The show goes on: Sanjeev Bijli says slowdown has not hurt PVR’s fortunes

The movie baron says that people are seeking refuge in the theatre.

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Sanjeev Bijli termed economic slowdown as a 'cyclical episode that happens every 7-8 years'.
There’s no business like show business. And Sanjeev Bijli, the Joint Managing Director of PVR Pictures, knows that well.

Having been a part of the entertainment industry for close to three decades, he has seen and survived slowdowns. And even as the country’s economy chokes to a six-year-low amidst reports of gloom in Motown, he does not seem too perturbed.

“Cinemas always survive as they give people an opportunity to get entertained at a very low ticket price. Even when things are gloomy and it becomes too much to handle, people know that there’s always the movies to go to,” the 48-year-old, says, settling down for a quick chat at PVR’s luxury offering, Home, in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj.


And there seems to be no slowdown in footfalls as people seek refuge in the theatre, over a tub of popcorn, to momentarily forget their worries. In the second quarter of the financial year, PVR’s footfalls rose by 20%, recovering sharply from a cricket overdose between April-June, and defying all negative predictions of a slow market with reduced spending.

Terming the economic slowdown as a “cyclical episode that happens every 7-8 years”, Bijli emphasises that PVR Cinemas, which has 800 screens across India, has not been hit by the present climate. In fact as numbers swell, he says that the demand for “quality content” has only grown as more Indians travel abroad.

Sanjeev ​Bijli decided to put his weight behind Asif Kapadia’s ‘Diego Maradona’​
Sanjeev Bijli decided to put his weight behind Asif Kapadia’s ‘Diego Maradona’.

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“The Indian audience is an extremely discerning one. Thanks to the Internet, people in India are now aware of good international content, and are demanding the same,” Bijli says, as he recalls being fielded with calls about the India release of ‘Downton Abbey’ even before it hit the screens in the US and UK.

This quest for good, quality content explains why Bijli decided to put his weight behind Asif Kapadia’s ‘Diego Maradona’, based on the life of the Argentine flawed football genius, and help it get a theatrical release in India (the film releases on Friday in India). He watched it at Cannes where it made its debut in May this year. And while the England-born entertainment baron himself is not a football fanatic, Maradona, who gave the premiere a miss, was simply too big a film to ignore.

“At Cannes, there was this massive buzz about the Maradona documentary, and once I watched it, I loved it. For me it was not just about football but the backdrop and the rise of a man from the slums to the pinnacle of riches, and then his subsequent slide,” he says.

While a film like ‘Diego Maradona’ keeps it real, Bijli says that the same audience is ready to spend three hours and lap up a not-so-real, action thriller like ‘War’ which, incidentally, has become this year’s third highest-grossing film, crossing the Rs 200-crore mark.

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And even as the pundits debate the intricacies of an economic slowdown, for Sanjeev Bijli, not-so-good news has brought good tidings.



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Words Of Wisdom: When Uday Kotak, Ajit Doval, Raghuram Rajan Spoke About Economy, Leadership & Life Goals
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The Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture (LDML), instituted in the name of the eponymous former civil servant, has been hosted in Mumbai annually since 1995.

On Monday, August 5, Uday Kotak became the 25th speaker to deliver it. The LDML speaker club is an illustrious one (even though the absence of any female speakers in the list is jarring).

Here’s a look at what past speakers have spoken about in the address:

The Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture (LDML), instituted in the name of the eponymous former civil servant, has been hosted in Mumbai annually since 1995. On Monday, August 5, Uday Kotak became the ..
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Uday Kotak, MD, Kotak Mahindra Bank

“Let us embrace digital. That will transform India’s finance like nothing else we have seen in the past. And lastly, in that context is a less cash India. India’s desire for cash just doesn’t seem to be going down. It shocks me when I am told at many stores, small stores, including in the city of Mumbai, so I can’t even comment on what must be happening across semi urban or rural areas. Most of the times you are asked the question, ‘How do you want to pay..bill ya bina bill?’ We are still not getting out of that mindset of cash as the basis for dealing. Therefore anything that makes us a less cash economy is useful. It is also surprising to me that the levels of currency in circulation that we are back to. It is almost equal to, on a percentage basis, to pre-demonetisation levels. We need to change that.”
Uday Kotak, MD, Kotak Mahindra Bank “Let us embrace digital. That will transform India’s finance like nothing else we have seen in the past. And lastly, in that context is a less cash India. India’..
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Dr S Jaishankar, current Minister of External Affairs in the Government of India

