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|January 17, 2000||
The turning point in Vashu Bhagnani's meteoric rise came when he decided to enter the film biz. Not for him dreams of producing films and rubbing shoulders with starry legends. His interest sprang from purely business motivations.
When he was introduced to Ramesh and Kumar Taurani, the brothers who owned and ran TIPS, Vashu saw an opportunity in the then-booming music cassette industry. He offered to supply audio cassettes -- units, as they're called in the biz -- to TIPS on a regular basis.
Ramesh Taurani was left speechless for once.
Bhagnani set up Puja Music Cassettes (just as he had set up Puja Constructions earlier, and set up Puja Films later), and entered the music business.
The business partnership that followed saw TIPS as well as Bhagnani raking in the profits from the biggest boom period in Hindi film music publishing and distribution.
Had he chosen, Bhagnani could have gone on to become another TIPS himself.
Yet once again, his instincts had him moving on. And up.
After seeing his idol Subhash Ghai's latest release, Khalnayak and the phenomenal publicity the film received after Sunjay Dutt's arrest under TADA, Vashu decided that film production was the perfect business for him.
It required finance which he had ample access to, organisational skills which he excelled at, and the ability to give audiences across the country a common package of things they wanted.
And, most of all, in these media-driven times, it called for superb salesmanship and showmanship, a quality that Ghai had and which Bhagnani felt he had the potential for.
Sitting across the desk from the Taurani brothers, Bhagnani suggested to them that they produce their own films.
This was a logical business step since music rights to films could exceed the buying price of one major territory of a film like Khalnayak.
But the Taurani brothers were sceptical. Their business was music, not films. And what about dealing with stars and dates, and the risk of failure? Perhaps once they had the infrastructure, they said they would attempt a low-budget film with newcomers and give it a try.
Bhagnani, with his characteristic boldness, told them that they should sign on David Dhawan and Govinda, the director-star duo that had just created a sensation with the smash hits Aankhen and Shola Aur Shabnam.
The Tauranis all but laughed.
Did Bhagnani know how much David and Govinda would cost? And how long the film would take to complete -- if it ever got completed, with Govinda's massive date problems and habitual tardiness?
Bhagnani said he could do it on time, within budget and turn a profit.
He was convincing. And a deal was struck.
The film they made was Coolie No 1. The No 1 was Bhagnani's idea since his favourite lucky numbers were 1, 3 and 7.
He had even paid several lakhs extra to get a flat numbered 1, and a substantial premium to get a car registration number 333.
His production no 1 lived up to its name. And Vashu Bhagnani never looked back.
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