She has just started producing films but Priti Rathi Gupta, founder, Ishka Films Private Limited, is clear about the kind of films she wants to produce. After producing the critically acclaimed Waiting, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin, Gupta is gearing up for the release of Karwaan, which she is co-producing along with Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP.
The film stars Irrfan Khan, Mithila Palkar and South Indian actor Dulquer Salmaan, who is making his Bollywood debut. “I hope Irrfan gets well soon,” says Gupta while interacting with ST.
Just like Waiting, Karwaan which releases on August 3, too takes up an unconventional subject. The story is about three people who develop their chemistry during a road journey. “Karwaan was supposed to be my first film, even before Waiting. We were to make the film with Bejoy Nambiar but it didn’t happen. The script was something that pulled me into the space which said, ‘we can say a lot of quirky, delightful things with a tinge of satire’. In the meantime, Waiting happened which was also on the same lines where we deal with real life and tell the story in an entertaining manner by adding humour,” she explains.
Several production houses were keen on producing the film including RSVP but the latter was the best choice. “Because, Ronnie Screwvala is an institution in himself. Their involvement gave the film a good scale,” she says.
Though Karwaan is her second production, there’s a lot that Gupta has learnt as an independent producer. “The biggest challenge for independent producers for multiplex-driven films — ‘How do you make them commercially viable?’ You are telling stories which are not targeted at the masses all the time, they are not formula films. Films are not unviable, budgets are. Therefore budgeting of a film is very critical. Also learning to find out ‘who is your target audience’. I mean, how do you know this is your audience who will come to watch your film,” she says adding, “It can be very tempting to explore the stereotypical way of marketing. But for these kind of films, digital is an important medium because a large number of your audience comes from there. So you must know how to use that medium to reach out to your audience,” she says.
Another practical way of learning she says is to have all your contracts / agreements done and sealed before the film goes on floors or you invest a single penny in it.
She adds that because she has been a hands-on producer, she has learnt every aspect of the business on the set. “I wanted to do everything from choosing the script to line production because if you are not part of every department, you cannot learn the nitty-gritty of the business. You have to dirty your hands. With films it’s even more necessary because it’s a dynamically changing profession like there’s new technology, a new crop of cast and crew and so on. The scenario is changing everyday so it’s necessary to be hands-on, otherwise you will not realise if it’s the correct route for your film,” she says.
Choosing the script
Gupta, who is also the managing director and promoter at Anand Rathi Share and Stock Brokers Ltd, says that while producing a film her focus is on the script. “Because it’s something that appeals to me. When I am visualising it should be the kind of film I want to watch. Secondly, the film should be entertaining. You can make a slice of life kind of movie but you have to bring out the humour and amplify the emotions. Also, you must see how passionate is the person or the director who is bringing out the story,” says Gupta, who is an alumnus of Harvard Business School.
As a producer she is going to focus on working on international projects. “The kind of content millennials are watching is different and mostly international in nature. That’s why my next few projects are going to be international. In addition to this, five other films are in their developmental stages, the idea is to work on one project at a time, till I know we are in a position to handle multiple projects.”
She says that she is also looking at producing web content along with regional content. “The idea is to stick to strong stories and content,” she adds.
Though Gupta belongs to a hardcore business family, she was always very creative. “There was a time when people thought that every child in a Marwari family should only pursue commerce, until and unless s/he wanted to be a doctor or an engineer but that was not my calling. My mother was very creative,” says Gupta, who is a trained classical singer with a diploma in Hindustani vocals and has a keen interest in painting. “A part of me was always inclined towards creative art but financial services took up a lot of my time. There comes a point in your life when you think you need to do something that you have been yearning to do for a long time. For me, cinema has been my true calling. My financial backing has helped me further,” she says.