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Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd

How VR Films & Studios Handled Covid

admin   July 12, 2021

Thankfully the localisation business had an upward swing due to a huge demand from streaming platforms as consumers relied on them for entertainment more during lockdown, says Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd

Do you miss being at the Cannes Film Festival and Market? For over a decade VR Films & Studios have been regular at Cannes…

Indeed, yes. Virtual Cannes Festival and Market are surely not the same as being physically present there and this is the second consecutive year we missed it because of the challenging situation caused by Covid, though on business front new film acquisitions have been productive and fruitful.

Congrats! VR Films & Studios has done phenomenally well in quarterly results, especially amidst Covid-19 pandemic…

Thank you, God has been kind. In spite of all the Covid induced difficulties and challenges, our FY 2020-21 has been more impressive than the previous year as we have posted more than 10 per cent top line. This quarter April 2021 – June 2021 as well we are hopeful of an impressive 15 per cent growth in the top line as compared to previous years

Has your localisation studio business got impacted by lockdown? How did you manage to change the workflow in your dubbing services?

Thankfully the localisation business had an upward swing due to a huge demand from streaming and TV platforms as consumers relied on them for entertainment more during lockdown. We pioneered our localising systems with “Remote Dubbing” and provided quality output with lots of R&D.

What are your learnings from the operation side of business from lockdown. Do we see this continue in normal times also? Do we go back to pre-Covid times?

We realised with passion and determination, ways and means can be obtained and challenges can be handled effectively. Due to lockdown we had to first equip our team with working infrastructure from home and then innovate the usual dubbing work differently with each talent delivering from their respective homes. It was tough but with lots of effort we had quality output and this turned out to be our USP. We also managed to cut costs without impacting salaries and ensured our team is financially secured as only then each one of us could put in our best effort. We had to survive and gladly we came out stronger.

Theatres were shut and TV platforms were not sublicensing so we made the best with streaming platforms like TVOD, SVOD and AVOD. We had three new releases in this period – Unhinged (Russell Crowe), Target Number One (Josh Hartnett), The Power (Rose Williams) – and are now getting ready with another major Hollywood release, Jolt (Kate Beckinsale).

Post Covid times will be different from pre Covid times as we will incorporate and utilise some of the innovative skills we developed during lockdown, so it will be a beneficial mix of both times for sure.

Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd
Have you been able to keep the quality in dubbing the same as that of being done in a studio?

To a major extent yes. We localised some of the best shows during Lockdown for leading streaming platforms, at times delivering more than 400 hours per month and the quality was very appreciated.

Do you see video streaming platforms dominate the film and content space in the coming times?

At the moment they are dominating and will continue to. Times ahead are uncertain but when the situation comes under control theatrical release will come back. Nothing beats the magical release in theatres, the charm to sit in a theatre with an audience and watch a film munching popcorn and samosas. With ad revenue again flowing in, TV platforms too shall make a revival and sub-license films from independents like us.

Have you added new streaming platforms for dubbed services in Indian languages?

We already were localising for the best of the streaming platforms and Covid increased the business many folds as there was a huge demand for localisation during lockdown. We also added some new clients and are in the process of having more on board. We are increasing our dubbing infrastructure as well. We had plans to increase the number of our dubbing studios in 2020 but Covid made us abort those plans then, which we have revived now and we will be adding 10 new dubbing studios in Mumbai which will include Dolby Atmos and Dolby 5.1 mix studios.

It’s interesting to know that you are now into dubbing for Urdu, Singhalese… What are the foreign languages that are in demand now?

Surprisingly there is a demand for Sinhalese, Nepalese and Urdu dubbing from various platforms. Perhaps they are expanding their reach into these territories in the Indian sub-continent with their local languages.

Any impact for your dubbing services for broadcasters — VR Films has been the voice for Cartoon Network, Discovery and other kids channels?

