As Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment deals with hits and misses, VFX remains its calling card
In an interview to Business Today seven years ago, Shah Rukh Khan had said these famous words, "I didn't buy an IPL team to make crores of rupees. I can make money by dancing at weddings."
Given the twist of fate his company Red Chillies Entertainment encountered the next year and the limited expansion and success it has enjoyed over the years, his words gain even more relevance today.
Red Chillies Entertainment started as an ambitious corporate giant that, just like its driven founder, wanted to rule the world in whatever area it tried its hand at. However, the Midas' touch got confined to only its VFX wing which is the more popular branch of the company that also has a presence in film production, TV production and TV commercial production, besides a 50% stake in the Kolkata Knight Riders team of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Probably taking a cue from their song 'Chaand Taare Todd Lau' from Aziz Mirza's 1997 romantic comedy Yes Boss, Shah Rukh, Juhi Chawla and the filmmaker co-founded Dreamz Unlimited in 2000. However, the failure of three big-budget films in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Santosh Sivan's 2001 historical drama Asoka and Chalte Chalte forced SRK to soul-search and come up with a new age avatar of his production house.
That led to the inception of Red Chillies Entertainment which arrived with a bang, ringing in box office numbers with Farah Khan's directorial debut Main Hoon Na. The next major production, Amol Palekar's 2005 supernatural drama Paheli bombed at the box office but went on to get selected as India's official entry to the Academy Awards.
Red Chilles Entertainment reestablished its stronghold on the box office with Farah's 2007 reincarnation saga Om Shanti Om, which became the highest Indian grosser at that time. The production house continued its one hit, one blunder pattern with Priyadarshan's 2009 film Billu.
Not learning from the failure of Irrfan Khan's Billu (in which SRK only had an extended cameo), the superstar went on to produce a young love story in which he, the self-proclaimed king of romance, remained glaringly absent. Roshan Abbas' 2011 film Always Kabhi Kabhi was also a box office failure.
But the biggest blow came in terms of his dream project, Anubhav Sinha's 2011 superhero flick Ra.One. Mounted on an astronomically high budget and humongous expectation, Ra.One was a trendsetter in terms of marketing and merchandise. The film also made it to the coveted Rs 100 crore club but could not recover all its money, owing to the rather liberal budget of the superhero movie.
Since then, all the silver screen products of Red Chillies Entertainment have mostly been collaborations with other production houses such as Karan Johar's Dharma Productions (Student Of The Year, Dear Zindagi and Ittefaq) and Excel Entertainment (Don 2 and Raees) among others.
The only exception to the rule was Farah's 2014 heist film Happy New Year. Bringing her lucky charm back to the production house, Red Chillies Entertainment scored that much needed solo production success as the ensemble film nailed the Rs 100 crore club and in turn, made a lot of money at the box office, though it was panned by the critics.
Out of all the hits and misses that the industry throws at you, Red Chillies Entertainment has maintained its consistency in one area - VFX. Having designed the stunts himself in films like Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om, SRK is well equipped with the VFX technology. It was only organic for him to lay the foundation stone to one of the ace VFX studios of the country.
Another strategically wise move that SRK opted for was to provide VFX services to other production houses, such as Excel Entertainment (Don: The Chase Begins, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Dil Dhadakne Do and Raees), Aditya Chopra's Yash Raj Films (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Chak De! India and Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and Rakesh Roshan's FilmKraft Productions (Krazzy 4, Kites and Krrish 3).
Red Chillies VFX also has a National Award to its credit (for Ra.One). That is precisely why it was roped in to lend effects to films like Anshai Lal's supernatural romantic comedy Phillauri, Kabir Khan's period drama Tubelight and David Dhawan's comedy Judwaa 2 this year.
As the VFX wing continues to flourish, it is gradually taking over the front seat of a vehicle that was largely intended to be a production-centric machine. But unlike his contemporaries, Aamir Khan (Dhobhi Ghaat) and Salman Khan (Chillar Party), Shah Rukh has not nurtured small films, which have told inspiring tales, performed well at the box office despite the absence of the superstar.
With Aanand L Rai's dwarf film in the pipeline, SRK needs Red Chillies VFX at its optimum capacity. But what he needs more desperately is a revenue model of his production house that banks on the strengths and creative instincts of arguably the most popular film star of India today.
All images from YouTube.