The Stuff Bollywood Films Are Made Of

T-Series became a music empire using a mix of dynamic trade skills, cut-throat rivalry and a fluid idea of legality. now that it aspires to rule the film production business, will it be able to repeat

01 July 2011

Alife-size poster of the recent Salman Khan-starrer Ready is propped up in the reception area on the second floor of the T-Series office. T-Series, the biggest music label in the country, has co-produced the film, with an investment of '550 million. The entire building, located in one of the bylanes off the heavily-congested Andheri Link road in North Mumbai, is owned by Super Cassettes Industries Ltd (SCIL), the parent company of T-Series, which boasts an annual turnover of over '5 billion.

The second floor buzzes with three TVs mounted in a row on the wall, each tuned to a different Bollywood music channel. Employees walk around, stopping to enquire after the 'boss' at the reception. They want to know if Bhushan Kumar, the music label's 33-year-old managing director is in. The son of the late Gulshan Kumar, the company's founder, Bhushan took over the company when he was 19.

'Character Dheela', this summer's popular number from Ready, plays on one of the channels, and it's almost as tough to look away from Khan's histrionics as it is to keep staring at the screen. The blinding red and silver floor mosaic and matching furniture take time for me to adjust to, as I wait for Kumar to wrap up a meeting with film maker Anubhav Sinha. Sinha is the director of Ra.One, Shah Rukh Khan's ambitious superhero flick and the next big release for the label. Other recent music acquisitions include Desi Boyz, Rockstar and Mausam, some of the film industry's biggest upcoming productions.

Lalitha Suhasini is a Mumbai-based independent journalist. She has previously worked with The Indian Express and Rolling Stone India.