Tanujj Garg and his career path in the entertainment business epitomize a fresh new wave in the Indian film industry. The Indian audiences are decidedly treating content as King, and a new generation of producers has its finger on the pulse.
After completing his education, Tanuj worked with Disney UTV and Viacom 18 before joining Balaji Motion Pictures in 2010 as their CEO. In 2016, he partnered with Atul Kasbekar to launch his own production company, Ellipsis Entertainment. With over 17 years of experience in the entertainment industry, we thought Tanuj would be a perfect resource for an inside view on the actual ‘business’ of entertainment, and he was kind enough to oblige us by answering a few questions.
Q1. Growing up in Mumbai, the film industry is all pervasive. Did you ever imagine in your student years that your business would be ‘show business’?
A1. Well, honestly, I had never imagined that I’d eventually be in the Indian media and entertainment business. Having said that, I was always inclined towards this sector; I felt myself organically drawn towards it even though my parents wanted me to pursue a chartered accountancy degree, which I tried to pursue but was miserable at. Then I decided to pursue my passion and one thing led to another. My passion started turning into my profession, which, I think, is the best position for any individual to be in.
Q2. What kind of education do you think would be advantageous for someone looking to make a career in the movie production business?
A2. I didn’t really go through any formal education in the movie production process. There’s absolutely nothing better than learning on the job, which is what I did. I learnt things the hard way by actually getting my hands dirty, being on the ground and learning the ropes of the business whilst actually working in the thick of things. There’s no better education than that. Having said that, I pursued my MBA in the UK, with a double specialization in marketing and strategy, which has been a huge advantage. The MBA gives you a generalist business perspective; it provides a holistic view of how to conduct and run a business, which, sub-consciously, has come handy in the organizations I’ve helmed, and now of course, in my own entrepreneurial outfit (Ellipsis Entertainment).
Q3. Which personality traits would you say are essential for success in this line of work?
A3. I’d like to believe that this should be true of most other businesses as well but I can speak for the business I am in. What is crucial to our line of work is, first things first, you need to be progressive and sociable, you need to have great people skills, interpersonal skills and communication skills. Like I said earlier, these are crucial to any business today. I can’t think of any business that does not require these skills. I think these are on the softer side. On the more functional side it’s important to have great organizational and coordination skills.
Q4. What are your thoughts on ‘expectations versus reality’ in terms of the glamour aspect of the movie business?
A4. Fortunately or unfortunately, as an outsider, one has a very different perception of the industry. One obviously sees just the glamorous side. For people like us who are on the inside, and who are involved in the day-to-day business behind the scenes, it’s like any other business. I can speak for myself. We like to have our heads firmly planted on our shoulders, put our heads down and work hard. But I can see and understand why the industry is so enchanting and mesmerising for the audience, because it’s sexy, larger than life and aspirational!
Q5. In your opinion, what is the most prominent factor that differentiates the business of movies from other businesses?
A5. I don’t think the business of movies is different from any other business. I think the laws and the principles that apply to any other business are as applicable to the movie business. Whether it is horizon planning, financial planning, human resource management, marketing or forecasting; it’s all the same. Of course, ours is a creative business; but I’m sure other businesses are creative in their own way. Deep beneath the veneer of creativity, is the business side. However, it also depends on which side of the camera you are on. If you are behind the scenes (like I am), it is like any other business.
Q6. How have digital streaming platforms impacted the entertainment industry?
A6. The recent arrival of the digital OTT wave in our industry has had mixed views, but to my mind it has been a huge blessing for various reasons. For one, it has radically altered the consumption habits of our audience. It has exposed them to a variety of multi-genre content, thereby altering their tastes, attitudes and preferences to a large extent. In any case, I have felt in the last couple of years the Indian audience has hugely evolved, evidenced by the kind of films that have been working at the box office. A lot of rules have changed, a lot of myths have been busted. It is no longer about a ‘star cast’; it is about the story and the narrative. For young, progressive filmmakers/producers like us, this is great news. Ellipsis aims to work towards content that is commercial, yet unconventional. Secondly, from a business perspective, OTT is great because suddenly our options increase; we are no longer dependent on the theatrical route. We have access to the straight-to-digital route too. With this in mind, I think the OTT wave has been hugely welcome. I will, however, qualify this by saying that theatrical is never going to go out of vogue. The theatrical business is going to remain alive and flourishing. It is not an experience you can ever substitute, because the theatrical experience in India is about community watching and about family outings.
Q7. What do you see as the most exciting aspect of the future of entertainment?
A7. With regard to films and series, we have already seen a massive explosion in the last couple of years. Especially with the OTT platforms coming in, there is a flood of content making the consumers spoilt for choice. Every other person is literally hooked on to some series or the other, and these are hugely exciting times for content creators and content consumers alike. As content creators we are now creating content not just for the theatrical audiences but also for the digital platforms and audiences. The quantum of content available for the average Indian consumer is massive. Hopefully this is only going to grow over the coming years with more OTT platforms and more technologies coming in. I think the demand for content is going to grow unabated.
Q8. What has been the most rewarding project for you in your career so far?
A8. Well, that’s like asking a parent which is his/her favorite child! That’s an unfair question! In some shape or capacity I have been associated with more than 37 films so far. Each of them has created a unique memory. It’s like 37 chapters in my life. It’s a long journey that you live with every film. Of course, in some films I was acting in the capacity of a distributor, in some films a co-producer, and in several others a producer; but the fact remains that there is a huge emotional attachment with every baby that I have had the privilege to release. While it would be unfair of me to single out one or two, I will say “Tumhari Sulu”, “Rang De Basanti”, “Neerja”, “Ek Villain”, “Lootera” and “The Dirty Picture” have been my favs.
- The interview was originally published in Career Ahead October 2020 issue.