Interview: Producer Mr.Pradip Churiwal; Chairman and CEO of MacNeill Media
Mr. Pradip Churiwal, Chairman and CEO of MacNeill Engineering turned producer with the Bengali Film Durbin which got critical acclaim and now there are a host of New Bengali Films with stellar cast that are ready for release or are being shot under the banners of MacNeill Media. Sholoana Bangaliana correspondent recently met the producer on the sets of one of his movies Sesh Anko and spoke to him at length about his choice of films, future plans of making it big in the film industry as well as his methodology of selecting scripts and working round the finances. Excerpts…
Sholoana Bangaliana: Since we are at the sets of Sesh Anko, lets first talk about this film…. So tell us about how this project started and how were you approached?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: I was approached by the director, Mr. Tathagata Banerjee’s wife Nivedita and then after I met them and heard the script I really liked it. In fact after hearing the script I did some homework and found out that the team is very dedicated and eager to work on this project so we had discussions around the project and after getting the required revisions done we finally decided to go ahead with the project.
Sholoana Bangaliana: When people approach you with scripts what are the aspects that you primarily look into before deciding to finance it?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: First and foremost I look into the story and concept which has to be appealing to further take it on. Also, one thing that we strictly follow is, our films have to be clean and devoid of any vulgar content due to which I with my team closely scrutinize the script before saying yes to the project.
Sholoana Bangaliana: As you are saying that you closely scrutinize the content before saying yes to a project, I would like to know what really passes off as good content and do you decide it yourself or have a team to assist you in making the decision?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Yes we have a core team and we listen to the story together and evaluate the content and suggest changes and modifications that will make the content suitable for the target audience. Like, in the movie Sesh Anko too, there was no item song but after evaluating it from all aspects we have suggested the addition of an item song which will spice it up and increase its entertainment quotient.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Since you have been repeatedly using the term ‘We’ when it comes to making decisions about scripts; would like to know who all are there in the ‘We’. If you could tell us more about the profile of people who influence your decision making in terms of financing film projects….
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: They are all my colleagues. Mr. Saikat Mitra, Mr.Subrata Guha Roy, Mr.Ashok Dhanuka are some people whom I consult when finalizing projects. In fact Mr. Dhanuka who is a producer and great friend of mine has a big role to play in the decision making and I ensure that he is also there with us during the script hearing sessions. Moreover, I am also gradually learning the trick of the trade. I actually have this inherent quality that whenever I take up something, I execute it to perfection; just like when I entered the forklift business ten years back, I was a newbie in the trade but now I am well established and the scenario is such that even old established players like Godrej and Voltas seek my advice in various matters.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You say that when you take up a business you do it thoroughly and with all due preparations, so what homework did you really do before taking up producing films as one of your businesses?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: I have been associated with the industry for the past 4-5 years as, in my factory premises number of films and TV serials have been made. I keep interacting with these people trying to understand the nuances of the trade. Moreover, some of the industry’s most established producers are my friends and I keep talking with them about various aspects of this business. In fact, even when we go for our morning walks we discuss these things… So I am always on the job!
Sholoana Bangaliana: You have so many businesses to look after, so how much time do you really devote to films? Do you take it up just as another business or are you even passionately involved with this art form?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: I have a passion for it, moreover since it is still in its nascent stage I have to take personal interest in its whereabouts as only when there is complete focus can the venture succeed and once established there will be a professional team taking care of it.
We are also in the process of creating our own infrastructure for films. We are slowly acquiring all sets, studios and other equipment required as well as setting up our own edit and color correction studio. So it will soon be all captive and we will be producing nothing less than 5-6 films a year. In fact 5 more projects have already been finalized; one has Saswata and Tanushree in it, another is with Aniket Chatterjee, then the next one is with Sohag Sen and then the next one is by Subroto Guho Roy and by the time these are done Mr. Saibal Mitra will be ready with another project.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Are you planning to stick to Tollywood or do you have plans of venturing into Bollywood too?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: No, first we will establish ourselves here and then think of moving ahead. In fact, we are also about to launch a TV channel, the planning for which are going on and if everything goes well, by March we should be able to launch it in a big way.
Sholoana Bangaliana: The Bengali film industry more or less caters to a very regional audience base, so what analysis have you really done before investing in this market in such a large scale?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: We have an USP and that is, all our infrastructure is owned by us due to which the cost drastically goes down. Moreover, since we are doing so many projects together, we get huge discounts on the rentals and all and this is a very well thought out strategy that helps us in cutting costs and meeting break even for all projects.
