Luck by Chance, the title of his next film, also describes the course Ritesh Sidhwani’s career has taken. A decade ago, when Sidhwani gave up his family business of home appliances to start a career in filmmaking with childhood friend Farhan Akhtar, little did he know that Excel Entertainment would come to represent the flavour of the youth in cinema. Today, five films and as many successes later, the industry is touting him as the man with the Midas touch.
The 37-year-old vividly remembers the day he resigned from his family business. “When I announced that I was leaving because I wanted to make films, everyone thought I’d gone crazy.” But Sidhwani was confident of his decision. “It came from the fact that I knew my partner, Farhan (Akhtar), very well.” The confidence has only strengthened over these years. “I didn’t know anything about filmmaking when we launched Excel Entertainment; I learnt a lot on the sets of our debut project, Dil Chahta Hai.”
The film, a commercial success that redefined Hindi cinema, was followed by a string of other hits under the Excel banner, like Lakshya, Don — The Chase Begins, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and, recently, Rock On!!. “Our strength has never been the cast or locales but the script,” stresses the young filmmaker. “So Farhan and I spend a lot of time at the script level.”
Their latest film, Luck by Chance, releases on January 30, after a five-year delay. But Sidhwani confesses that as a producer, he has no regrets that the project was stalled. “Zoya (Akhtar, its director) has updated the film to match today’s sensibilities. Also, it has now been made on a more grand scale, which wouldn’t have been possible earlier.”
Many attribute the magic of Excel films to the “young, fresh feel”.
“It isn’t a pre-requisite but we keep our eyes and ears open for good work. While Reema (Kagti, director of Honeymoon Travels) and Zoya are more like family since they have assisted us before, we discovered Abhishek Kapoor through his work.” The next few films under the Excel banner too, will utilise young talent— Abhinay Deo and Vijay Lalwani— for direction.
Excel’s future plans also include venturing into television. The group has already conceptualised two youth-oriented shows. “No one I know watches television; the youth are so unhappy with the content. We want to bring them back to the medium,” the filmmaker explains.
His partner, Farhan, may have evolved into an all-rounder, juggling his careers as actor, director, singer and host, but Sidhwani insists he’ll take one step at a time. “We’re working on three projects this year; that’s multi-tasking too,” he says but adds that he does hope to make a film someday. “But first, I want to write a film; given the film-buff I am, I should’ve written one by now.”