There are movies and then there are movies that make world news… the ones that everyone talks about and don’t want to miss watching. Hombale Films is a leading Movie Production House founded in 2011. Led by Vijay Kiragandur and Chaluve Gowda, it came into being to create path breaking films. Their production house was founded to create compelling and entertaining content, shaped to cater to a global audience, while adhering to their Kannada roots.
Interestingly, the name Hombale has been derived from the name of the deity ‘Hombalamma’, a form of Parvathi devi and considered sacred and revered in the whole of South India.
The renaissance the founders aimed at as first generational filmmakers has been profound and far reaching. In a star-driven industry, a production house with a huge following is a rarity. But Hombale Films has touched unprecedented heights in the last decade. Hombale Films have slowly yet steadily painted their own canvas with panache and niche. Firmly rooted in their culture and traditions, from humble beginnings, Hombale became the first Kannada production house to breach the 200-crore barrier in Sandalwood industry. With their feet firmly planted in the humbling beginnings of Film production, they have worked their way through all major genres, sectors and industries. They’re now producing films in five major languages including Hindi.
Their inaugural film production titled ‘Ninnindale’ starring the indomitable Puneet Rajkumar, was the stepping stone in their journey to make quality films. With the limited success of their first venture ‘Ninnindale’, they weren’t unfazed. Hombale came out with their next ‘Masterpiece’ which did good business and became a hit. Their true potential was displayed through Powerstar actor Puneeth as ‘Raajakumara’, which became the first Kannada movie to cross the 75- crore barrier mark which was a highest grossed Kannada movie at that time. And then came the film that made history at the Box Office. With KGF Chapter 1, Hombale unleashed itself announcing its entry into the Pan Indian cinema. Yuvaratna was another gem which received wide appreciation even during the hard covid time. KGF Chapter 2 shook everyone apart and corrected the historical records by massive numbers. Their regional release Kantara received so much love that it had to be released at a Pan India level and the rest is history. They collected over 2000+ crores with KGF Chapter 2 and Kantara from theatrical and non-theatrical.
Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Vijay Kiragandur, the founder of Hombale films.
1. Please tell us about your growing up days. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
We studied together from school. After 12th I started my business and Chaluve moved to IIT and then the banking sector. It was my passion to get into entertainment, so I set up Hombale in 2011. I felt it was a field that could convey the social message to the public. Chaluve worked in a corporate sector and joined me in 2013. We always had a plan to make an impact, but we wanted to wait for Puneeth Rajkumar to give us his dates, since he was the biggest star that time. We made Ninnindale and Raajakumara with him.
We did our homework well before every project and understood how the production works. These movies were big budget films for those times and we shot in the US for a month. Raajakumara became the first Kannada movie to cross the 75- crore barrier mark.
2. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema?
Each movie is a learning. We are sticking to our roots. We are not here to show off to the world. Ours is a first generation enterprise and we want to stay humble, give to our audience what they want and also contribute to the country’s economy. Our Kannada films were restricted to only Karnataka earlier as they were not so big. Tamil and Telugu films were already being released outside the country, so we wanted to take our films worldwide too and that is something we have achieved. 2022 has been a great year for us and now we can proudly say that we are the Number 1 Production house in the country. Now Kannada industry is being talked about in the world.
3. How has your experience been?
It was risky but we did a lot of analysis and research. Not that the kannada industry wasn’t making big movies, but no one was there to take it to the next level. So we believed in our stories and our directors. We wanted to take the risk as somewhere we knew it will work. So we invested in marketing to release our movies to a wider audience. We have to take our content to the audience where ever they are. Other industries were doing it for sometime so we knew there was a scope. Movie lovers have been watching Korean, Chinese, Japanese and movies in other languages, so why not kannada? We knew if people are open to other languages, they would surely love our Kannada stories too.
