Satish Anand is the Chairman of Eveready Pictures, which was set up back in 1946 by father J.C Anand. Eveready Pictures is today one of the largest production giants in Pakistan, also one of the most prominent film distributors and a gateway for Bollywood films in Pakistan. BizAsiaLive.com caught up with the veteran about his tenure behind one of the most successful entertainment entities in Pakistan.
You’re a veteran in the film industry, how would you describe your journey over the years?
Eveready has released over 650 Hollywood, Bollywood and largely Pakistani features in the last 70 years. Additionally we have also produced over 250 TV shows of various genres and multiple entertainment events.
I feel blessed I am heading Eveready Pictures established by my father J.C Anand in 1946. At the beginning of Eveready, my father played a pivotal role in contributing to the inception of Pakistani film industry. At the time Eveready Pictures was the only film company operating across West and East Pakistan. I took reigns of Eveready Pictures, a major film empire at the time when Za Ul Haq’s dictatorial era had started. However I walked into the most difficult time for the film industry as Zai’s conservative policies proved to be detrimental to the cinema coupled with a pre-existing ban on Indian films and the coming of the VCR that further took away the film audience and eventually a gradual decline in cinemas, studios, film workers and films.
Eveready has kept the Pakistani cinema alive despite the headwinds. Even in the worst of times we continued to finance, produce and distrbute films and come up with solutions for keeping the show going leading to the emergence of Punjabi cinemas, overseas collaborations with SAARC countries, taking films to film festivals and to international TV audience and introducing our talent to international films such as Nusrat Fateh Ali to Bandit Queen. The turnaround came when President Musharaf’s government approached me to release Taj Mahal, the first Indian film to be released in Pakistan cinemas in 35 years as well as invite a delegation of 35 film artists from India. Following this I released the first simultaneous Bollywood Film in Pakistan-Goal. Since then my company has been actively driving the growth of all films, especially new Pakistani films. So now we have a distribution deal with Disney for Pakistan. We have delivered highest Pakistani grossers such as Actor in Law, Bin Roye, Yalgaar, and a Na Maloom Afraad and Bollywood ventures such as Dilwale, Bajrangi Bhaijan amongst others. We hope to deliver success for new ventures such as Shoaib Mansoor’s Verna, SRK’s Harry met Sejal expected in August 2017. Ours is a family business and the third generation of the family, Tanya Anand also heads the UK and International offices.
You’ve been the connect between India and Pakistan by taking Bollywood movies to Pakistan – how challenging has this process been recently?
Due to recent political tensions between India and Pakistan there was a voluntary embargo by film distributors on both sides of the border to not exchange films. This situation was making a dent in the box office collections. I had work really hard to break this embargo by bringing Rakesh Roshan’s film ‘Kaabil’ to restart this stale As we still needed a large volume of films than what is being produced by the Pakistani cinema.
Pakistan cinema has come such a huge way recently, with budgets increased and the demand for Pakistani artists – how pleased are you to see the direction in which Pakistani cinema is heading?
We are no longer in revival phase. We have revived and are growing. Pakistani cinema is one of the fastest growing film industries and as the industry matures further we will see this scale gain momentum and get larger. There is already a 70% increase in film budgets since last year as box office numbers also gain momentum. A good film today can make 20 crore rupees in Pakistan alone. Also it is not just artists, there is talent in all kinds of categories chipping in to drive the growth of the cinema.
You recently collaborated with Hum Films for ‘Yalghaar’ – how was this like?
President of Hum Group, Sultana Siddiqui is a very dear friend of mine and we have done a lot of work for TV together before launching into film partnerships. We have done several film ventures with HUM. Yalghaar is the biggest worldwide release to date and largest UK release across 43 screens. We had a very successful launch in London for Yalghaar with a star studded premiere at Mayfair Curzon. We are looking forward to a strong box office in the UK. In Pakistan the film has already done 7 crores in 4 days.
How would you compare the response to Pakistani films by audiences in the UK over that in Pakistan?
Pakistani films are still establishing their brand in a highly competitive film and entrainment environment that UK. Here cinema ticket prices are steep, there is competition from various other mediums. We need a strong P&A and distribution strategy and multiple tools must be used to engage the UK audience base to achieve results similar to Pakistan. However where these things have been done appropriately we have seen the success in box office such as with ‘Bin Roye’ and ‘Janaan’.
With Pakistani films increasing their budgets in their marketing, films like ‘Yalghaar’ and ‘Janaan’ are spending big money on mainstream advertising and press junkets, how do you feel about this?
Film business is about promotion and distribution. Both must go hand in hand. Where distributors have invested adequate P&A the film has delivered results at the Box Office. Of course, the film itself must have some merit and word of mouth to sustain beyond the initial week. ‘Yalghaar’ was promoted strongly as any other mainstream Bollywood or Hollywood film. So I feel it is a step in the right direction.
What are your future plans?
We are planning on launching Shoaib Mansoor’s ‘Verna’ and SRK’s ‘Jab Harry met Sejal’. ‘Verna’ will be a collaboration with Hum and will be released in the UK. We have just launched ‘Meherunissa I lub You’ as well. We are also keen to promote the Pakistani cinema in the UK and welcome young talent and film makers. We feel that sensible collaborations must be encouraged and entertained.