Shabinaa Khan is no stranger to Bollywood royalties. The costume designer turned creative producer has over the years worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit among others. As a producer, Khan has collaborated with Akshay Kumar on Rowdy Rathore and Gabbar is Back.
As they say, third time’s a charm, Khan and Kumar have now come together for the newly released Bollywood hit Laxmii.
Laxmii, formerly known as Laxmii Bomb, is available to watch in the US, UK and Canada on subscription-based service Hotstar. In India, the film is available on Disney+ Hotstar. Laxmii is directed by Raghava Lawrence and produced by Akshay Kumar’s Cape of Good Films, Fox Star Studios, Shabinaa Khan and Tusshar Kapoor.
As a co-producer of Laxmii, you’re coming together with Akshay Kumar again after Rowdy Rathore and Gabbar is Back. How do you decide which films are right for your production house?
The kind of films I choose for my production house are the ones that would encourage me personally as a movie-goer to buy a ticket and watch the film at a cinema. A movie I can enjoy with my family at a cinema is the content I choose to go with.
Laxmii is currently one of the most awaited releases on an OTT service. With the current worldwide pandemic, how has the marketing and promotion strategy been adapted by you and the other producers for the film?
Owing to the pandemic, our physical movement in terms of promotions are limited. So in that sense, radio station or television channel visits, which were the norm, are no longer feasible. Instead, everything is happening over Zoom calls, Skype, and other virtual mediums. Actors and artists are promoting the film from their homes or offices ..that’s how we’ve adapted the promotions during this pandemic, keeping safety norms in mind.
Once films are sold to OTT platforms, production houses are usually no longer involved in marketing and promoting the film. How does this work for you as a producer?
In our case, it’s not the same as Fox Studios is involved. Marketing and promotions have been strategised and executed by Disney. We are pretty lucky in that sense as Disney is our partner on all three platforms, the overseas theatrical, the OTT platform Disney+Hotstar and our satellite partner Disney Star, so strategies and decisions are streamlined and in sync.
Disney+ Hotstar is a huge and successful service in India and for a few years now also available as Hotstar in the UK (2018), USA and Canada (2017). This limits a thatrical release of Laxmii in multiple countries overseas. Do you have plans to make the film available through alternative platforms in other territories? Does this perhaps also show a trend on how the Indian market is now more important than overseas?
We are releasing Laxmii even in markets that Hotstar doesn’t have presence in like Dubai, Australia and New Zealand. An Indian theatrical release will always be crucial and important for a Hindi film. OTT platforms, however, are the future and this will be an acid test for all of us. The Hindi film industry is awaiting the film’s release to determine the buzz a film generates through these mediums and how it pans out for a major entertainer like Laxmii.
As a producer of Laxmii, how involved have you been in various executive decisions such as how the music should sound like, what kind of costumes the talent should wear (considering your vast experience)? Do you have your own creative input towards the story and script as well?
I have always been a creative producer. I’ve worked on film costumes for over 25 years and assisted Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Black to better learn all aspects of film making. Interestingly, the directors of all my 3 films are from the South so I step in to prepare and keep everything ready for my directors well in advance, be it the location or the costumes. I’m involved right from the script sittings to the finished product. I consider myself a creative producer more than a co-producer because I enjoy being involved in those aspects of film making.
With the global pandemic, we are seeing a shift in strategy within the Indian Film industry. How do you expect things to move ahead from now on? What will be the norm and how likely is a complete return to how it were possible?
The entire industry and I are eagerly awaiting the release of a commercial masala film on an OTT platform to see how it pans out. But we really do hope that audiences can soon watch movies at cinemas hopefully by mid-next year. Right now we can’t really predict how things will work out but there’s a saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” so no one can possibly know or predict at this juncture how things will move forward.
Laxmii has received a lot of praise on social media for its trailer and the newly released song Burj Khalifa. With social media being the new newspaper and everyone with access to the internet becoming a critic with an opinion – as a producer, does it change your approach on certain things and how something should be depicted in a film that you’re associated with?
I think my focus is more on the content I’m producing and my belief in it. My aim is to make a film that the public enjoys and forget their worries while watching it. Social media trends come and go so my focus has always been on the story, the screenplay, the characters, and making a film based on what I believe audiences will enjoy.
The genre of comedy horror film in the Hindi Film industry is not something we see every other Friday. Do you think the audience is finally ready to move on from traditional rom-coms and traditional hero-heroine plots?
Honestly, I don’t think any genre has gone out of style. It’s all about the content, your storytelling ability, and the screenplay – In film making there are only six or seven stories you can tell and it all depends on how well you tell it. Even a rom-com told in a different manner or format, with different moments and elements will be welcomed. I think the audiences loves novelty and if you can offer that to them there will always be takers. I believe that if you want to stand out, do something different. ‘Newness and freshness’ never goes out of style.