TSL & SANGAMITHRA: All Set For a Global Journey

Thenandal Studios Ltd, is at Cannes to celebrate its 100th film production and launch its new period film Sangamithra, directed by Sundar C. TSL is also the cohost and Marche’s partner at this year’s opening night – Cannes Film Market Party – at Majestic Beach

Photo Caption: N Ramasami Producer,Chairman & MD,Thenandal Studios ltd

Quick to adapt and capitalise on emerging trends, Thenandal Studios Limited — India’s fastest growing filmed entertainment company — is open to explore new collaborations in international markets at Cannes. Steering the production and distribution studio to new growth avenues is India’s ace film producer Narayanan Ramasami. Pickle holds a tête-à-tête with the 43- year-old Chairman and Managing Director of Thenandal Studios Ltd, which is at Cannes to celebrate its 100th film production and launch its new period film Sangamithra, directed by Sundar C. TSL is also the co-host and Marche’s partner at this year’s opening night – Cannes Film Market Party – at Majestic Beach.

Tell us in detail about Thenandal Studios Ltd and what goals have you set for it.

Thenandal Studios Ltd (TSL) is a market leader in India’s fastest growing filmed entertainment business. As the Indian filmed entertainment space grows strong in conjunction with the country’s economy, we see a huge growth opportunity in the Indian cinema. With technology deeply influencing the industry, we at TSL believe in adapting ourselves to fresh and innovative content. From genres to mediums, we take pride in aiming higher, transcending boundaries and breaking all barriers. Having produced 100 films and distributed over 750 films over three decades, we are keen to explore emerging opportunities to expand our footprints globally. We have a firm foothold in the film distribution business — both for domestic and overseas films. We have distributed big blockbuster films for major Hollywood Studios in Southern part of India.

In the big ocean of the global film industry, we are just a small wave. For close to four decades, we have breathed and lived cinema. We are in the business of arts. We see new opportunities before us in this filmed entertainment space.

Cannes Film Festival and Market is the best place to engage and meet with new collaborators and partners. We see exciting times ahead and there is no better place to explore it further than Cannes.

What is your objective and focus at Cannes Film Festival/Market this year?

We are proud to be associated with Cannes Film Market as host of this years’ Opening Night Party. This year marks 70 years of India’s Independence as also 70 glorious years of Cannes Film Festival. This makes our participation and engagement memorable. We are currently producing our 101st film Sangamithra, which is directed by Sundar C and will be launched at Cannes.

We are a small company based out of the Southern part of India and are venturing to scout for opportunities to have our footprint in new markets and partner with new collaborators. This is our first baby step. I have always been excited to be at Cannes. We have a few festival oriented and off-beat films. We will also be keen to engage with top film festivals and understand their needs. Currently, we have a slate of over dozen films in production pipeline for release till 2019. We are a one-stop studio for production and distribution needs in India. We can handle production needs of foreign filmmakers to execute production in India. We want to make use of this opportunity to meet up with collaborators, partners at Cannes. We are keen to work with partners in China as well.

Tell us about the Sangamithra project.

Sangamithra is a period film which takes us back to the age of kingdoms and age old Tamil culture (Tamil is the oldest language in the world) with the plot depicting treachery, evil and love. Directed by Sundar C, it is our big budget film. The pre-visualisation has been done, the script is final and so are creative and technical talents. Now the project is stepping into execution stage. The pre-production work is in progress for over a year and shooting will begin later this year. Over 2,000 people are working behind the scenes in this project at this stage. We are extremely honoured to have acclaimed director Sundar C helming this project -- which has been his vision for over a decade. He is one of the finest directors in India and I have been his great admirer. Almost all of his 34 films have been commercial hits. His clarity of thought and approach to execute a film project is what I like the most in him. We are in sync with each other and the aim is to create a magnum opus We are approaching Sangamithra as a franchisee film.

You have some of the finest creative and technical talents working for Sangamithra?

Yes, we have. The star cast include Jayam Ravi, Arya and Shruti Haasan, among others. We have roped in multiple Oscar Award Winner AR Rahman (music composer), Sabu Cyril (production designer), Thirunavukarasu S (cinematographer), Kamalakannan (VFX supervisor), Oscar Award Winner Resul Pookutty (sound designer), Anju Modi (costume designer). Most of the people in our team are internationally acclaimed and have won National Awards on their competence. The most interesting aspect is that almost all of them have read the script and readily agreed to join the project while fully aware of the fact that they will be engaged in the project for two years. We will also be working with the best of the international technical talent and studios for Sangamithra.

We saw mammoth success of SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. How has it impacted the Indian cinema?

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion has for sure changed the dynamics and face of Indian cinema. The film has opened new unchartered territories, and is a classic case study in the business of filmmaking. Sangamithra is a totally different film. It has a different template.

We believe in the idea of ‘Make in India and Show it to the World’. We are a nation of storytellers and cinema is an integral part of our culture. Indian films, actors, content and technology are expanding footprints to new and emerging global markets. It is exciting to be in business today.

TSL has stepped into VR space by coproducing Le Musk? Where do you see VR cinema heading?

We have forayed into virtual reality as a co-producer with AR Rahman’s (YM Movies) Le Musk. The celebrated music composer has turned director with Le Musk - one of the world’s first cinematic virtual reality immersive narratives. Written, directed and scored by Rahman, the 15-minute episodic movie stars Nora Arnezeder, Guy Burnet, Munirih Jahanpour and Mariam Zohrabyan in lead roles. Le Musk is world’s first multi-sensory, and India’s first VR movie experience. We believe that as VR headsets become available to consumers, new forms of entertainment will begin to explode. We are excited with VR cinema. We will also be developing VR cinema in our future film projects with potential VR experience among viewers. We look forward to meet up with VR and augmented reality specialists. The industry is currently debating untapped potential of this cutting-edge technology.

We have decided to embrace VR and bet on it and believe that it will have a transformative impact across industries.

Why have you not chosen film direction and is focussed only on production and distribution business?

My father (Rama Narayanan) has directed 126 films. He was a lyricist, songwriter, director and producer. In the 80s and 90s, we used to work with limited budget and small stars. There was no piracy and there was decent Return on Investments (ROI). Things began to change in the first decade of this millennium. Compared to 80 or 90 films per year, over 250 films are released in Tamil language alone today. Across India, there was demand to release 1,500 films per year. Single screens were dwindling and ROI was tough. We needed a strong distribution set-up. Distribution and film production businesses are closely related. So, I focused on strengthening distribution eco-system in South India. We have now developed a very strong distribution network in South India. As a producer, I can value the product better than a standalone distributor. Also, I don’t see difference in being a director, producer or distributor. As a distributor, with the lens of a producer, I believe in the philosophy of success getting accrued across value chain. Since my childhood, I have been living and breathing cinema passionately. As a distributor, every director’s film is my film.

Who has been your major influence in cinema space?

I do tremendously admire and get influenced by the thoughts, actions and insights of Shri AV Meyiappan, the film producer and founder of AVM Studios. He was a pioneer, innovator and renaissance man. What he managed to do in establishing legendary AVM film studio in 1940s is amazing. He opened the doors of opportunity and success to many performing artistes and technicians. India has a lively film industry because of the contributions of entrepreneurs like AVM. I admire his strong belief in content-driven cinema, which is the biggest strength of a film.

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