We have been working with the crème de la crème of broadcasters for years and they have remained with us since then. We have constant output for them which has kept increasing and we are in the process of adding new clients too. Hence our expansion plan has started to roll on because of the increasing demand and the Covid situation being managed. From 400 hours a month we are expanding our capacity to nearly 800 hours per month as platforms have realised that to get more subscribers and maximum reach, they would need more hours of content and localisation makes more monetary sense for them.


We Begin our year with Berlinale

admin   February 20, 2020

With localization business seeing an exponential growth owing to the rise of OTT platforms, VR Films and Studios Limited sees a huge potential in the
European market to cater fresh content to the Indian and SAARC markets that can be dubbed in local languages, say Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt, Directors, VR Films and Studios Limited

What is your objective at Berlinale 2020 and European Film Market?

At Berlinale, we will catch up on European cinema and will look forward to the acquisition of content driven features for India. We are in talks with some European players for collaboration on film production and at this Berlinale will meet them to take it forward. We also look forward to connecting with people for our localization business, and in this way, we bring the world closer back home.

Berlinale is celebrating 70 years this year and you have been a regular at Berlin for over a decade now. How has Berlinale influenced or impacted you?

Berlinale for us has always been very important and is always the first festival and market with which we begin our year. We have been regularly coming here for the last 10 years. Berlinale provides a fabulous platform to European Cinema where one gets to see the very best from Baltic, Scandinavia, East Europe, Central Europe, West Europe, the UK, and many more countries. It is always a pleasure to come here and meet our film fraternity friends from the world over. Also, it’s such a delight to see India being prominently represented for the last two years, creating business opportunities with the best international film houses.

Film ‘Parasite’ has won the Best Picture at oscars? How do you see this change? You have been working very closely with south Korea’s CJ Entertainment?

CJ Entertainment has been a good friend of ours. We have acquired many Korean titles from them for the Indian Sub-Continent. ‘Yoonhee’, ‘Eunji’, and ‘Namyoung’ need a special mention as they have been very kind, accommodating and have always worked hard to get Korean Cinema to our part of the world. ‘Parasite’ is a fantastic film with a beautiful screenplay, very good direction and performances. There is not a single moment in the film which forces you to drift away. It keeps you spellbound irrespective of the fact that you may not understand the language; it transcends all such boundaries. No wonder the film swept all the major awards including the Palme D’or, Golden Globe and now Oscars. In the last Cannes Film Festival, CJ Entertainment was very keen on us acquiring ‘Parasite’ for the Indian Sub-Continent. But since our plate was already full, we let it pass. I guess one loses some and wins some, but nevertheless we are very happy for all of them and more happy to see them all make lots of money. Content is surely the king at the box-office.

All along, VR Films has been working to bring European cinema to India. With localization in full swing because of streaming is there any action now on this front?

Yes indeed. We have been working in this space for the last four years-meeting production houses and agents from all over Europe with the hope that one day the doors for such brilliant cinema would open in India. Thanks to the surge in OTT platforms that such cinema is now having viewers in India. The younger generation is keen on watching such Cinema and this brings lots of opportunities for our other business — localization — as Indians like to hear and watch movies rather than read (subtitles) and watch them. We have more than 65 dubbing studios across India, and we are working around the clock dubbing foreign content for OTT and TV in Hindi and other Indian regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Urdu, neutral English, among others. Currently, we clock around 400 hours of dubbing per month and the demand is still growing. Hollywood films too are getting localized in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu and we continue to do a lot of work for major Hollywood film studios.

This january, we became a member of Netflix’s NP3 (post partner program), which is a huge achievement as it gives us the opportunity to dub their content in Indian languages…

Which projects are you working on? What are your goals for 2020?

We started 2020 with the Theatrical Release of “The Courier” starring Gary Oldman and Olga Kurylenko.

