MUMBAI — Anant Roongta, managing director at Famous Studios, has set a great example in his four years since he took over the heritage left behind by his grandfather. He is the grandson of J.B. Roongta, who conceived and founded Asia’s first air-conditioned studios, Famous Studios, in 1946, that is, in pre-Independence India.
Anant is the third-generation entrepreneur at Famous Studios and is taking forth the 75-year legacy. As a kid, he was always deeply intrigued by content. Anant maintains the beam of focus towards introducing innovative technologies, learning and development in order to add new-age relevance to the industry and expansion of services at Famous Studios.
He has spearheaded new offerings at the studio such as visual engineering, motion capture, content creation, production and post-production, VFX, a fully equipped preview theatre, virtual production and co-working spaces, and has launched India’s second largest Dolby Atmos home mixing facility for the OTT original content space. He is determined and is dedicatedly working towards expanding its creative studios and visual effects facilities.
India-West chats up with the entrepreneur on the way forward, and how the U.S. or other investors can gain by being a part of the glorious future of entertainment specific to India.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How do you see the changes that are happening and to come? Would they benefit overseas investors? If so, how will it do so?
A: The current situation will pass. The main advantage India has is a rich history, because of which we have an endless treasury of fascinating stories across cultures and languages. The potential for investors is the meaningful content we can deliver, and so they can invest in stories in abundance that can be translated into the audio-visual format.
As it is India makes the largest number of movies. The number of professional studios, and the creative fraternity that have all developed in last five years—like line-producers, fabulous indoor and outdoor locations et al are indicative of what we can achieve. As it happens, Famous Studios is in its 75th year, and today, the technology we have is of international grade, the same that is available in London or Los Angeles. There is thus a massive opportunity to create content in Hindi and all languages.
Q: What are India’s other plus points?
A: Internet is now reaching to the remotest parts of our country, and its cost is the cheapest, plus the easy accessibility to smartphones, not necessarily made by well-known global brands but also homespun ones with comparable quality, makes it very easy to download any app.
Q: So technology has made all this possible.
A: Yes, the entire population across age groups now has multiple ways of consumption for entertainment. Opportunities, too, have increased, because before the times of OTT, there were only movies and television. You missed a movie or a TV show if you could not watch it at its time. But OTT is about video on demand and so you don’t miss any movie or show, as you can watch anything at your time.
In general, also anyone with a digital camera, reasonable talent and a story can also go out there and produce a film solo. In that sense things are economical, and even high-quality home gadgets are available at affordable prices.
In short, you can showcase your work and have the opportunity to make money even without the presence of stars in your movies.
Q: Do you share the trade optimism that the post-Covid scenario will witness an entertainment boom and the return to big-screen?
A: Of course. Once Covid is done people are going back to cinemas. Films like “No Time to Die” or “Top Gun” need the IMAX Cinemas experience and Dolby Atmos. People will wait for cinema halls to open as such things cannot be replicated at home. Even the multiplexes are now affordable to most people in the cities. Plus, in India, watching movies is an occasion with loved ones and friends. And there are so many stories for all mediums. There will never be a lack of demand, and I foresee a boom.
Do you know that China has 10 times more cinema halls as us? And that is also going to grow here. My cousin, who runs IMAX Cinemas, is continually investing in multiplexes.
Q: What about Famous Studios and your role in the shaping of things to come?
A: We have set up a Virtual Production studio, where instead of a green screen, there is a 6k LED wall. With this, we can seem to shoot films on location in UK, USA or wherever though we are here. We have worked remotely with people in lockdown in UK and USA and have contacts there, who will shoot videos of locations and send them to us for use as backdrops.
We were also the first studios to get a Dolby Atmos certification and now we have invested in Dolby Vision, which is an advanced form of color grading. We will also be introducing Robotic Technology that helps in taking speedy shots.
As a studio, Famous was always famous for every kind of service in production and postproduction. But now we are also turning producers. Our maiden film will be streamed on Disney+Hotstar in mid-June.
Q: You were also the first air-conditioned studio in India. Tell us something about your illustrious 75-year innings. I have interviewed stars and musicians, filmmakers in their offices located in your studio, come for TV show shoots and watched dozens of films in your preview theatre. It is truly a versatile setup.
A: Famous Studios is fully owned by our family. We have seen many ups and downs in these years. My grandfather was twice president of the Indian Motion Pictures’ Producers’ Association (IMPPA) and even produced a film with Dev Anand.
In the ‘80s, we began a processing unit and in 1985, we began post-production services. We became known as the Mecca of the advertising and commercial industry, which boomed at Famous.
My vision for storytellers today is providing them with infrastructure, talent and technology and I am also looking at how we can help them even further.