The dynamic pillar of SP Cinecorp Sharad Patel sat down with Jasmine Chokshi of Femina India to talk about filmmaking, SP Cinecorp and the future.
Excerpts from the interview:
Think ‘Indian movie producer’ and your brain is likely to present visual imagery that ranges from the ageing potbellied, avaricious 70s movie mogul to the cigar-chewing, somewhat sinister, cinema big shot. But Sharad Patel, or SP, all of 32 years and founder of the eponymous SP Cinecorp, defies all stereotypes and puts to rest jaded notions about Bollywood, Gujarati cinema, and the business of entertainment as he animatedly discusses his favourite subject- movie-making!
Despite his family roots being in real estate and various business, Patel was bitten by the storytelling and entertainment bug much early and always kept looking for avenues to satiate his passion. He says,” I took up theatre during my school days, playing each role with utmost enthusiasm. There was a sense of innocence than to mould me into a character and get carried away by it. “ This was only the beginning of a journey that culminated in Patel mastering the stagecraft from John Barry Studios in Mumbai to acting in short films. He continues, “My big exposure to the world of glamour and entertainment happened with the launch of the Rajasthan Fashion Week. There was no looking back after that.”
By his own admission, he is obsessed with the craft of filmmaking. He says, “Reality is boring; I like to shake it up. Good stories appeal to me and have always struck an instant chord. I help stories come to life.” It was this fascination for storytelling and cinema that led SP Cinecorp to back Chello Divas, one of the biggest Gujarati blockbusters of recent times! Speaking of its success. He says, “Back then, Gujarati cinema frowned upon and there were hardly any urban films relevant to present-day Gujarat. When I came across this script. I realised this was our chance to break from the cliches, the outmoded storylines, and OTT dramas. It was not easy-the language was very real and colloquial, there was apprehension about censorship issues and whether the conservative audience would accept it.”
The fears were unfounded as the film broke many box-offices records and lead actor Malhar Thakar emerged as the breakout star of Gujarati cinema. “There is an obvious advantage to the Gujarati business genes-you know how to take calculated risks,” laughs Patel.
SP Cinecorp’s choice of films in Bollywood is also distinct, if not unconventional-case in point, Buddha in a Traffic Jam and the recent conspiracy thriller The Tashkent Files. Patel, who thinks there is magic to the cinema, looks for the element of surprise in all scripts. He says, “I am mostly interested in subjects and themes that have not been experimented with earlier. For example, Buddha in a Traffic jam written by Vivek Agnihotri struck an instant chord because it was about a theme that is relevant and contemporary. But even if I am making an out-and-out entertainer, I will look for that special something, the thought that lingers long after the curtain falls.”
Patel is currently raking in the success of The Taskent Files-the film recently completed 100 days and is widely considered to be among the hits of 2019. He says, “It is a rare feat considering that it had a limited distribution. There’s always the clash between idealism in film art and practicality of commerce. It’s a thin line on which I must tread carefully every day.’
Patel divides his time between Mumbai and Vadodara, where his office is and manages multiple roles well-he’s still at the helm of his family-owned real estate and construction business! Busy fielding calls from industry veterans, scriptwriters, and his office, as the interview progresses, you can see he is quite the hands-on CEO. He explains that he has big plans for both Bollywood and Gollywood. “ We have broken the jinx that had haunted Gujarati cinemas and there is no looking back now. You can feel the enthusiasm among the audiences and also the investors who are keen to invest in Gujarati cinema. This means great things for new talent, fresh scripts, and much innovation that will find its expression in the medium.” he adds.
Patel is in the process of forming synergistic alliances with producers, production houses, and visionaries to develop new content for various film mediums and OTTs. When he is not leafing through film scripts or deciding on the next project. Patel loves spending time with his family, preferably travelling. He also has quite an active presence on social media networks and loves to blog.
“Content is truly king, whatever the medium. My role as a producer is not just to invest money and make more money out of films. My vision is to make films that showcase the art of storytelling and yet are commercially viable. As more distribution avenues open up SP Cinecorp will benefit from the emerging opportunities in the next five years. Both OTT media services and film products will be our primary focus as we explore new markets, especially in South East Asia.” says Patel.