2012 has been very special for Fox Star Studios – Vijay Singh Part 1

Vijay Singh

The first image I got when I was told that I'll be interviewing the CEO of Fox Star Studios India, Mr Vijay Singh, was that he will be dressed in a pine-stripped grey suit with a blue shirt and a polka dotted tie, will come half an hour late and then talk for fifteen minutes, in between he will take his business calls and then leave the room, while I sit back finishing my black coffee. Well, let me tell you – he did leave me in the room with my black coffee but the rest was just a fallacy. In less than ten minutes, I was greeted with a confident and elated handshake from a gentleman dressed in khakis and a white linen shirt. Vijay Singh walks in with pride and smile and a remark that goes, "I'm sure you couldn't cope up with the London cold and that's why you are here now." Lesson learnt Mr Singh. This man knows how to do his homework. It's the kind of casual virtuosity that marks Vijay and his company Fox Star Studios at its very best. We meet on a pleasant afternoon marking the arrival of that winter breeze and a perfect time to sip on something hot. He calls for his regular black coffee and gets right on track with Life Of Pi, the movie that now officially has given Fox India its sixth blockbuster in a row (3 Hollywood & 3 Bollywood). He then tells me to pause the dictaphone only to find out that it was the cappuccino that was lying in front of him. He gets it replaced with the original choice. Now that's perfection and with that attitude why am I not surprised that Fox Star Studios is the fastest growing and one of the most successful entertainment companies in India. Vijay Singh gives me an inside look of how he runs his business in this Part 1 special.

Life Of Pi, your latest release is taking India by storm and worldwide it's being called the 'next best thing after Avatar'.
There is no doubt about the fact that Life of Pi is what people think, the next best thing they've seen after Avatar. It's a very special film for us. There was a lot of scepticism before we released the film and it is not the easiest book to film. Indian audiences have embraced the film completely. We've had an overwhelming response. The film is playing how it had intended to – the young kids are loving it, the adults too. At one level it was an adventure film and then it's got many layers. I've seen it eight times and every time I've seen, I've noticed something that I've missed earlier. For instance, there is a scene where you see the stars in the sky and some of them form the shape of Lord Vishnu. It's spectacular.

And you must be smiling seeing the collections at the box office.
In the opening weekend we did a business of approximately Rs.20cr. That's an achievement. It's resonated across languages. Life Of Pi in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil has also done remarkably well. Also, if you see the business in China and then we compare it to India, it so happens that when we do a business of $ 1 million here, China would've done $100 million. In this case, we had an opening weekend of $ 3.5 million and China has done $ 10 million in their opening weekend. So we have been able to change the multiple in our favour.

There are talks of Life Of Pi being nominated at the Oscars under various categories.
Life Of Pi is also a very strong Oscar contender. From an accolades point of view, I think it's a stunning film and a film that deserves to be on the Oscar platform. Looking at it from the commercial point of view, it gives us a long window to let it out and do more rounds between now and the Oscars.

But isn't it good that the West is taking more interest in India as the backdrop for their movies?
I don't think people in the West are sitting and thinking – Wow! India is the place to shoot. My personal view on this is that it comes down to the cultural heritage we have. But ultimately it's the book that was adapted. The soul of the book was India. Yes, there is so much mythology, fable, history when it comes to our country. You have to give credit to Ang Lee to take four years of his life to work on this book and make it into a cinematic spectacle.

How will you sum up the year 2012 for Fox India?
2012, I believe, has been very special for Fox Star Studios. Every company goes through that change and the change has come in the form of Life Of Pi that marks six back to back hits we've given – three in Bollywood and three in Hollywood. It's also time to learn. We've been in the business in India since four years and with these learnings and successes we have a road map that'll take us forward. We want to strengthen our position in Bollywood and as the players in Tamil business. As far as Hindi films are concerned, we are looking to do six to eight projects, bigger projects, and bigger concepts. It's a combination of high concept movies with big stars.

You have had a strong relationship with the Bhatts with two major hits. What is it about Bhatts that seems to click with the masses?
Our partnership with Vishesh Films becomes really important because they work on the right budget and the right stars, backed by a good story and excellent music. What is really special about the Bhatts is that they understand the meaning of high concept films. From taking a decision years ago that they will never work with stars, they've found a solution of how you can create stories and still appeal to the masses. They've created a niche audience too for their movies.

Does Fox acquire films or does it work hand in hand with the production houses?
Yes, we will be building a few acquisitions but our endeavour now is to increasingly be involved in the scripting. Raaz 3 is a really good example of what true partnership is. We loved the story but the question was – How do we explore the Horror market? One of the answer was – 3D. Yes, we did exactly that and Vikram Bhatt understands the market really well. But just delivering the 3D wasn't enough. So what is good 3D? Finally we got the balance right. Forget the entertainment business, today; in any kind of profession or business, it's all about building a partnership, teamwork. The classic one plus one is three gets answered here (smiles).

Article written by staff at Bollywood Hungama. Read more

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