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Help Ready, Set, Go, "Reliance Media Works Studios"
Film studios go hi-tech as Reliance Media Works Studios opens its doors to foreign and Indian productions.
[Image: M_Id_197819_Reliance_MediaWorks.jpg]
The central complex that houses the Reliance MediaWorks Studios.

Film and entertainment firm Reliance MediaWorks proposes to change the state of city’s film studios with the introduction of its cutting-edge studio located in Film City in Mumbai. A guided tour of the facility by the studio to Screen reveals the meticulousness and high standards on which the facility is being built. “The RMW Studio can be compared to the best of studios in Hollywood,” Ashish Chakravorty, Chief Operating Officer Production Services, Reliance MediaWorks says.

The first phase has been completed with three high-tech studios ready to begin operations housed inside a single complex. The complex has been constructed in such a way that any two productions can go on at the same time without interfering with each other. There is a small reception area from where stars can directly go into their assigned rooms, complete with a bed, make-up counter and other room service items while the chief production crew settles into the well-illuminated Production Room as the sets are readied. There are separate rooms for smaller stars and technicians. A common make-up room for dancers and lower-rung actors is situated on the first level where two groups of 20 artistes can be worked upon. Laundry and catering services will be provided by RMW Studio as well. Another production can avail of the same facilities at the same time too. “This is practically a three-star hotel. Stars no longer need to bring in their vanity vans,” Chakraborty believes.

The other two complexes are being completed at a fast clip and are slated to begin operations in six months. They will house a library, a business complex and the likes, apart from the standard sets to help the crew unwind. When complete, the entire studio will comprise eight sound stages spread across a seven acre area leased from the state government for a period of 20 years. “The government floated the tenders in 2007 and we successfully bid for it,” Chakravorty informs. Work on the studio began two years ago with the company investing over Rs 100 crore in the venture. Chakravorty believes that at a projected 90 per cent occupancy rate, the company should break even in five to six years. “The studio is being built on the BTO (build-transfer-operate) basis by us. We will also re-bid at the end of the agreement by showing the government how well we've managed the venture,” he says.

Company executives believe that the studio capacity will equal 25 per cent of Mumbai’s studio market and has the potential to garner integrated revenues up to 10 per cent of the company’s turnover. “Older studios like Natraj and Kamalistan are going off the radar while Yash Raj Studio is always crowded because of its high standard,” Chakravorty says.

The stages at RMW Studio have been constructed in such a way that everything from 30-second ads to full-length movies can be shot within its premises to keep up the high occupancy rate. Apart from this, the studio enables everything from pre-production to post-production on the sets itself. It is connected to an optic fiber network that links it with the company's post-production facility in Film City, animation unit in Pune, television post and broadcast facility in Andheri as well as its international offices in Los Angeles and London.

Marketing itself on the Hollywood hookline, Chakravorty displays the various safeguards put in place at the studio. A yellow border line is spread all along the edge of the studio. These are emergency evacuation spaces that will be left unoccupied at other times. Electrical boxes are fitted on the walls so as to minimise wires straying all over the floor and avoid short circuits. There is a large door through which trucks can come in, nicknamed elephant door, to bring in all kinds of big and heavy equipment. All the sets have a clear height of 55 feet to the ceiling grid, Mumbai’s tallest to date. Personalised scaffolding and trussing is available to lower the height as and when required. A health and safety inspector and a fire marshall will be present at all times on the premises.

The pride of the set, however, is its sync sound capability. Says Chakravorty, “Our studio is India’s first Hollywood benchmarked super silent sync sound capable stage that is built to stringent acoustical and structural specifications. At Yash Raj, the blowers need to be switched off to achieve sync sound while at Film City’s biggest studio, Studio No. 16, you will need 15 security personnel ensuring silence to achieve the same effect. Here, the air-conditioning can be maintained at 24 degrees and yet achieve sync sound. A crow flies overhead Studio No. 16 located bang opposite the studio’s entrance and caws noisily. You will need guards to chase away the birds too.”

While the studio is open to anyone with pockets and happy with high standards, officials at the studio are still hand-holding Indian productions and trying to get foreign studios to sample the facilities on offer. Oliver Stone's endorsement of the studio is being seen as a big step forward for RMW Studio. The iconic filmmaker, who attended Reliance Entertainment's MAMI Film Festival last year, had said he would love to shoot a movie in India after reviewing the studio. The parent company’s association with Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks SKG Studio is another reason to look forward to foreign filmmakers. “The eventual goal is to get those studios here. But, we do not expect Hollywood stars to come and begin shooting here right now. The non-star parts, though, can be shot here at very cost-effective rates,” Chakravorty says. Another reason is that foreign crews set up studios for over two months while Indian producers get on and about every two weeks. “That’s true. I can only think of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya that was entirely shot on a single set,” Chakravorty admits. He also hints at the need for government subsidies so that he can compete better with some of the new studios from Europe and Canada

RMW studio has been designed by Studio Specialist Architect Scott Carter from Los Angeles whose team has designed some of the newer stages of Disney, Hollywood Centre and Raleigh Studios. The team of consultants will stay on till the entire project is complete to ensure the standards do not dip. “Most of the big studios in the world such as Pinewood in UK and other famous Hollywood studios are at least 40 to 50 years old. Our studio will learn from the mistakes that they made and implement them, the COO says adding, “We are the last one to enter this field. We have the best technological equipment and have benchmarked all of it to Hollywood. Our business model is similar to that of studios based in the US and UK.”

While the buzz internationally is all about building environment-friendly buildings and studios, Chakravorty admits that their current facility can hardly be termed green. “We have the standard sewage treatment plant and rainwater harvesting. In the West, they even use building materials that is environment-friendly. We are not there yet. There is no awareness here about this. Plus, it’s damn expensive,” he says.

At the moment, studio executives are busy spreading the word about the studios. From broadcasters to filmmakers as well as technicians like art directors and gaffers, everyone is exploring the studio’s potential. “We will shortly bring in stars down here as well,” Chakravorty informs. He also tells that the television and film division of the company are not required to shoot at the studio. “We are in the services industry while they are content creators. As and when they approach us, we can see how to fit their needs, but it's not compulsory for them to shoot here,” he says. The complex will begin operations from this month.
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