in conversation with Shaaminder Malik -DEVANG SAMPAT

Devang has been associated with Cinépolis India for 10 years, currently serving as the Director- India Strategic Initiatives. His vision is to redefine the provision of cinema exhibition industry in India. Also, bringing in new age technological innovations to redefine and upgrade the Indian cinema exhibition industry.
After completing his graduation from Mithibai College at Mumbai University, he went on to pursue my MBA degree from ITM Mumbai. He spent the formative years of my career developing a Mumbai based cinema chain for 10 years, where he headed the business leadership team.
When not hopping between Mumbai and Delhi for work, I love spending time with my family and occasionally, squeeze in time for a cricket match!
With so many new young actors with impeccable pedigrees coming in, does that make the shelf life of older stars shorter, with the exception of the three Khans.
Isn’t that great! The younger generation of stars like Rajkumar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Tapsee Pannu and Radhika Apte has infused a breath of fresh air in the industry. They are not afraid to experiment, and we now see a lot of content-driven movies which appeal not only to a niche audience but are also popular amongst the masses. Take for example the success of recent movies like Andhadhun, Stree and Badhaai Ho.
Many successful films this year have been films not based in big cities or in foreign lands as they used to be. Why has middle India or small town India come to mean so much?
The success of such films reflects a change which goes beyond industry trends. A major chunk of our audience in metros have migrated from smaller towns and rural parts of the country. Such movies set in smaller towns have blurred the rural-urban divide and are relatable to a major chunk of audiences.
After Bahubali I and II more and more studios are opting for big budget multi episodic extravaganzas. Is this the right way to go?
The audience love such magnum opus. The success of movies like Bahubali surely gives producers confidence to invest in such extravaganzas and make a franchise, but they need to tread with caution since the investment in such projects is heavy.
With consolidation in the sector, top 3-4 players have become huge and may have a greater say in how and when a film releases and the number of screens it gets. Should this worry the small indie filmmaker?
Actually, the indie filmmaker has benefitted from the rise of multiplex players. With many multiplexes having 10 screens or even more, it is much more likely that indie films get enough shows.
What is the status on the case related to allowing outside food and beverages into cinemas and how will it impact your business?
We would not like to comment on this right now, although we have been monitoring this closely and will continue to do so.
India’s ratio of screens to people is dismal. Will having more screens help films recover money? On the other hand, is it sensible to open more screens when there isn’t enough content?
Increasing the number of screens, especially in smaller and untapped markets is good news for both the local population as well distributors and producers. We see more variety in terms of content nowadays and regional content, especially Punjabi content has been a major driver of footfall this year.
How do you account for the raging success of some Indian films in China? What do they like about our cinema?
Traditionally, the UK, USA and the Middle-east has been the key markets overseas but off late the Chinese audiences have woken up to the charm of Indian movies. They have shown a preference for inspirational stories, family values and a sense of community depicted in Indian movies, which is more familiar to Chinese audiences. The increased marketing of our movies in China has also played a part in their success.
Video streaming via OTT apps is slowly becoming a big threat to cinema houses as films move to these platforms within 2 months. What kind of challenge do these platforms present to your business?
A 3-month window between the theatrical release of a film and its OTT premiere is ideal but, yes, the gap is closing nowadays. Although we do not see the popularity of such platforms affecting cinema footfall drastically, we do acknowledge that there is a set audience that prefer such platforms for content consumption. Having said that, audiences will always flock to the cinemas to catch their favourite superstar in a much-awaited blockbuster. The experience of watching a movie in the theatre with great ambience, good food, comfortable seats and immersive technology like 3D and 4DX is irreplaceable.
Kajol and Kareena, Rani and Sonam (and now Deepika and Priyanka set to join in) prove that it is no longer taboo to have a married female actor. Is the film industry finally catching upto Hollywood? And will it ever catch up to #Metoo that has allowed women to talk openly about their bad experiences with the bigwigs of the film industry?
This isn’t merely a case of Bollywood trying to emulate a trend started in Hollywood, rather it mirrors the society we live in. We see women continuing to work after marriage in other professions, why should it be any different in the film industry?
I would say the same about the #MeToo movement. It is good to see women speak up and most importantly, the courage it gives to other women to speak up as well. I hope this brings about a change and goes on to make workplaces safer for all.
With the amount of biopics being made they will not only be the flavour of the season but also probably the flavour of the year. Is this overkill?
We have a lot of stories to tell and such movies not only act as windows to the journey of heroes in our society but inspire millions. It is indeed great to see the biopics like Gold, Padman and Sanju being made and loved.


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