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Home » Rachvin and Kulthep Narula, the Co-Founders and CEO and COO, respectively, of Benetone Films on how they brought their film to life!

Rachvin and Kulthep Narula, the Co-Founders and CEO and COO, respectively, of Benetone Films on how they brought their film to life!

by Nikki Kumar

Discover how they worked together to achieve their cinematic vision.

By Dolly Koghar

In September of 2022, something totally unexpected and so very out of the blue happened to me, and I pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t just an incredible dream. How could I, a true-blue introvert and anti-social, be acting in a movie? The absurd desire must have silently tiptoed into my bucket list and the universe chose this moment to manifest it.

 Nevertheless, when I saw myself on the screen at the premiere of the successful Thai-Indian movie Congrats My Ex! (2023) on Amazon Prime Video, I finally conceded that I had indeed taken part in a movie; albeit in a miniscule part as a featured-extra. Still, how many people, and that too at my age, can boast that they’ve shared the screen with Thailand’s multi-award-winning, Thai-English superstar Ranee ‘Bella’ Campen; and Vachirawit ‘Bright’ Chivaaree, the singer/actor with the kind of swoon-worthy, nonchalant demeanor perfect for endorsing his own sustainable fashion line, ASTRO Stuffs, as well as high-end, couture brands?

Although my experience in front of the camera was shorter than short, the dedicated focus, physical involvement, and unbelievable patience demanded from every member of the expansive crew, even for a two-minute scene of a single character, is beyond a layman’s grasp. Nevertheless, to my surprise, I discovered that the most crucial and vital contribution towards the success of any such project lies on the shoulders of the producers. They have an immersive and detail-oriented responsibility to systematically supervise all the creative, technical, and business facets of the venture; right from the script’s inception till when it finally reaches us, the audience. They thus need to master an overwhelmingly broad range of skills.  

 Above and beyond, it is at the door of the producers that lies the tremendous accountability for the film’s success, and for the past two decades, this overwhelming role has been superbly played by the brother duo and co-founders of Benetone Films: CEO Rachvin ‘Vin’ Narula, 58; and COO Kulthep ‘Thep’ Narula, 49; with the latter being part of my family since his days at the New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business with my son, who remembers him, even back then, as someone who put his all into whatever he set out to do; a trait that I saw in both the brothers during my days on the set of  the movie.   

Rachvin and Kulthep founded the production house two decades ago, after Rachvin finished his MBA from George Washington University and Kulthep finished at NYU Stern School of Business. When I ask them what exactly their roles entail, Rachvin explains his dual role as both CEO of Benetone Films and Chopstick Films, their subsidiary specialising in high-end product shoots. “Both roles allow me to blend creative insights with operational and strategic management,” he explains. “I focus on staying true to the artistic vision but ensure commercial success by doing movies with content that has broad appeal, like WANNABE(2022) and Congrats My Ex!, which have gained recognition on platforms like Viu and Amazon Prime Video.”

 Kulthep, meanwhile, as the COO, is more focused on the narrative and field work side: “I’ve primarily dedicated myself to working on compelling narratives while focusing on the development and the production of films, and our digital and content division,” he says. “This means I’m often on the field, ensuring our projects are executed flawlessly; to which the key has been effective delegation and trusting the team to deliver while I manage the overall production flow. I’m also deeply involved in the policy level for the Thai film industry, and overseeing initiatives such as the Thailand Film Incentive Program and the ‘soft power’ initiatives by the current government.”

 I spoke to them further about their foray into the unchartered waters of film production for Thai-Indians, and they tell me about their eagerness to continue their journey of bringing innovative stories to the screen through their diverse projects which highlight both Thai and Indian cultures, and our unique, Thai-Indian meld. They are also committed to ensuring every production stays true to their creative vision, and are in fact already excitedly working on their second movie, set to release later this year on Prime Video, although this one will show their range by being vastly different from Congrats My Ex! While in the meantime I’m crossing my fingers and legs, hoping for a future phone call to join the cast in a ‘meatier’ role, I ask them to tell me more about how they got to where they are today.  

 What was your journey towards starting Benetone Films?  Where did the idea begin, what was your initial vision, and what exactly does your company do for each project?

 Rachvin: Our filmmaking journey began almost like a scene from a movie. Our father, Rajpal Narula, had a chance encounter with an Indian actor/director/producer, Feroz Khan, who asked him to help with a supposed six-day shoot in Pattaya, Thailand. This turned into 45 days of production, and though it was like being thrown into the deep end, we learnt to swim fast and thus experienced our unexpected entry into the film world.

 Kulthep: Starting Benetone Films was a bit like assembling a complex puzzle without the picture on the box. From our initial unexpected foray into film line production, we now handle everything from location scouting to post-production, and are proud of our journey from novices to seasoned professionals in the film industry.


 What and when was the production company’s first real break?

 Rachvin: Our first real break wasn’t a sudden big bang, but more of a gradual climb. At the time, I was balancing our family’s chemical business, and Kulthep was managing our internet startup, Cyberia. Meanwhile, film projects started coming in and juggling everything stretched us too thin. We took the bold step of focusing on the film business, which felt like jumping onto a new, exciting path but without a map.

 Kulthep: It was a game-changer, and a tough choice for us to close down Cyberia and put all our bets on the film industry, especially in a field as uncertain as film production, and even more so in the Thai-Indian community, where this wasn’t a common path. We chose the road less travelled, but it turned out to be the right one, and set us on the journey to where we are today.
How many staff are with you full time, and how many more when there’s a project?

Rachvin: Prior to the pandemic, our team was almost a hundred strong. However, with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we focused on efficiency and scaled down to about 30. Interestingly, this period turned out to have a silver lining; it pushed us to pivot from solely offering production services to developing our original intellectual property.