Sholoana Bangaliana: When it comes to costing and the ROI, you seem to have very well chalked out plans; who is at the helm of this strategy planning?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Well, all these are directly under my supervision and I am the finance and accounts expert in all these matters.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You are producing films, but are you personally interested in films and are your near and dear ones really excited about this inclusion into the glamor world?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Yes I do have personal interest in films but the only thing is that while earlier I used to get time to go to the theaters to watch films, now a days, due to time constraint film viewing is only limited to the television or DVD; but yes I do watch films. And about the glamor of the industry, I keep myself away from it as I am strictly taking it as a business and doing it very professionally.
Sholoana Bangaliana: When directors approach you with a concept or a story, do you always suggest changes to make it more saleable?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: It all depends on the concept and content. We have to understand that people will watch a movie repeatedly only if it can entertain them through and through. These days no one likes sad and over emotional stuff so there has to be things to spice the film up. But then again, having said that it is not that if the director says that things like an item song or something will not fit in, I insist on adding those things; I only suggest but overall in my films the director is always the supreme and is given full creative freedom.
Sholoana Bangaliana: When a director approaches you with a script which appeals to you do you try and find out more about the director before giving a go ahead to the project?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Yes definitely! We do the required background research and try and evaluate his work before saying yes to the project. I personally look into this background check before saying yes to a project and to add to it, the team that I work with has people from inside the industry which makes my work easier. In case of the director of Sesh Anko Mr. Tathagata Banerjee though, I did not get the time to do the research on his telefilms but all the good word that I got to hear about him gave me the confidence to say yes to his project.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Now that we are at the sets of Sesh Anko, would want to know your expectations from this film and also your level of involvement in the entire shooting schedule?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: I really don’t like to interfere and leave it all to the director and his creative team but since it is my own set up here, I am often present and whenever here, I do check on the installations and other aspects to ensure an un-interrupted shoot.
Sholoana Bangaliana: As you have said that you have a very organized process of taking up a project and believe in giving the director full creative freedom, if a movie tanks at the box office, who do you hold responsible?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Well, this I would then blame it all on luck as there is really no sure shot formula. Even films made by the Bollywood bigwigs have tanked; for example take Subhash Ghai, he was so successful at one point in time but what is his success rate now… So it all depends!!
Sholoana Bangaliana: A director who may not have been able to give you one hit, does he lose his chance forever or do you still give him a patient ear when he approaches you with a new project?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Well, firstly I have not yet gone through that stage but even if I had, if I see that the director has put in his heart and soul into the work but the film could not pull off because of other market conditions, distributions and various other factors then why blame it all on the poor guy. In Kolkata, distribution, which is handled by a handful of people and it is a big issue which many a times results in the ill fate of good movies.
Thankfully Mr. Dhanuka is with us and I am banking on him big time for the distribution of my films; our next film Sajarur Kanta is being distributed by him too
Sholoana Bangaliana: People here often complain of an unruly workforce and issues with the union; have you come across any such unpleasant situation yet. If yes, how did you deal with it?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: Thankfully I have not faced any such situation and I am sure I will not face any in future too as I know how to deal with unions and their minions. In my factory too, there are two unions which were really unhappy before I took over and now with me at the helm of affairs they are all happy and have no issues what so ever.
Sholoana Bangaliana: After movies what other ventures are you planning to try your hands in?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: We are simultaneously working on many different businesses. We have already launched premixed tea and coffee and are also coming up with a fashion city where space has already been booked by the top twenty designers of India and the first store by DevrNil has also started. We are also starting a furniture outlet very soon and that will have all kinds of specialty products.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You work on so many things at the same time, how do you manage? What is the mantra?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: I am able to work on so many things because I promote my associates who, after a certain period of supervision and hand holding are made to run the show on their own so that I can move on with the next project.
Sholoana Bangaliana: A message for the script writers and aspiring directors. If they want you to finance their project, what do they have to put on the table for you?
Mr. Pradip Churiwal: They have to bring a good story, something that the public wants to see today, something that is relevant to present times. The story needs to be acceptable to the audience and fit enough to be made within our budget which is about a crore or so.
Lastly I would only say that all are welcome to come to us with their projects and can be rest assured of a patient hearing as we firmly believe in promoting new ideas and creative thoughts.
This exhaustive discussion with Mr. Churiwal gave us an insight into the thought process of an enterprising businessman and we sincerely hope that he is blessed with the Midas touch to create a new success story out of every venture that he takes up.