We look forward to Russell Crowe starrer ‘Unhinged’ that we have acquired to distribute in the Indian Sub-Continent. It will have a wide theatrical release in Q3 this year in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and English. ‘Jolt’ is another exciting title starring Kate Beckinsale which will release in Q3/Q4 this year. We also have a horror title from the UK, ‘The Power’, that is slated for release in 2020… So it’s packed 2020 for us. Apart from these three films, we have many other titles that are in production and will have 2021 release. For our localization business, we are setting up more studios as this business is growing with every passing day. We intend to get into the production of content too for which we are in talks with many players.

We started our relationship with Amazon Prime Video and put some of our Titles on their platform and they are performing well.


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Infusing Life With Dubbing AT VR Films & Studios

admin   February 15, 2020

India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language films,” says Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd, . Meet them at the American Film Market 2019 for all your localisation needs

Manish Dutt along with his brother Krishi Dutt runs India’s biggest dubbing company, managing over 900 artistes who lend their voices in several languages to keep his pipeline engaged. Even after clocking 50,000+ hours of dubbing and witnessing 80 percent year-on-year growth, Manish’s VR Films is hungry for more.

“India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language films,” says Manish, Managing Director, VR Films. “We are positioning ourselves to be a one-stop shop for all dubbing and sub-titling requirements. Our dubbing company is making Hollywood in India.” VR Films is a “Limited” company now…with shares listed on BSE SME Platform- first dubbing company in India and second in the world to achieve this.

What is your major objective and focus at American Film Market 2019?

This AFM we have strategized to be very specific for new Titles provided they are different in terms of content and from what we already have in our basket. We have a string of new Titles which are in production and slated for 2020/21 delivery. Markets in India Sub Continent have been quite lukewarm where Theatrical and TV platforms for foreign content are concerned and this contributes towards being more cautious for future acquisitions.

However we will be very aggressive for our Dubbing business and have meets lined up with leading Hollywood Film Studios and OTT platforms as there is a big demand for Indian Localisation of International Content.

Post listing of VR Films & Studio in the BSE and NSE SMEs platform, how has been response from clients and investors?

We started on a very promising note…with our IPO getting oversubscribed 1.7 times. Our share price has more than doubled from INR 61 (listing price) to INR 130 (current price)….more than double in 6 months of listing with Dividend payout @10%.

For Oct 2019 – March 2020 we expect to do 4 times more YOY.

Tell us about your film “The Courier” to be released in India this November? What are your acquisitions and co-production plans?

“The Courier” is an Action Thriller starring Gary Oldman, Olga Kurylenko and Dermot Mulroney. It’s a fast paced movie which we shall exploit Theatrically and Digitally in 9 Indian languages apart from English…namely Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bangla, Marathi, Urdu and Bhojpuri.

We are in talks for a co-production too with European makers…and shall take it forward during this AFM. We also intend to get into producing Hindi Films and have been exploring opportunities.

Streaming platforms are hot now… How has VR Films benefited from OTT from dubbing perspective?

They form a major chunk of our dubbing business…almost 60-65%. We have been dubbing for streaming platforms since 2018…for one major we dubbed their series and features…nearly 2000 hours in just 3 months in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Bangla.
We are in talks with more OTT platforms and shall soon have them onboard….including the major one. Content localisation for OTT is a huge business opportunity which will grow in leaps in times ahead.

What are your thoughts on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative and how do you think companies like VR Films are embracing it?

Our PM is a visionary. Where VR Films is concerned we have been dubbing for leading International Film Studios and TV Platforms since 2000. We started with no Dubbing Studio and today we have more than 65 Dubbing Studios across India…localising Foreign Content in Hindi and regional Indian languages. At times we run double shifts to keep up with the demand. VR Films Studios are known for quality and exemplary service. We deliver much before time. Our clients have been with us since years and we keep adding new ones. OTT platforms have contributed majorly in our recent growth and VR Films will surely do India proud where “Dubbing in India” is concerned.

Do you see slowdown in the market — especially in your services business?

