“My early experience with Hindi cinema was bad. Either I didn't enjoy the kind of films I edited or never got paid”

Raju Hirani is a hotshot director today, having created three hits in a row. But he started in Hindi films on the wrong foot. For his early work in feature films he hardly got paid and he had drifted into making ad films, where he was doing fine, explains Hirani. This is the third part of a three-part interview series.

ML: How did you come into Hindi films?
After coming to Mumbai in the early ‘90s and struggling to find a place, I joined Ekta videos as an in-house editor. The job was to assist those who came to get editing done but did not have an editor. People used to come to the studio with their own editor, but, if they didn’t have an editor, they had the option of using an in-house editor. At other times, I would manage the place, do the bookings, etc. I joined there for Rs1,200. But that was a turning point for me, because I met a lot of people who would come in wanting their work edited and I would do it. Very quickly, I started to get work independently and quit the place in six months and became a freelancer. For the next five years, I had no dearth of work—I edited a couple of feature films.

ML: How was your experience?
My experience with cinema was not very good. Either I didn't enjoy the kind of films I edited or never got paid for the work I did.

ML: Never got paid?
Two got stuck and were never released. One was made by a senior student and we were very passionately involved in it. He said he would give me Rs40,000 for the film, which was not huge, but we did it. When it was ready, nobody bought the film and he was planning to release it himself. He asked me if I knew anyone who would give him Rs2 lakh-Rs3 lakh; he would return it in a month after the film was released. I asked around, but nobody had the money. I had Rs60,000 in the bank, and I said, I would give him Rs50,000 and he could return it after a month. I never saw that money either. That was, of course, a sad case. The guy went into debt, borrowed even more and, finally, he died. So there were two films that I was involved with—one had Salman Khan and Raveena called ‘Pathar ke Phool’ and another with Suchitra Krishnamurthy and Rahul Roy, their debut film, which didn't work out. So I realised that films were not happening. After that I started doing ad films with Piyush Pandey, Leena Bakshi, Dilip Ghosh and others who were rather new to advertising. I gelled with that group and enjoyed the kind of work they were doing and, unknowingly, I drifted into advertising. This must have been 1991-92. Initially, I was editing; then they started giving me audio-visuals to edit; and then, small films.

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    Aircel plans $1.4 bn investment this year

    GSM service provider plans to expand its operations and become a pan-India operator by June

    Telecom service provider Aircel today said it plans to invest $1.4 billion (over Rs 6,474 crore) this year on expanding its operations and become a pan-India GSM operator by June, reports PTI.

    "We plan to invest $1.4 billion this year for expanding our networks and on existing operations. By June 2010, we plan to have operations in all 23 telecom circles in the country," Aircel chief operating officer Gurdeep Singh told PTI.
    Talking about the company's future investment plans, Mr Singh said Aircel will invest another $2.6 billion in the next two years (2011 and 2012).

    At present, the telco operates in 18 telecom circles across the country. It plans to launch its service in the remaining circles of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab by June, making it a pan-India operator.

    Aircel is also aiming to triple its subscriber base to a record 100 million users by 2012, said Aircel director Sandip Das, who is also the chief executive officer of Maxis Communications.

    Malayasia's Maxis Communications controls Aircel. At the end of January, Aircel had a subscriber base of 33 million.

    Aircel is at the fifth place among pure GSM operators, with a market share of 8.38% after Bharti, Vodafone, Idea and BSNL.

    Asked whether Aircel has plans to go for an initial public offering and list the company on bourses, Mr Das said there was no plan this year to raise funds through this route.

    "The company's growth is not restricted for lack of funds," he added. "The tower (business)  hive-off had given us liquidity of around $3 billion. We will reinvest (it) in the current business," Mr Singh said.

    Last month GTL had acquired 17,500 towers from Aircel for $1.8 billion (Rs 8,400 crore) with rights to roll out 20,000 more towers for Aircel.

    Apart from speeding up its pan-India growth, Aircel plans to foray into the enterprise business segment and target corporate and SME (small and medium enterprises) customers.

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    Ashok Leyland, Paramount ink defence deal

    Indian commercial vehicle manufacturer inks multi-million dollar deal with South African defence systems manufacturer.

    A multi-million dollar deal with India's Ashok Leyland will see South African defence systems manufacturer Paramount Group developing its second joint assembly plant outside the country, reports PTI.

    Paramount already has a joint assembly plant in Azerbaijan. Leyland and Paramount inked a deal at Defexpo 2010 in New Delhi last week.

    According to the terms of the agreement, the two companies will manufacture mine-protected armoured vehicles at a joint plant to be constructed in India, an African daily reported, quoting an unnamed Paramount spokesman.

    Ashok Leyland will invest more than $10 million in the plant over the next year before the first vehicle comes off the line.

    "Initially, basic components manufactured in South Africa would be used to assemble the vehicles in India before the production line there starts making all components," the report said.

    The new vehicle, dubbed Stallion, will combine the specification of two Paramount mine-resistant vehicles, the Marauder and the Matador, with Ashok Leyland's basic four-wheel-drive military vehicles.

    Paramount is one of South Africa's leading defence systems contractors, providing defence, peace-keeping and internal security solutions to government agencies worldwide.

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