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Meet the T-series head Bhushan Kumar

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By: Screen Weekly, IndiaFM Thursday, September 06, 2007

He inherited one of the biggest empires in Indian entertainment. But today Bhushan Kumar has made T-Series grow manifold in turnover and also expand by venturing into new horizons. Screen chats up the chief of India's numero uno music label

T-Series has progressed under your stewardship. How did you take your company further from the base that your father had already consolidated?
In my father's time T-Series was into film soundtracks, devotionals and a few romantic albums in our small non-film repertoire. We decided that we had to do other music also - so we went into pop music like Sonu Nigam's Deewana and into segments like ghazals, Punjabi pop and so on with names like Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Harbhajan Singh Mann, Hansraj Hans and others. We also increased our range of pop albums by signing up Adnan Sami. We maintained our areas of strength like film soundtracks - we have had more film soundtracks than anyone else for several years now - and we are signed with the biggest names from Rakesh Roshanji and Vinod Chopraji to Shahrukh Khan's home production, Sajid (Nadiadwala)bhai, Ravi Chopraji and Farhan Akhtar. We have also stepped up film production - earlier we would do few films, and mostly modest-budgeted ones. In 2007, we will have two releases, Darling directed by Ram Gopal Varma, his first outside film, and Bhool Bhulaiya directed by Priyadarshan.

What else?
We have just tied up with Percept Picture Company in a big way: we will co-produce five films with them, beginning with Nagesh Kukunoor's Ashayein, which is almost complete. The next two will be an Akshay Kumar film with Nagesh and another film with Priyadarshanji. All these should hopefully release this year. In 2008, we will have Malamaal Weekly II and a Tamil film that will be our first venture into South Indian cinema. Individually, we will also be co-producing Bela Segal's directorial debut along with her brother Sanjay Leela Bhansali. We have just announced a remake of Karz for which we have purchased the rights from Subhash (Ghai)ji. It will be directed by Satish Kaushik and will star Himesh Reshammiya in Rishi Kapooor's role.

Why Karz?
It was Himeshji's idea and we liked it - it is a musical film and is perfect for Himesh's next film.

Will you be using remix versions of any of the hit music?
No, Himeshji has decided not to do that. In fact, the three original tracks that he has already composed are mind-blowing. We will be making some basic changes though the story will remain the same, like we will base the story abroad.

Is T-Series planning to enter any new terrain?
We have already entered the Home Video market in a big way last year, and our catalogue includes films like Dil Chahta Hai, Sarkar, Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Aksar and other films. We have also stepped into international films and have purchased the DVD rights of Basic Instinct II among others.

Yet another new enterprise is YBR Records. But you are using the T-Series repertoire mostly in its releases, so why have a different label?
The psychology of the buyer is that T-Series products have the lowest prices. But we needed to package and sell some products as high-priced ones. On YBR Records, we also market classical music and other niche music. On the other hand, we can sell compilations with exquisite and expensive packing. We have just released an exotic 6-CD pack at Rs 250. That's not high for the value but an expensive tag for a T-Series release.

Where does the name YBR originate?
There is no significance as such. In USA, there is a road named Yellow Brick Road. I liked the name and the sound of the first letters together - YBR.

Arising from that, no one knows why your company's label is T-Series.
My father was a great devotee of Lord Shiva apart from Mata. The “T" actually comes from the word trishul or the trident, the weapon of the gods.

Yet another new enterprise could be television. Have you thought about that?
Yes, I am planning something in that direction, but it needs a lot of homework for that and that's on right now.

T-Series is especially backing Himesh Reshammiya today, including his acting debut in Aap Kaa Surroor and now Karz.
You also get additional songs by him in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye and now Darling at the risk of antagonizing the original composers of the film. The relationship has been mutually beneficial right from Tere Naam, which is one of our biggest-ever albums sales-wise to Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Aksar, Tom Dick And Harry, his record smashing album Aap Ka Surroor and finally Aap Kaa Surroor the film, which gave way at the charts only after 10 or 12 weeks to our own Partner. Himesh has a very huge fan base in India and overseas and he has been responsible for reviving music sales in physical (that is audio CDs and cassettes) besides being in demand at pubs with urban youngsters. His songs strike an instant rapport with every listener and the demand has increased now that he has stopped doing new assignments as just a composer. The song 'Tadap' from Darling is his last song for an outside film.

You took over the reins of your father's business after the terrible tragedy. What was your mindset then?
I was studying in college when my father passed away. I had to take over the business. I completed my education by correspondence and shifted here. Luckily the roots were strong. We had a great catalogue and we were already No.1. I only had to continue the hard work and make sure that the brand-name continued to maintain and also enhance its reputation. I am also very lucky in another aspect - even today, nine years after I took over, my father's loyalists are still with me like pillars of support like Ved Channa, Mukesh Desai, Vinod Bhanushali and Ajay Kapoor. This makes me confident that I have teams in place to look after all our new ventures.

Where do you see music heading?
A major point today is that film soundtracks do well only if the movie works. Melody remains as strong as ever. Our observation is that melody-based albums like Deewana, Tera Chehra, Bewafaai and now its ever-higher selling sequel Phir Bewafaai sell in physical format, while the trendy beats- or Western-oriented music sells more in downloads like ring-tones and caller-tones. Both will continue to co-exist.

The albums like Bewafaai and Phir Bewafaai are not considered trendy toppers in urban areas.
Yes, and they are not made welcome by certain music channels. But you must know that the so-called hyped hits of several other artistes sell only about 10-15% of a Phir Bewafaai.

Arising from that, how do your old film soundtracks sell?
They are in demand, but as time passes, they are more in demand in compilations where they hear the cream. But there are entire music albums that sell even today, like Tezaab and our production Aashiqui.

You have encouraged your wife Divya and sister Tulsi Kumar to make careers.
Yes, but with the clear understanding that their work must meet the necessary standard. Tulsi has learnt music in Delhi. Divya is passionate about a career behind the camera. She got herself qualified by doing courses in her arena and the video that she made on piracy was only the beginning. Even there, I had told Divya that it would be used only if we were satisfied with it. Today she has proved herself, so what is wrong if she pursues her passion? Her video of Phir Bewafaai has been loved and appreciated and now she is directing the new Aap Kaa Surroor video with Hannsikaa Motwani.

Will she direct a film?
Not right now. But if she is able to do it well later, why not?

Was yours a love marriage, considering that her only film as actor Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo had its music on T-Series?
We did meet a couple of times during the making of the film, but it was an arranged marriage as she too hails from Delhi.

A question that has long puzzled everyone. Why has T-Series never joined the Indian Music Industry (IMI) and Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS), the associations of the Indian music companies?
My father did not agree to certain conditions that were needed to be a part of IMI. We were a part of IPRS but we realized that we were losing huge money because of their PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) wing. After forming our own wings for this, the royalty we get is an astounding 400 times more. From lakhs we have moved on to crores. We did not want to be a part of some package deal when our catalogue was so large but we were getting peanuts.

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