|06-27-2009, 01:08 PM||#101 (permalink)|
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Nairsan dropped :sad:
He is the reigning patriarch of the Malayalam screen, a larger-than-life thespian who is as feted for his histrionics as his huge appetite for business risk.
With an oeuvre of 300 films in different Indian languages to his name already, Mohanlal, a heartthrob in Kerala, is looking forward to about 30 more movies and a number of ambitious projects Ė hotel chains, restaurants, multiplexes, film distribution and even an Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team.
The charismatic actor (real name: Mohanlal Vishwa-nathan Nair) is a recipient of the Padmashree honour from the Indian government for his contribution to cinema Ė India's equivalent of an MBE. Perhaps the most highly paid South Indian star, his ambition in real life is to be a business tycoon.
Emirates Business caught up with him in Dubai, where he is filming his latest movie Alexander the Great, promoting his business interests and celebrating his thirtieth year in movies. The Malayalam film industry is passing through its worst phase in history due to an onslaught from movie piracy, trade unionism and power politics. But Lal has been successful in marketing himself as an actor and a businessman in the midst of it all.
He and fellow Keralite superstar Mamootty are reportedly the top earners in the Kerala film industry, pocketing Rs10 million (Dh756,000)?per film. Payments are not made public and high tax rates in India mean the real payment may not be revealed at all. Taxes are also one reason that Indian film stars run businesses in the Gulf.
But while many of his commercial films have made the producers richer beyond their expectations, only a few of his businesses have survived the cutthroat competition. Now at the peak of his popularity, Mohanlal is planning his next business move Ė a chain of multiplexes in his home state of Kerala.
Speaking to Emirates Business, he said while his new business plans are not affected by the recession, his potential partners have been hit by the slowdown.
"We have formed a company, Maxlab Entertainments, which focuses on film distribution, production and running of multiplexes and shopping malls in Kerala. The concept of multiplexes is yet to pick up in Kerala and we had plans to start multiplexes outside major cities.
"Multiplexes are not yet licensed in Kerala and we had to revisit a lot of things, like ticket pricing. Tickets can cost Rs600 or more, which is expensive. The recession is an excuse for backing out of many projects now, but we would like to go ahead, albeit slowly."
Partners in Maxlab include prominent industrialists and businessmen, among them K Madhavan, director of popular Malayalam network Asianet TV. Lal's first multiplex project is in a town called Chalakkudi.
He said a multiplex project would need about one and a half acres of land and huge investment. Major Indian towns and "tier two" cities have witnessed a multiplex revolution of late, with even top Indian conglomerate Reliance entering the fray. However, thanks to the recession, Mohanlal's dream of the first legal multiplex in Kerala may take some time to realise.
"Multiplexes will not affect the viability of conventional film theatres. It is quite a new theme to offer several facilities under one roof," he said. His version of multiplexes will not be on a massive scale, as in the big cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, but something that people outside the big urban centres can afford and relate to.
Mohanlal's initial business venture in the Middle East, a chain of signature restaurants called Taste Buds, did not succeed. Its outlets in Dubai and Sharjah reportedly shut owing to poor business.
"Taste Buds closed because of difficulties in managing it properly," he said. "Now
I have hotels in Kochi and Travancore in Kerala. We are in discussions with a leading non-resident Indian restaurant chain from the UK to establish a chain of restaurants there. The recession has apparently hit the UK Group and the project may take off later."
His spices business, an offshoot of TasteBuds, is now merged with the Eastern Group, a major food company that Mohanlal is a director with. Apart from Taste Buds, Mohanlal has been associated with hotels and restaurant chains like the Harbour Market seafood restaurants in Bangalore.
And just before the economic crisis hit, Mohanlal's foray into financial services with new venture Hedge Equities raised many eyebrows.
He started the share brokerage company with several partners, including Fedex Securities, realtors Thakker Developers and SM Hegde of India's Videocon group.
"Hedge Equities is doing well and we are increasing the branch network slowly. A recession is the right time to launch any new product. However, we are not in the perfect stage to aggressively expand the branch network," he said.
At the time of launch last year, Mohanlal's partner and managing director of the company, Alex K Babu, told IANS in an interview: "Our company has a net worth of Rs80m, which should shortly touch Rs100m. Now we have 15 branches but we will have 45 branches all over south India by the end of this fiscal."
The firm also wanted to target rural India's small investors, but the crisis means its expansion may be a long way coming.
Small investors, who have been hit hard by the crisis, may find it hard to put faith in a film star's advice on safe investments.
The actor also endorses a number of big brands; among them are Malabar Gold, a jewellery chain, and Oceanus, a construction company developing residential properties across Kerala.
He denies any ownership in Malabar Gold and says his association with the brand was only to help it grow rapidly inside and outside the country.
The company announced a Dh300m retail expansion across the UAE earlier this week.
"Gold jewellery ads have been dominated by female models, but my endorsement of Malabar Gold has revolutionised jewellery advertisement. They have 28 outlets in different places and they are doing well," he said, adding that he chose to endorse the group due to their credibility and reputation, as well as their charitable works.
A regular visitor to the UAE, Mohanlal is believed to have investments in the local real estate, too. However, his business ventures have so far not had the kind of thumping success that his films have enjoyed. Plans to start an upmarket private school also hit the dust.
News dropped recently that his joint film project with Jackie Chan has also fallen through. "Business plans have changed and Nair San, planned with Jackie Chan, is not happening now," Mohanlal told Emirates Business.
But the actor is persistent, as his several business ventures and future plans testify. He has an animation school now and other business interests related to films, studios and sound mixing.
So, are his frantic moves on the business front part of a long-term strategy to exit movies and focus on business, as has been rumoured?
Mohanlal brushes aside this talk. "My business ventures have nothing to do with retiring from movies. It is my decision whether to retire, and I am not doing so anytime soon."
|06-27-2009, 01:11 PM||#102 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Dubai / Alappuzha
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I think Iím sick, and I donít know if my ailment has a name. Itís just me sitting and staring at the internet or the television for long periods of time, interspersed by trying to not do that and then lying about what Iíve been doing.
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