Aakash Educational Services Private Limited, the institute that offers medical, engineering entrance and foundation level examinations (NTSE, Olympiads etc.) across India, will be entering film production through its subsidiary Aerika Cineworks.
The boutique production house will make its debut this May-June with Rough Book, a film directed by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan and featuring actors Vinay Jain, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Ram Kapoor. Mahadevan has also agreed to direct the production house’s next project. Led by Aakash Chaudhry, director AESPL, the production house will focus on movies conceptualised on what he calls the ‘3E’ formula – educate, empower and entertain.
“One of the main reasons for entering the film production business is that I have harboured a passion for the medium for long. Apart from that, the opportunity that the film industry proposes today is great. Small (budget) content driven films are getting traction and that is the space we want to occupy. We are in the education business and there are issues related to the field that can be brought up through the medium of films,” says Chaudhry.
The funds earmarked for the production business are Rs 6 crore per film as of now, since profitability is at the core of Chaudhry’s plan. Aerika will produce one film a year for the next two to three years and then look at scaling up. It will however not produce more than three films a year in the near future. Currently, the films will be solo productions and when the slate (per year) increases, the promoters may look at roping in the bigger studios as collaborators.
Since the films will be smaller in budget and content driven, they will be distributed accordingly. “We are in talks with an international distributor in Dallas. They (the distributor) will handpick the territories to release the film. They will also help with hand-picking the territories to release in India. Much like The Lunchbox, we will go with a restricted release at launch and then increase the number of screens depending on the feedback we get,” says Chaudhry.
Apart from traditional theatrical distribution, Aerika will also look at digital distribution aggressively. While plans are still in the making, Choudhry concedes that the digital medium will play a significant part in the distribution of Aerika Cineworks’ projects.
Aakash Educational Services has a network of more than 97 centres across India, a spectrum of annual student base of more than 80,000 every year. Aakash also conducts the Aakash National Talent Hunt Exam (ANTHE) to enable the most deserving students to get to their goal of becoming engineers or doctors by providing them with free coaching. ANTHE 2014 selected 1000 students (500 top ranking students from Engineering Stream & 500 top ranking students from Medical Stream) of class X to give them this opportunity. These students will get free coaching from Aakash worth Rs 19 crores.
Apart from classroom coaching, Aakash i-Tutor, Virtual classrooms centre (VCC), e-learning solutions and distance learning programme are also there under the Aakash brand. They are making efforts to reach out to tier- II and III cities of the country. Aakash Institute is the oldest wing of Aakash Educational Services Ltd. and it completed its silver jubilee in 2013.