation of OTT has unleashed great talent all around us. With time, even niche films and actors who have not had enough exposure in big-budget films are gaining fame and success through strong narratives. Entertainment now is a rich and varied pool that will keep throwing up surprises. So many new writers, directors and actors from various genres and languages are emerging and this is a very positive thing.
Do you see OTT being the new normal
During the pandemic, OTT services helped us get through tough times especially in the absence of big screen entertainment. but I don’t think, they will gain prominence over cinema because the theatrical experience is timeless. Cinema creates a high-octane shared experience and a certain bonding that is has a different energy altogether. It creates memories like nothing else. Also, blockbusters can only be fully enjoyed in all their glory on the big screen and that is why we have delayed the release of ‘Chehre’ because we believe it is meant to be seen in the theatres.
Both these mediums have their own strengths and can and will co-exist without threatening each other.
What are your future projects?
We are looking at big ticket projects and also at web series ideas in Gujarati, Hindi and Southern languages. We will be making these announcements soon.