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Chat with HTPL Overseas Distributors

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Bollywood is certainly growing. And now with new entrants like Studio 18 - A Division of the TV18 Group joining the fray, the film world only gets more exciting, challenging and fulfilling for anyone and everyone who wants to make a difference and change the way Bollywood is perceived the world over.

Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd is the first film with which Studio 18 is making its foray into overseas release for Bollywood flicks. In this exclusive conversation with Joginder Tuteja, Ashoka Holla (Sr. Vice President - International Distribution&Syndication)&Tanuj Garg (Country Head - International Motion Pictures, UK&Ireland) answer queries from their UK office on what prompted them to choose HTPL as their debut vehicle, the promotional route they are following for spreading awareness about the film and their confidence about the product.

What excited you about HTPL to be STUDIO 18's debut overseas release?
Ashoka: The overseas audience has evolved over the last few years and are accepting diverse genres and the time is ripe to start experimenting with a light-hearted fun film about six couples that go on honeymoon to Goa.

Tanuj: I think the excitement lies in the challenge. It's a quality product but a mid-range one in terms of scale - a tough one to market overseas but we're giving it a sensible select release

How did the project happen?
Ashoka: I had an ongoing relationship with the producers from my previous stints in companies at the time of Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya and Don. So there's a great amount of understanding between us and we work well as a team. So it's logical that we would extend our support to them even on this one.

Tanuj: As Ashoka mentioned, Ritesh and Farhan have certainly been among the more proactive, affable and involved producers and that passion helps. I am very fond of the two even on a personal level and that sort of chemistry helps.

Isn't it risky to start with a film where none of the actors in the film have any overseas clout?
Ashoka: Yes, we weighed the pros and cons but we are confident that as producers they will deliver a quality product, as they have done earlier. More so, it's a concept-driven film with a strong ensemble cast and that's the way we are marketing it.

Tanuj: I'm not sure I understand the phrase "overseas clout". Star power is most certainly a draw but then there have been enough star-studded films that have also failed miserably. Conversely, films with popular character actors and well-known mid-level stars might find it a little more difficult to attract eyeballs initially but then we've seen several films in this bracket doing astonishingly strong business in recent times.

How is the promotional campaign shaping up for HTPL? What are the different steps taken to make it stand out?
Ashoka: The target audience for HTPL is predominantly in the 20-35 though the Boman-Shabana angle even makes it appealing to the 35+ slice of people. Keeping this audience in mind, we have targeted the relevant media platforms like the web and radio more intensively than television, which is a more traditional platform in the overseas.

Tanuj: I mentioned in an earlier interview that I treat every product with the same amount of passion.
I have done as much for HTPL as I did for Don, though not with the same monetary intensity! It takes more effort to promote HTPL than Don. My first step was to build awareness on the product, which has been successfully accomplished by way of some innovative marketing tie-ups with channels and radio stations. On Zee UK for example, we've roped in a sponsor and are giving away a honeymoon to Dubai as the grand competition prize.

One hears Vishal Shekhar's music for the film is catching up in a big way overseas. Is that true?
Ashoka: Yes, people are enjoying the music. We have ensured that we promote the film music aggressively through non-traditional avenues like clubs etc., especially in the US.

Tanuj: Oh, absolutely. The Sajnaji Vaari Vaari song is a rage. It's already in the Top 3 on the charts in the UK. Halke Halke is my personal favourite though. It's Vishal&Shekhar at their best.

There is a probability of Aishwarya Rai's Provoked coming on the same day as HTPL. Since she is a major star in UK, don't you think audience would be divided?
Ashoka: As far as I know, Provoked is not releasing on the same day. However, Provoked is an English film and we don't see it as a competitor as it is an English film.

Tanuj: Provoked is not releasing on the same day, but even if it were, it is a different genre altogether and will cater to a different audience profile.

To sum up, can HTPL be counted as a safe debut for STUDIO 18?
Ashoka: Yes, we have an excellent team and they are going all out to make it so.

Tanuj: A film is safe if you're sensible about the economics and have realistic expectations in conjunction with the number of prints. Also, with a multitude of new rights emerging on the horizon, you need the skill-set to exploit them. We've kept all this in mind.

So what is next on the anvil?
Ashoka: The next overseas release is Kya Love Story Hai, directed by Lovely Singh and produced by N.R.Pachisia. We also have our co-production Halla Bol by Raj Kumar Santoshi, due after that. There are some others, which we will announce shortly. Several producers are in negotiation with us for their projects for the rest of the year.

Tanuj: Even though Studio 18 is a part of the massive TV 18 Group, for all practical purposes, we're a recent company. And for the International Distribution team to put together a slate of 5-6 projects in the first year itself says a lot about the kind of trust and confidence filmmakers have in us as individuals, and of course, in the power of a huge media conglomerate like ours. 

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