Ultra Media and Entertainment has been around for more than four decades. They were one of the first to acquire rights for classic Hindi films and new to create video tapes, and DVDs. Slowly and steadily, they have changed gears and created content in different languages and for varied platforms. Leading this technological augmentation is Rajat Agarwal, third generation of the owners.
Rajat recently produced an anthem to boost the morale of the Indian cricket team and released it on YouTube. He spoke about that and more during a chat with The Free Press Journal.
Excerpts from the interview:
What story did you want to tell via the Cricket Anthem?
‘Bolo Bharat Mata Ki Jai,' an inspirational audio-visual Anthem, was conceptualised to appeal to every Indian to wish our Cricket Team all the very best for ICC World Cup 2023. India has performed phenomenally well both in Cricket and Asian games recently. With this anthem, I just wanted to convey how we all are eagerly waiting for them to bring home the most coveted title in International Cricket. The idea was to make this anthem go beyond the boundaries of the cricket stadium, as it infuses an unparalleled sense of excitement, it can also be proudly watched and played on any patriotic events and celebrations. All thanks to the energy and positivity it exudes.
You have ventured into Marathi with OTT platform Jhakaas.
“Ultra Jhakaas” was a natural extension for us, as there was a void for good engaging Marathi content in an OTT Platform globally. We also have produced Marathi films in the past, which were released theatrically and acquired Marathi content across various genres from others.
And now you are stepping in Southern waters.
Our existing content stable has a huge library of South Indian films in various languages, which we have been syndicating globally. ‘Antony’ with award winning actor Joju George and director Joshiy, marks our venture as a producer into the thriving South film industry. Also keeping in mind, that South Indian films are now majorly made for Pan Indian audience and Indian diaspora globally, it’s perfect time for us. Going ahead we have major plans to increase our footprint in the South Indian film industry. and will make films in all the languages.
Which regional language is more vibrant and attractive and why ?
Each language has its own charm. Each language has its own way of conveying India’s rich traditional cultural values and ethos in its unique diversity. Till date Ultra has produced more than 40 films in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and other languages. The content of each language has a different narrative & storytelling format, as they majorly cater to their relevant geographical belt. Yes, currently there has been more traction for South Indian films nationally. The dubbing & subtitling options in various languages in OTTs & theatres has given it an additional push.
Do you plan to make films / OTT in other languages as well?
Post Ultra Jhakaas, we will be launching our new Hindi OTT Platform “Ultra Video” in December this year. It will stream popular Bollywood films, songs and other entertaining Hindi content. Ultra will definitely explore viabilities of venturing into OTTs in other languages as well. In terms of making films in other languages, we are a full-fledged production house. We also have an inhouse state-of-the-art Pre & Post Production Studio, which makes us a one stop shop for Content Creation.
What excites you more: short films, music videos or commercial blockbusters and why?
I am of the opinion that each genre holds its own agenda in terms of its content conceptualisation, narrative, creation & consumption. The objective and genesis of each is different because the audience for each can be the same or yet slightly different. It all depends upon what you want to convey to the audience in that limited time frame. As I had mentioned earlier, I scripted and directed two short films purely because the story needed that kind of format. A commercial blockbuster is a different canvas altogether. It has all the bells, whistles and mostly are massy in nature. I personally get excited in dabbling in all.
You have copyrights to a lot of old classics. Does the showing of these films on television impact you financially?
Not really. The Indian classics have their own timeless charisma, and it doesn’t limit itself to a Satellite telecast. We have perpetual rights for most of these Classics, any platforms who want to stream it, need to take it from us. Also, we syndicate these films regularly in the overseas markets for various platforms, dubbed and subtitled in various languages. Additionally, we regularly participate & market these classics in various International Film Trade Markets & Film Festivals. We continuously get buyers from newer markets there who like to stream & monetise these titles in various platforms in their respective countries.
After assisting Suraj Barjatya, didn’t you think of making films of that genre?
Of Course, I do, working on Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was an incredible learning experience...I had been going through some scripts on that kind of a genre which is a wholesome family entertainer & has an interesting mix of songs, music & drama... something which people would like to watch with their family in theatres for a cohesive experience......I am yet to finalise and lock down a bound script for it..... but yes it is definitely on the cards & I will announce something on that line next year....
What do you find more challenging – producing, directing, or writing
According to me all these 3 aspects are very important to make a captivating film. They are the prominent ancillary units of the whole ecosystem. Though I personally feel that writing is the most challenging part, as it is the bedrock of any film. It is the first basic structure of the inverted pyramid. A script needs to be appealing with the right kind of emotional quotient & yet should be fresh & non repetitive. A good script will entice not only the producers and studios but also the acting talents to be a part of it. Good direction can propel and elevate a well written script to a different level, which in turn can effectively and seamlessly convey the core message in a congenial way.
After education in writing, why have you not written many films?
I have written around three film scripts, which I keep on fine tuning as and when I get some time. The bound script will be ready soon. I will be getting the films on the floor next year. It is just that I had been too busy with the day-to-day affairs of the Company, that devoting time to write more films have been a bit of a challenge. Though I will get back to writing new scripts as soon as my first film gets into pre-production next year.
What does your job include as a Syndication Head in Ultra?
Primarily I am the Director of the Company & have been overseeing the Production as well as Content Syndication verticals of Ultra Group. I explore new business opportunities for Ultra’s rich library of content in many countries globally. I have been constantly participating in various international Film Trade events like Mipcom Cannes ,Hongkong Filmart, Singapore ATF & many others and also have been attending prominent film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, hence nurturing long-standing business relationships across various parts of the world.
I also had been constantly overseeing the acquisition of various content from different English-speaking countries like the USA, England, New Zealand etc. Currently I have been exploring possibilities of buying Asian content and dub them in local languages for various platforms. From India, Ultra has been buying content from across various genres & from the international markets we have been focusing on action, horror & animation genres. I am of the belief that OTT & VOD will be an emerging segment & will witness a huge boost in the near future, purely because of the convenience it gives to the end consumer.