We Live In A Thundering Democracy

Ronnie Screwvala, while talking about his book, Dream With Your Eyes Open, points out why he is obsessed with scale and brand and how he deals with tantrums of celebrities. By R Sharma

He was a Parsi boy living in the suburb area of South Mumbai. He was considered an outsider and was constantly asked if he understood the Hindi language. At a time when white-collar jobs were the ideal profession one could possibly think of, he went loggerheads with society and decided to give himself a job. This is Ronnie Screwvala, the founder and CEO of UTV Group, who has written Dream with your Eyes Open — a book about his career as an entrepreneur and of course, his tryst with Bollywood.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I started, there was no funding as we have today. That was the time when I decided to be an entrepreneur which often left people looking at me with raised eyebrows, who thought, ‘Oh, so you didn’t get a job so you employed yourself.’ But, I think every time you come out of a failure, and can forget it within two months, then you realise that it was not your biggest failure,” he said.

The producer, while encouraging young entrepreneurs, shared that it is important to have conviction. “First, you need to have a firm conviction in your own self. That’s important. You also need to learn about your strengths, and you need to be a good communicator. If you cannot deliver a speech in front of 100 people, then that is not your strength. If you can talk to two people comfortably then that is your strength — concentrate on that,” he explained.

Screwvala also shared that he has been very careful while making big decisions in his life and has been courageous enough to walk away from many of them when he thought that his gut was not allowing him to sign it. He has also described one such incident in the book. “If I sense arrogance on the other side, I can let it pass. But, if the mindset is not the same then I know it is not going to work. For that particular deal, I know that I am going to regret it. So I think it is important for everyone to find their gut,” he shared.

But, he clearly pointed out that Rang De Basanti was the turning point in his career. “We were making a movie with six boys and there was no love triangle in it. But, eight days before the release of the movie, we got a call from Sharmila Tagore, who was the member of the Central Board of Film Certification, and she told us, ‘You have shot the Defense Minister in the movie so I think that is going to be a problem.’ But Aamir told me very clearly, ‘I think we have a great movie. If they ask for even one cut, we are not going to release the movie’. My heart sank. I agreed with him but I was under a debt of 40 crores. If the movie wouldn’t have done well, I would have lost everything. I think that was the decision when you need to think short term or long term entrepreneurship. So, the movie was screened for Pranab Mukherjee who was the defense minister at that time and there were officers from the Air Force as well. When they saw the movie, Mukherjee said, ‘What is the problem, it is all ok.’ Tagore replied, ‘Sir, they shot the Defense Minister and you are the Defense Minister’,” he recalled.

We all know where UTV stands today, and Screwvala clearly stated that he is obsessed with scale and brand. “In 1990, we opened our first movie studio, and after that we became a brand. If we wouldn’t have become a brand in India, we would never have had a movie studio in the country itself. As far as tantrums of Bollywood celebrities are concerned, I must tell you that we all are creating something out of nothing. If you are part of the creative process, you are required to have a different wiring of the brain. If you believe that you are a strong catalyst, and when to step forward and backwards, and you know when to take the judgment call — then it is indeed a very exhilarating experience,” he said.

As Karan Johar sparked off the controversy with his intolerance remarks, Screwvala said that what he said was meant in a very different manner. “We live in a thundering democracy and we all have the right to give our point of view. And, I think I have all the right to criticise the media,” he ended.

Published on Daily Pioneer