The show goes on: Sanjeev Bijli says slowdown has not hurt PVR’s fortunes
The movie baron says that people are seeking refuge in the theatre.
Having been a part of the entertainment industry for close to three decades, he has seen and survived slowdowns. And even as the country’s economy chokes to a six-year-low amidst reports of gloom in Motown, he does not seem too perturbed.
“Cinemas always survive as they give people an opportunity to get entertained at a very low ticket price. Even when things are gloomy and it becomes too much to handle, people know that there’s always the movies to go to,” the 48-year-old, says, settling down for a quick chat at PVR’s luxury offering, Home, in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj.
And there seems to be no slowdown in footfalls as people seek refuge in the theatre, over a tub of popcorn, to momentarily forget their worries. In the second quarter of the financial year, PVR’s footfalls rose by 20%, recovering sharply from a cricket overdose between April-June, and defying all negative predictions of a slow market with reduced spending.
Terming the economic slowdown as a “cyclical episode that happens every 7-8 years”, Bijli emphasises that PVR Cinemas, which has 800 screens across India, has not been hit by the present climate. In fact as numbers swell, he says that the demand for “quality content” has only grown as more Indians travel abroad.
“The Indian audience is an extremely discerning one. Thanks to the Internet, people in India are now aware of good international content, and are demanding the same,” Bijli says, as he recalls being fielded with calls about the India release of ‘Downton Abbey’ even before it hit the screens in the US and UK.
This quest for good, quality content explains why Bijli decided to put his weight behind Asif Kapadia’s ‘Diego Maradona’, based on the life of the Argentine flawed football genius, and help it get a theatrical release in India (the film releases on Friday in India). He watched it at Cannes where it made its debut in May this year. And while the England-born entertainment baron himself is not a football fanatic, Maradona, who gave the premiere a miss, was simply too big a film to ignore.
“At Cannes, there was this massive buzz about the Maradona documentary, and once I watched it, I loved it. For me it was not just about football but the backdrop and the rise of a man from the slums to the pinnacle of riches, and then his subsequent slide,” he says.
While a film like ‘Diego Maradona’ keeps it real, Bijli says that the same audience is ready to spend three hours and lap up a not-so-real, action thriller like ‘War’ which, incidentally, has become this year’s third highest-grossing film, crossing the Rs 200-crore mark.
And even as the pundits debate the intricacies of an economic slowdown, for Sanjeev Bijli, not-so-good news has brought good tidings.