Art & Entertainment

These Stories Find Us: Ritesh Sidhwani On Backing Friendship-Themed Films

Films with friendship at the core resonate with a wider audience and such stories somehow land up at production house Excel Entertainment, says co-founder Ritesh Sidhwani.

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Ritesh Sidhwani Hamara Photos
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Films with friendship at the core resonate with a wider audience and such stories somehow land up at production house Excel Entertainment, says co-founder Ritesh Sidhwani.

The producer formed the banner with filmmaker-friend Farhan Akhtar in 1999 and their first production "Dil Chahta Hai" (2001) is regarded as one of the best portrayals of friendship in the modern era.

In the past 25 years, Excel Entertainment has grown from strength to strength as a quality content studio, also expanding its footprint through streamers with "Mirzapur" and "Made in Heaven". But friendship stories have been a constant at the banner, be it "Rock On!!", "Fukrey" franchise, "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara", or the upcoming "Madgaon Express".

"These stories find us. If somebody writes a film based on bromance and talks about friends, somehow it just finds its way to us knowing that we are suckers for it. But I feel it resonates with a wider audience.

"Without friends, none of us would be in this space that we are in. All of us have that special person or a friend. I don't know of anybody who didn't have that kind of (a person) in their life. That makes it a bit more relatable," Sidhwani told PTI in an interview here.

"Madgaon Express", which released in theatres on Friday, follows the journey of three childhood friends — played by Pratik Gandhi, Divyenndu and Avinash Tiwary — who embark on a trip to Goa that goes wrong.

Each friendship journey has its own experience, said Sidhwani, adding that the three friends in "Dil Chahta Hai" -- starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna -- just happen to go to Goa but it wasn't a road film.

'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' is a road trip film, 'Rock On!!' is not a road trip film but it's again about friendship. You immediately connect with such stories, and whatever that journey is, whoever those friends are.

"Sometimes you make friends on a journey, sometimes on that journey, you start coming to realisations about the strengths, weaknesses or conflicts with each other. Everything in friendship is resolved in a much better and faster way," he added.

Actor Kunal Kemmu, who is making his directorial debut with "Madgaon Express", said the film is an ode to his first journey to Goa which he undertook through a train called the Madgaon Express.

"Usually, I get asked why Goa? It's also the modes of transport you take to get to these places. Especially with friends, it will either be a road trip or plane trips. But the plane trip will not be as much fun because the kind of space and the kind of experiences you can have on a road journey or a train journey is slightly more than being on a plane," he said.

Kemmu, whose acting credits include “Kalyug”, “Go Goa Gone” and “Lootcase”, has directed the movie from a script he wrote.

As someone who started his career as a child star with films such as "Zakhm" and "Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke" to his credit, the first-time filmmaker said turning director was the natural next step.

"I have got an opportunity to do things as a writer, director with an ace production house with ace actors. I'm very happy with the kind of love the trailer has got which makes me believe that maybe people will come to theatres with their friends and have a great time. I can't think of a better way to kind of be able to do everything that goes into making a film for a six-year-old who spent most of his life on a film set," he added.

Divyenndu, popular for playing the role of Munna bhaiya in "Mirzapur", said working on "Madgaon Express" gave him a chance to go back to the comedy genre after playing intense roles. His break-out role was the 2011 comedy "Pyaar Ka Punchnama".

"You need that break as an actor of not over indulging in a certain genre. Comedy comes as a palette cleanser of sorts. You want to go back to where you started from and that's something challenging as an actor. My personal calling has always been drama. That's something I'm very comfortable with.

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