Fortunately not. Dubbing will grow in times ahead. It makes business sense to dub existing successful content in various languages and monetise. India is a growing market…it’s vast and has huge requirements. Each region has its specific language and the platforms will woo audiences by proving content in their specific languages. Apart from entertainment content there is educational/health related content which will be exploited in times ahead. Recently a platform approached us to dub Literature/Novels in various languages. Opportunities are huge and we at VR Films have always kept our eyes and ears open to grab


IT’S HIGH TIME CONTENT CREATORS, SALES COMPANIES GET REALISTIC

admin   November 28, 2019

Owing to huge corrections happening in the market, high production costs are likely to keep the buyers away, feel Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt, Directors at VR Films & Studios, which is the first dubbing company in India to be listed on BSE SME platform and is looking to play a larger role in the industry in coming years

Manish Dutt along with his brother Krishi Dutt runs India’s biggest dubbing company, managing over 900 artistes who lend their voices in several languages to keep his pipeline engaged. Even after clocking 50,000+ hours of dubbing and witnessing 80 percent year-on-year growth, Manish’s VR Films is hungry for more.

“India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language
films,” says Manish, Managing Director, VR Films. “We are positioning ourselves to be a one-stop shop for all dubbing and sub-titling requirements. Our dubbing company is making Hollywood in India.” VR Films is a “Limited” company now… with shares listed on BSE SME Platform first dubbing company in India and second in the world to achieve this.

You have returned back from AFM? How was your experience? How do you see the market for new content creation and distribution?

Yes we are back from AFM. The market was very slow with not so interesting content. There is a huge correction happening in the market. Buyers are very price sensitive at the moment, a fact which the sellers/content creators are beginning to realize. Anything overpriced remains unsold. It is high time content creators and sales companies get realistic on the production costs, as high costs will keep the buyers away. I have never seen sellers requesting buyers to help them out and were willing to cut their asking price by 50-60%. It is an interesting phase where long-term players and actual buyers will only co-exist.

Film Bazaar has emerged as one of the finest markets for discovering talent. What are you looking for in the 2019 edition of Film Bazaar?

Co-production tie-ups and sourcing/funding interesting scripts at the Film Bazaar Producers Lab is our main focus. There are lots of interesting projects being pitched. If the price is right and expectations are reasonable, it can be a fruitful market.

How does your film production pipeline look like? Are you working on regional films?

We are working on a few projects at the moment. These include an international co-production in English to be shot in Ukraine. We are negotiating acquisition of another international project (Academy Awards and Golden Globe nominated film) remake in Hindi for the Indian audience. Also in development are a few scripts. We are looking to start production in the third quarter of 2020. But it depends on the scripts getting locked and availability of cast accordingly.

How’s your service, dubbing business doing?

Dubbing and localization services are doing extremely well at the moment.
There is a huge demand for localization due to the OTT platforms and quest for maximum reach by all concerned platforms. Besides, just the three popular local languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu (for Theatrical)– there is a huge demand for localization in Native English, Kannada, Malayalam, Bangla, Marathi, Urdu, and Bhojpuri on digital platforms.

Sub-titling and close captioning is another service getting very popular with the OTT platform majors.

International content is getting dubbed/ localized in the above-mentioned languages for sure. For the global market, Indian content besides the local language is getting dubbed in international languages as well as Mandarin (Putonghua), Spanish, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaysia, etc, to name a few.

How 2019 has been for you?

2019 is a milestone year for VR Films and Studios Limited. Getting listed on BSE SME platform (oversubscribed 1.70 times) was a dream come true. Being the first dubbing company in India to be listed is a big achievement. Feel happy to have unlocked our assets and created wealth for our investors with double the listed price in a short span of five months. With this exposure, we are looked upon as a serious player in the market and are the first choice of clients for localization.

Suddenly we realize it has been a long journey from a single dubbing studio to 65+ studios across India attached to us clocking 400+ odd hours of dubbing per month and with over 50,000+ hrs dubbed exposure since the year 2000; it surely is a huge achievement.