4. How challenging was it initially and how did you overcome the challenges?
Challenge was to keep the cost under control and also the shoot schedules under control. Whatever we would plan based on the director’s creativity the schedules and costs kept changing. Even now it’s a challenge. Based on the creative aspects and cinematography, keeping costs in control will always be our biggest challenge.
Once we have the script ready, we try not to make any changes. We do our homework, in terms of camera and other equipments required – lights and travel before going to any location. We plan everything well in advance. The executive producer, accounts, etc are taken care of on a day to day basis. The budget is freezed, but sometimes things like rain or star guys not coming on time or their health conditions are unavoidable and out of our control.
We get involved at every minute level during the script level itself. Whenever we’re making a movie, we get involved during the planning. We personally visit the shoot location only four or five times during the actual shoot.
5. Since you both are partners at Hombale films, do you both have any creative arguments and how do you come to an agreement?
There will be differences when two people work together that’s why we have segregated our departments. All the creative aspects are handled by me and he takes care of the finance, marketing and promotions. So there’s not much of a clash in terms of ideas.
6. How did you meet Rishab Shetty?
We always look for good script writers and in the process we approached Rakshit and Sudha, who were all known for their stories. The same way we got in touch with Rishab and we asked him to make three movies for us. In the process he shared his Kantara story with us. It wasn’t the first among the three films discussion we had with him. We did Kirik Party and Sarkari with him. Sarkari was a movie which ran for 100 days and also won the National Film Award for Best Children’s Film in 2019. This movie took us from Keradi all the way to Delhi. Looking at the success of these films, we knew he had what it takes to be a good story teller. We had realised his potential at that time itself. It matched to our ideology of sticking to our roots, yet doing something new. We wanted to make two kind of cinema – one with Indian tradition, movies with a message that talk about our tradition and culture and other ones that were out and out action, an iconic movie on a grand scale full of fantasies and out of the world sequences.
7. How do you handle criticism that comes your way?
We knew what we are doing is right, so we didn’t give much attention to criticism. People will say anything. What we showed in Kantara is what has been followed for years together. We didn’t try to project something other than what is existing. We just added our cinematic touches to it. But even that we handled the subject in a very subtle manner. The message got conveyed in a subtle way so that people could understand what goes on within the community and also between the government and the people. We didn’t have to make it obvious. We just showed with whatever was happening around us. We are both from a rural background so we have seen all this, but for our kids and future generations to know and to understand our culture, there cannot be a better way than these movies. This is the best way to tell them.
8. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
KGF franchise and taking kannada industry to the world. Also Kantara has been a divine blessing for us. 2022 has been a profitable and a very satisfying year for us, ending with the success of Kantara. Kantara did very well highest in Australia. The kannada version of Kantara crossed the figures of KGF in Australia. We expected it will be big, but not to the extent it was received, especially in Australia.
9. What does family mean to you?
On a regular basis we are busy with work. I have one daughter and Chaluve has two daughters. We try to spend time with our families. We like our lunches and dinners with family and close friends. I watch a lot of movies but Chaluve doesn’t. I watch all kinds of movies from action to thriller, to family, romance and drama. As of now we have lot of shoots lined up.
10. What are your other passions and hobbies other than making movies?
Sports, cricket, cars, bikes, music to some extent also listen to good old songs slow melodies and travelling.
11. What is your vision and dream in this field now?
We have achieved our dreams with three super hit movies that have been successful not just pan India but also internationally and two more pan India movies to be released next year. We believe that Content is the king and we believe in the directors we work with. We seek cinema as change and are trying to unlock the potential of Indian cinema and give message to the people. Whatever we did was making the best use of the available space. Entertainment is an industry that will never die. We are always looking towards the future, with a vision to boost the Indian economy along with the Indian culture through our work and to create movies which are worth watching. We want to create an everlasting impact to enthrall our fans. We are determined to achieve our goals of placing India on the global map of international cinema by showcasing our award-winning movies to a worldwide audience and to help imbibe our Indian culture and tradition in the younger generation. Our recent release Kantara reignited the interest of the younger generation in the age-old customs and traditions.
