The brainchild behind ‘Kantara,’ ‘KGF 2’ and ‘Salaar’: A deep-dive into the workings of Hombale Films
When Hombale Films got off to a shaky start in 2014 with Ninnindale, no one could have predicted that in less than eight years, the production house would come to redefine the concept of pan-Indian cinema and change the fortunes of the Kannada Film Industry (KFI).
The winning-streak, that began with Puneeth Rajkumar-starrer Raajakumara (2017), has remained unbroken, with Hombale delivering three superhits back-to-back, two of those (KGF: Chapter 2 and Kantara) in a span of just six months.
The brainchild of Vijay Kiragandur and Chaluve Gowda, Hombale’s mercurial rise reflects a commitment to taking local stories to a global level. Supported by audience-focused market survey, research-backed scripting and meticulous planning, its productions have become a masterclass in not just how films are made, but also marketed and promoted.
With Hombale’s reach and production value only getting bigger and better with each film, it is no surprise that people are now dubbing it the ‘future of Sandalwood’. Aspiring to break the barriers of language, the production house has now spread its roots to all south Indian film industries and has a packed calendar with 12 films releasing in the next two years.
Grateful and basking in the “divine blessing” that Kantara has been, Vijay Kiragandur tells The Hindu about their endeavour to marry creative spirt with commercial forces, diversifying into different kinds of content, and their dream for building brand Hombale.
Q / In less than a decade, Hombale Films has established itself as a credible production house. Each of your films have been bigger than the last; how do you explain this consistency?
At Hombale Films, we want to make movies that are accepted by the wider audience and not just chase numbers. To deliver that, we take up research and surveys apart from focusing on the writing and the direction. Post-COVID, people have been exposed to a wide variety of content. To strive for something different and consistent, we invest a lot of time in planning. For instance, with KGF, we spent three years only on completing the script, while for Kantara, we spent about either months.
H ow much do you involve yourself in the script?
Before a film goes on floors, there is complete involvement from our side including a weekly sitting with the writers, directors and production team. Parallelly, we also work on the scheduling and budgeting. Only once we sign off on the script, budget and schedule, does the production begin. After that, it’s a hands-off approach.
Q / What are the factors you consider when planning a marketing and promotion strategy for a film?
From exhibition to marketing, we figure out the regions/countries to concentrate on and the kind of promotion to do. Kannada movies have had always held great potential to work outside of Karnataka but nobody had tapped into it. With KGF: Chapter 1, once we knew we had a good movie in hand, we decided to go all out and release pan-India. We spent more on the publicity and marketing for KGF: Chapter 1 than on the making itself!
Q / Unlike ‘KGF,’ ‘Kantara’ was released as a straight Kannada film first. Were there doubts if it would work pan-India?
There was a dilemma, definitely. While we trusted the universality of Kantara’s story, some exhibitors and distributors we had shown it to expressed mixed opinions since it was specific to the coastal Karnataka region. Due to their apprehensions, we waited till the premiere on November 29. However, prior to that, we had kept dubbing teams on standby from all four languages. Once the film took off, we completed the dubbing process in just 7 days.
Q / Hombale Films branched out into two more industries this year. What made you take that leap?
While we believe in telling stories rooted in Karnataka, we did not want to get restricted to the Kannada industry and wished to grow our business model. Our next pan-India release will be the Malayalam film Dhoomam starring Fahadh Faasil and Aparna Balamurali, and directed by Pawan Kumar. We also have Keerthy Suresh-starrer Raghu Thatha. The latter is a region-specific story, so we thought it best to release it as a bilingual movie in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Salaar, however, will be the biggest 2023 release; bigger than any of our releases so far. We have five films in the pipeline for 2023.
Q / The Kannada industry saw phenomenal box-office numbers thanks to a few big releases. But overall, we also suffered due to weak content. As producers, where do you think the industry is going wrong and how do we rectify it?
The big mistake was that people started making movies for streaming platforms without any budget or knowledge of filmmaking and writing. There is ample scope for content in the entertainment industry, but it should not be taken for granted. Now that OTTs are picky about movies, makers are being forced to release them in theatres. These films lack vision and do not focus on the storyline or star cast. Though we invite people to come with ideas for content-driven movies, we expect the pitches to be backed by strong research; that is the correction required.
Q / What is your long-term vision for Hombale?
When audiences hear the name of Disney or Marvel, they rush to the screens without waiting for a rating or a review. That’s the dream we have for Hombale. We want to tell rooted, authentic stories about our culture while also contributing to the economy.
Our five-year plan is to invest ₹3000 crore in the entertainment industry – be it movies, series, OTT originals or music. Every year, we want to release five movies out of which one will be an event movie like KGF and Salaar.