As we move into 2020 what are your plans?

We have a three-year plan to work on… We will add up a few more studios in Bengaluru (around 5 studios) for Kannada dubs. We also plan to roll out at least two Hindi film productions every year starting 2020, besides our Hollywood acquisitions (10 -12 films a year). Plans are afoot to start our own Pay/Free TV and integrated OTT platform. In 2022, we plan to migrate to NSE Main Board and get listed among the major players to supplement and fund our activities multi-fold.

A challenging vision, but true to our name Visual Reality, ‘We Visualize You
Realize.’


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Play Small & Live Long Did Wonders for Me

admin   May 15, 2019

I still adhere to the basics I learnt at UTV and the mantra, play small and live long, did wonders for me. As UTV benefited from the satellite invasion in media, I am hoping to capitalise on the digital wave in the media, say Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt, Directors at VR Films & Studios, who are aiming big at Cannes Market this year

Manish Dutt runs India’s biggest dubbing Company, managing over 900 artistes who lend their voices in several languages to keep his pipeline engaged. Even after clocking 50,000+ hours of dubbing and witnessing 80 percent year-on-year growth, Manish’s VR Films is hungry for more.

“India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language films,” says Manish, Managing Director, VR Films. “We are positioning ourselves to be a one-stop shop for all dubbing and sub-titling requirements. Our dubbing company is making Hollywood in India.” VR Films is a “Limited” company now…with shares listed on BSE SME Platform….being first Dubbing company in India and second in the world

“We have done a number of Chinese films to English, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu. Also, when we dub Chinese films into English (neutral English) it is accepted globally,” says Manish.

The cloud has opened up new business opportunities. “If anyone wants to send their films for dubbing, then all they need to do is to provide an online link and tell us to localise content. We have the capability to do dubbing in 50 languages. We can deliver the product in 10 days and the end product can be retrieved from the cloud.”

The regionalization of TV channels further improved bottomlines of dubbing studios. VR Films dubs all Discovery Channels English feed to Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. “We do around 4000 + hours of TV & Feature film dubbing every year.” A chat with Pickle

How does it feel to be at Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Film Market as a listed company? Tell us about your Cannes journey and what’s the business like?

It’s a mixed bag of feelings. Fifteen years back when I first attended Cannes, I was a novice and felt too small a player in the sea of deep pocket international corporates and successful film producers and film agents. But I soon realised that Cannes has an appetite for all kinds of players. If you play your cards well and do not get carried away with the glamour and pomp of Cannes, you can survive and do very well. Keeping in mind our limited capacity, we would commit to projects and honor them. After we established our credentials, Cannes helped us grow immensely.

By virtue of being a listed company, we will be attending Cannes with much more vigour and confidence and buying capacity. Today our company has huge and some of the best international projects. As a listed company, we are now acquiring, buying or associating with projects not for just 2019 but for 2020 and 2021 as well. Presently, we have acquired 11 big projects for 2020 and 2021 including films of Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Scott Eastwood, etc.

Cannes Film Market is celebrating 60 years this year. How participating in Cannes has benefited VR Films & Studios? What’s your objective this year?

Cannes has always been our major film sourcing acquisition market. We have managed to acquire big projects in the market. In the last three years, we have acquired at least 5-6 major projects in each Cannes market. This year we will primarily be aiming to acquire at least 10-12 projects. We have already short listed the projects and are in the negotiation process.

Since its inception in 2000, VR Films has come a long way. What’s the vision?

It has been quite a journey, and wonderful learning experience. I have met lots of beautiful, influential people along the way who guided us in every step of the way. We started with dubbing and releasing small indie films from Thailand and Hong Kong on single screens in Indian sub-continent. But with the advent of multiplexes and digital media the overall business strategy changed immensely. Our dubbing business has complemented our growth, especially with the digital media, which is definitely the future of entertainment and we are well geared to use it to our advantage. Even though digital media is presently at a nascent stage, it has benefited us immensely. Versioning and localisation of international content is the best and most economical form of monetisation for all buyers, as today content is the king.