12. How has life changed after entering the film industry?
It’s a two way sword. We have become famous, yet at the same time if something goes wrong there is a big risk. Movies have changed a lot in terms of recognition in the society. We have a construction business, paramedical and education institution, but we have received recognition and spotlight from being a part of the entertainment industry and the glamour world associated with it.
13. What kind of a person are you in your personal space?
We don’t keep a fixed work schedule. Whenever there’s work, we can work beyond 12 hours. Otherwise we take out time to spend with our families and to also relax.
14. What are your preferred holiday destinations?
Our holidays are focused on relaxing. We don’t like noisy places. We like to take our holidays at peaceful places where there’s not much crowd. We like to go away from the city life like Maldives, Goa or Coorg. Even in Goa we go to the beaches where there’s no disturbance.
15. How do you maintain a work life balance?
We work nonstop. We just finished with back to back releases recently, but we had a great time. We delegate most of the work. Since we don’t visit the sets very often, whenever we do, we try to mingle with everyone. We usually stay only for a day and don’t get involved with the work schedules. We just make casual visits and spend time with the director and the stars to make them feel good.
16. Who are your favourite directors? Who are your close friends from the industry?
Our favourite directors are Prashant and Rishab and also Rajamouli.
We are in good terms with everyone, yet we are not part of the many film production offices that are in Gandhinagar in Bengaluru. We have not even gone there once. We stay away from gossips and controversies. We are a corporate and professional team and we are in good terms with everyone. We maintain a cordial relationship with everyone else.
17. What is your view about films in the OTT world of today?
OTT world has changed a lot after Covid and people get to watch all kinds of movies. People want to watch something new and different in all the languages from all countries and regions. We released Kantara after eight weeks and felt that it was the right time to release on OTT after the success in the theatres.
18. What are the projects you’re working on currently?
We have 12 movies in the pipeline. For the year 2023, Hombale Films has one of the biggest movies lined up, which includes the likes of Salaar with Superstar Prabhas directed by Prashanth Neel, Dhoomam with Fahadh Faasil and National Award winner Aparna Balamurali directed by Pawan Kumar, Raghuthatha with National award winner Keerthy Suresh directed by (Family man writer) Suman Kumar, Bagheera with Sreemurali written by Prashanth Neel and directed by Dr. Suri, and unnamed movie launching Yuvarajkumar (grandson of matinee idol Dr. Rajkumar) directed by Santhosh Ananddram. Hombale films have also announced PAN India movies, Tyson and Richard Anthony with Prithviraj Sukumaram and Rakshith Shetty respectively. We have a movie coming with National Award winning director Sudha Kongara and an unannounced movie with Rishab Shetty.
Here is a list of the records that Kantara broke at the box office:
1. Kantara is the highest grossing Kannada film at the Karnataka Box Office, doing more business than what KGF: Chapter 2 did in the state.
2. Kantara secured the highest fifth week collections for an Indian film, beating the mammoth Baahubali: The Conclusion.
3. Kantara secured the highest sixth week collections for an Indian film in the weekend itself, something that never happened previously.
4. Kantara broke Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’s eighth week record by an over 50 percent margin.
5. Kantara has the most number of weekly records for an Indian film in the first 10 weeks, a record previously held by Baahubali 2.
6. Kantara played in over 300 theatres in its 8th week in Karnataka which is the highest for any film in Karnataka.
7. Kantara has recorded the highest global collections for a Kannada film in the Kannada language, a record that KGF: Chapter 2 previously held.
8. Kantara has the highest return on investments for an Indian film in recent times, with better returns than even one of the most profitable films, The Kashmir Files.
9. Kantara secured an 80× multiplier vis-à-vis opening day from its Hindi dubbed version. It is the highest multiplier for a dubbed film that opened to collections of over Rs. 1 cr nett on its first day.
10. Kantara is the highest grossing Indian folklore at the global box office.