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to stake a greater claim in different domains. Among our aspirations we should strive to realize is permanent membership of the UN Security Council. But in the interim, there are milestones that mark a journey towards a greater global management role. Joining different international and regional groupings and mechanisms is one such step. Becoming a member of technology export control regimes is another related measure. Taking the initiative to undertake humanitarian and disaster relief operations — as we did in Nepal or Yemen — also makes sense. Playing a constructive role in important global negotiations, whether on climate change or on sustainable development goals, is part of this shift. A sharper willingness to articulate our interests and be resolute in its pursuit is also necessary. Such an India cannot have a herd mentality or rely on abstention as a default position on tricky issues. There will be choices we have to make, sometimes even within a region or between friends.”
Dr S Jaishankar, current Minister of External Affairs in the Government of India “There is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to stake a greater claim in different domains. Among our aspiration..
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Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank

“I want to mention two areas where India can do very well, if the government creates an enabling atmosphere. This is bit of a China-style policy of identifying special sectors and making them vanguards for the whole economy. First, India can be a hub for higher education in the world. People will come not just from developing countries, Africa, Asia, Latin America, but from United States and Europe. Come to India, four years of excellent education, much cheaper than in rich countries, and then you go back…The other sector where India is already doing well but can do better is providing healthcare services for the world. Health-care is extremely expensive in today's world. India can provide this at a much lower cost.”
Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank “I want to mention two areas where India can do very well, if the government creates an enabling atmosphere. This is bit of a China-style poli..
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Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India

“Addressing the US Congress after the 9/11 attacks, US President George Bush had made a statement — "America values its freedom, but should it come in conflict with the supreme interest of the State, the latter will prevail". The freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution, which are sacrosanct, can also be subordinated should it come to when the State has to be protected and the supreme interests of the country have to be protected…

“The State may belong to those who are its citizens today, but the Nation belongs to those who were part of it thousands of years ago. Maharana Pratap and Shivaji are as much a part of this Nation today, as they were when they were alive. We owe a responsibility to the people who are going to inherit the nation in the years to come. Therefore we cannot subjugate and subordinate anything that is going to affect our long-term vital interests for the sake of individual considerations only.”
Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India “Addressing the US Congress after the 9/11 attacks, US President George Bush had made a statement — "America values its freedom,..
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Raghuram Rajan, former RBI governor

“Undoubtedly, cash transfers will not resolve every problem, nor are they uncontroversial. A constant refrain from paternalistic social workers is that the poor will simply drink away any transfers. In fact, studies by NGOs like SEWA indicate this is not true. Moreover, one could experiment with sending transfers to women, who may be better monitors and spenders of the cash. Some argue that attaching conditions to cash transfers – for example, they will be made provided the recipient's children attend school regularly – may improve the usage of the cash. The danger of attaching conditionality is that if the monitor is corrupt or inefficient, the whole process of direct benefits transfers, which aims to by-pass the existing structure, can be vitiated. Nevertheless, it will be useful to monitor usage carefully where automation is possible, and automatically attach further benefits to responsible usage.”
Raghuram Rajan, former RBI governor “Undoubtedly, cash transfers will not resolve every problem, nor are they uncontroversial. A constant refrain from paternalistic social workers is that the poor ..
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Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC Ltd

“Leadership, however, is that intangible quality that eludes any single description. To my mind leadership invo lves an art form, rather than a pure science, since it includes the subjective element of the individual himself. Leadership therefore, has different facets, and leaders tend to have a distinct and separate personality and ideology and a plethora of styles. I would hence like to postulate leadership to be a function of administrative and managerial talent, with an overlay of a risk taking ability, the ability to anticipate and react to an emerging environment, and most of all, to have the charisma to inspire willing followers.”
Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC Ltd “Leadership, however, is that intangible quality that eludes any single description. To my mind leadership invo lves an art form, rather than a pure science, since..
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N Vaghul, former chairman, ICICI

“Is it possible for you to imagine a person who is a stithapragyna in a sense that he treats praise and abuse at the same level, treats happiness and misery as equal. Even if one does not complete the final process of eradicating the I consciousness the improvement in the quality of life is still worth the effort. So the relevance of the spiritual values in modern life really comes to this. Whether you believe in the ultimate goal or not, whether you believe in the spiritual dimension or not, the process of transcendence of the gross mind improves the quality of your life. When the critical mass of the society, were to achieve even this limited goal, the transformation of the society will begin.”

Source: Speech transcripts available here
N Vaghul, former chairman, ICICI “Is it possible for you to imagine a person who is a stithapragyna in a sense that he treats praise and abuse at the same level, treats happiness and misery as equa..
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