Variety has released its annual list of “500 most influential business leaders shaping the global $2 trillion entertainment industry,” and 12 Indian personalities figure on that list, including actors Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra.
Updated annually, the Variety 500 reflects the accomplishments of its members over the previous 12 months. They were selected by the Variety editorial board, which conducted extensive research for its selections, said the magazine.
The Variety 500 includes Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani; actor/producer Salman Khan; Dharma Productions principal, writer, director and producer Karan Johar; Uday Shankar, president at 21st Century Fox, Asia and chairman and CEO at Star India; Punit Goenka, CEO and managing director at Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd.; artist/actress/producer at Purple Pebble Pictures, Priyanka Chopra; Kishore Lulla, executive chairman/producer at Eros International; Siddharth Roy Kapur, president of Film and Television Producers’ Guild of India; Essel Group founder and chairman Subhash Chandra; Ekta Kapoor, joint executive director and creative director at Balaji Telefilms; Reliance Industry chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani; and Yash Raj Films (Mumbai) chairman Aditya Chopra.
Although she had envisioned an engineering career, Chopra changed direction after winning the 2000 Miss World Pageant, when she received offers to act in Indian films, Variety writes in Priyanka Chopra’s bio, adding that ABC, which aired “Quantico,” is also developing a comedy with her to executive produce about a former Bollywood star. Besides her acting, Chopra also takes time to sing and has released three singles…She has set up her own production company, Purple Pebble Pictures…Chopra is also active philanthropically and is a global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights. She has her own foundation, the Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education, which helps needy kids, adds the magazine.
“Salman Khan is one of the unrelated Khan triumvirate comprising Aamir and Shah Rukh that has been ruling the Bollywood box office for decades. Of the top ten grossing films of all time, Salman has three, as does Shah Rukh, while Aamir has four,” writes Variety, adding that unlike his contemporary Khans whose fan bases are staid by comparison, every Salman release generates mass hysteria across India, a frenzy surpassed only by the fans of South Indian superstar Rajinikanth.
“Salman’s charitable trust Being Human focuses on education and healthcare for the underprivileged,” adds the magazine.
Anil Ambani, Varity writes, became chairman and CEO of Reliance Group (aka Reliance ADA) in 2002 when Reliance Industries, a conglomerate formed by his father Dhirubhai Ambani, was split in two. That set him at bitter odds with his older brother Mukesh Ambani, who heads the rival Reliance Industries and now controls a media empire of his own, as well as the recently launched Reliance Jio broadband and phones venture.
Anil quickly identified media and entertainment as growth areas, buying up Adlabs in 2005, with cinemas, distribution and film processing as its core businesses, the magazine notes, adding that he is “currently selling off a wide range of assets beyond the media sector to erase massive debt across his company. In November 2016, Reliance announced the sale of the entirety of its remaining TV business to Zee Entertainment and a 49 percent stake in FM radio operations to Zee Media.”
Calling Karan Johar as one of the most visible faces of the Indian entertainment industry, Variety writes that “The value of Johar in the Indian entertainment space is emphasized by the fact that Amazon Prime Video India’s first announced licensing deal for feature film content was with Dharma.”
Since Karan succeeded his father Yash Johar as the head of Dharma, the company has produced more than 30 films and television programs, it notes.
From paying $750 million for Indian Cricket broadcast rights through 2018 to investing $3.2 billion in Indian soccer, hockey and badminton leagues, Uday Shankar has made Star’s 10 Sports channels its growth drivers, even though Star’s portfolio of 49 entertainment and lifestyle channels is enormously successful in its own right, Variety writes.
Under Punit Goenka’s stewardship, Variety writes, “the Zee bouquet of channels has grown to 33 Indian domestic and 38 international, with a viewership of one billion spread across 171 countries that covers the gamut of the entertainment, Sports and news spectrum. Financially, Goenka has steered the group to a year-on-year growth of nearly 20 percent, with revenues now at $867 million.”
Calling Kishore Lulla one of the key players in the Indian film business, Variety writes that Eros is the world’s biggest distributor of Bollywood movies. Eros, founded by Lulla’s father, is an almost unique global distribution entity. Among theatrical distributors, Varity points out, “only the Hollywood studios have wider releasing networks. And few can rival Eros’ volume, some 60-75 titles per year, across all platforms.”
Siddharth Roy Kapur took over UTV’s filmmaking operations in 2008, prior to UTV’s two-step acquisition by Walt Disney. When Ronnie Screwvala stepped away in 2014, Kapur rose to become MD of Disney India, writes Variety. After Disney began to enjoy greater success in India with its Hollywood Movies, and struggled to make money from its local productions, the company exited the Indian film business in 2016. Kapur followed shortly after but in June 2017 announced his own shingle, Roy Kapur Films, and greenlighted three movies. He is also currently president of the Film and Television Producers’ Guild of India, where he has taken up the fight of excessive taxes he believes is hurting the Tamil film industry.
“In a country where family dynasties are the dominant forces, Subhash Chandra has made his $6 billion fortune on his own. That has much to do with political connections he cultivated along the way and to reinventing himself several times over. He was a rice trader and a leisure park operator before moving into media,” Variety explains.
Ekta Kapoor practically invented the Indian television soap, creating familial sagas that routinely have the nation in thrall, the magazine notes. “A firm believer in giving audiences what they want, Kapoor does not shy away from creating shows that some dub regressive, dealing often with themes of superstition and reincarnation.”
She is now channeling her energies into ALT Balaji Digital, a Web-based direct to consumer platform that already has several series in production, adds the publication.
Mukesh Ambani has been chairman and managing director of the Reliance Industries conglomerate since 2002. The corporation’s $30 billion investment in Jio is a big deal there in digital entertainment, the fastest growing segment of the Indian media scene, writes Variety. In 2014, Ambani also took a controlling stake in Viacom 18, meaning that he now controls the Indian local versions of MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, news channel CNN-IBN in partnership with Turner International India, business news channels CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz in association with CNBC Asia, and the local version of the History channel in a joint venture with A&E Television Networks.
Variety goes on to add that with other interests including petroleum, natural gas, petrochemicals, retail, textiles and global corporate security, Ambani’s corporation had approximately $90 billion of assets and $44 billion of revenues in 2016.
Aditya Chopra, Variety writes, “is an enigmatic and influential figure in the Indian media industry that refuses to be voluntarily photographed and yet is responsible for content that influences millions. As a producer, Chopra has the deciding word in the greenlighting process, and this has held true for the 60 odd projects that he has produced.”
Variety points out that Chopra also has an unerring eye for spotting new acting talent and is responsible for introducing Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and Arjun Kapoor, who are well-established Bollywood stars today.