Our vision is to acquire more content, localise it to increase monetisation. Soon we will be producing/creating our own content, feature films and will be localising it in over 20 major international languages across the world. This can only grow upwards in years to come. If you aim to be a global player you will have to adhere to this vision.

How much do you value trust in your business journey?

Trust is a major virtue in our business of acquisition and creating content. This business can never be a one man show. A global player needs to build trust with its partners to be able to meet the global demand for content.

Building trust with our global partners is the cornerstone of our business. When any major project is offered to us in its conception stage, it is committed to us once we agree to do it. Legalities are documentation is done later. Before the start of any market, including Cannes, many projects are already committed to us due to the trust factor. The very fact that we are a listed company today, underscores the immense trust we have developed with our investors, common people, or business associates.

You have learnt the ways of this industry in your days at UTV? Who influenced you the most?

UTV (Disney today) was a major turning point in my life. I was a part of UTV from 1993 to 1997 when it was in its nascent stage. UTV pioneered corporatisation in the Indian film and television industry. Ronnie Screwvala is a visionary who has always been ahead of the curve. I have learnt a lot from him. He will continue to be a benchmark for me. I still adhere to the basics I learnt at UTV and the mantra, play small and live long, did wonders for me. As UTV benefited from the satellite invasion in media, I am hoping to capitalise on the digital wave in the media.

How do you see scope for India as a media & entertainment market, India as a whole market and Indian footprint in global market?

Indian film and content market has a huge unexplored potential worldwide. This had remained largely untapped but is booming now.

Indian content is in big demand and new avenues are opening up, for example China. The local market is huge in India, which is the only country in the world with nearly 12 dialects per language. As the dubbing industry is growing, all platforms are realising the value of localisation. The popularity and footprint of the platforms is increasing immensely due to this and this has resulted into emergence of Netfilx and Amazon who are setting up offices in India and producing India specific content for global market as well.

The major studios in Hollywood are earning huge revenues from Indian markets. Indian content, too, is getting localised in various international languages like Mandarin, Thai, German, Bahasa, etc.

VR Films has executed hours and hours of dubbing for the world’s top studios. What does language mean to you?

Dubbing as source of revenue was neglected for many years. But of late people have realised its true potential owing to digitisation. Hollywood majors never had it so good with releases in just English language, which would attract only 2-5 percent of Indian population and revenues would be marginal. But due to localization in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages the audience has increased multi-fold and revenue earnings revenues jumped more than 200 percent. Today, Hollywood films would earn as much as a local big budget Hindi or Tamil film. Pay TV platforms have also realised the potential of localization and their footprint has surged upwards. They have penetrated the interiors of India, which has lapped up localized products. Localization/dubbing will be a game changer and a necessity in the years ahead.

You have been a pioneer in dubbing foreign and Indian languages. Has OTT players like Netflix and Amazon expanded scope of work beyond broadcast?

All OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Zee 5, etc have just changed the content creation / production strategy. Today creative ideas which would have been neglected citing market forces not accepting them as per a few existing players then, have now new platforms which are experimenting with content-based programmes /films. These are today being accepted and the void created is being fed. Suddenly everyone realizes there is a huge appetite for content based programmes or films.

These are being localized as well in five major languages. OTT platforms also have an added advantage of exploiting the earlier neglected interior footprint. This has made OTT platforms very popular as they are accessible in all languages and can be viewed any time as per your convenience. Moreover, language dubs is also being viewed as a source of brushing up your knowledge on various dialects which had taken a backseat with all conversing in English and Hindi languages.

Will you get into film production? You had earlier expressed interest in producing Marathi films.

Yes. Soon we will be producing films in Hindi and other languages. We are already locking scripts which would be green lighted soon.