 Kulthep: We shifted the focus from a predominantly production-oriented staff to a more creatively driven team, allowing us to diversify our skill set and adapt to the industry’s evolving demands. Today, our core team stands at around 50, but depending on the project, we expand significantly, bringing in 80 to 500 freelance professionals. In peak times and when managing multiple projects, we’ve coordinated with over a thousand individuals. It is the flexibility in our team size that reflects our adaptability and commitment to evolving with the industry’s needs.

 How much do you both typically involve yourselves once the shooting starts, and how long does each project take on average?

 Kulthep: Our involvement in the shooting phase varies. For larger, more complex productions, we’re more hands-on, ensuring every detail is just right, like being the conductor of a very intricate orchestra. Our experience and oversight are crucial during the pre-production and budgeting stages. Our team of producers and crew take the lead on regular shooting days, but we’re there, prepared to jump in if needed; like a firefighter – but hoping everything goes smoothly without us having to douse any flames! [Laughs] The duration of projects can vary widely, from a few weeks for commercials, to several months for feature films.

 What’s the hardest part of the job and how do you overcome it, and conversely, what’s the best or most satisfying part of the job?

 Kulthep: The hardest part? Definitely the pre-production and budgeting phase. It’s like trying to solve a complex puzzle where each piece represents a different aspect of the project. You need an eye for detail and a knack for numbers, which can be quite a juggling act. To find the right team for each project is also crucial, like matchmaking – you’re ensuring everyone clicks, and brings their best to the table.

 Rachvin: The most satisfying part of our job is seeing our projects come to life on screen; the unique thrill in watching something you’ve nurtured from a concept turn into a reality that audiences can enjoy. Every successful project feels like a personal triumph, a testament to our team’s hard work and creativity. It’s these moments that make all the challenges along the way genuinely worthwhile.

 How do you handle fussy clients or stars, and can you share any memorable incidents with them – anonymously, of course? What about the reverse; a pleasant or funny anecdote?

 Kulthep: We maintain professionalism. It’s a delicate dance of keeping enough distance to remain objective, yet being close enough to understand their needs. We once faced a unique challenge during a shoot in Kanchanaburi. A well-known star discovered that the location was an hour from his hotel, and, well, let’s say he wasn’t thrilled and insisted on a location closer to his hotel, leaving us and about 200 crew members in a bind. It was a classic case of adaptability meeting the demands of stardom!

 Rachvin: Regarding the more pleasant side, the camaraderie on set often stands out. There might not be one singular anecdote, but it’s the overall experience that resonates. It’s like creating a temporary family with each project. The bonds we form can be so strong that it’s not uncommon to see a few tears on the last day of shooting. These moments remind us that beyond the cameras and scripts, the human connections truly make a film project memorable.

 Are you tense when a project under the Benetone Films banner is due for release, and does its success or failure affect your mood?

 Rachvin: Making a movie involves coordinating countless details and overcoming numerous challenges. It’s this complexity that makes filmmaking both challenging and thrilling. And that’s the essence of what we do – embracing the adventure and the reward of creating films. So, the release of any project is absolutely a nail-biting experience, a mix of excitement and tension. The stakes are even higher when it’s not just line producing, but our original content with a piece of Benetone Films in the project; ones we’ve poured our hearts into, aiming to create something memorable. The audience’s reception is crucial to us – it’s the moment of truth to see if our vision has genuinely connected. So, although success or failure does impact our mood, we remind ourselves that at the end of the day, it’s part of a journey to which we’ve given our all, in creating the best work we possibly can. 

 Can you walk us through a typical timeline when working on a Benetone Films project, from the storyline, to casting, to the production and editing? Which element would you say makes or breaks a movie, and which takes up the most time?

 Kulthep: For a film, the process usually takes about two years, a bit longer than for a TV series. We start with an idea but spend almost a year developing the script, to ensure that it is the best it can be before we start shooting. With a weak script, it’s hard to make a good movie even with the best directors. After that, we spend 3-4 months preparing for the shoot, which usually takes two months. Post-production, where we edit and finalise the film, typically lasts about six months.

 As the only Thai-Indian-owned production house in the Kingdom, how do you hope to bring together the Thai and Indian communities with your projects, spanning storylines, casting, and more?

 Our Thai-Indian heritage gave us a unique perspective, although it’s not easy to create a comedy that both Thais and Indians can relate to! Our first major Thai feature film, Congrats My Ex! was a chance to explain to a wider audience the intricate details of Indian culture, such as Indian weddings, in a way that was fun and that Thai audiences would appreciate and enjoy. One of the best moments was hearing Thai guests at the premiere saying they wanted Indian boyfriends after watching our movie!

We were thrilled to see the film do well on Amazon Prime Video, topping the No. 1 chart in over 10 countries, while also reaching the No. 5 most searched ‘Romantic Comedy’ movies in India. It showed us that we had managed to share a piece of Indian culture with Thai and international audiences in an entertaining and informative way.

 Was Congrats My Ex! the first project that was fully under the Benetone Films banner, and how far was the company involved?

 Congrats My Ex! was a big milestone for us, being the first major Thai feature film we fully produced under the Benetone Films banner. But our journey in content creation doesn’t stop there. We’ve also produced a short series for Hooq and a coming-of-age story titled WANNABE for Viu. We’re not just focused on Thai content; we’ve gone global. Take Arranged Love (2023) for instance – it’s an Indian romantic comedy we shot in India, aimed at the Indian diaspora in the US and Canada, that we co-produced with an American studio, Marvista.

In all these projects, we’re involved in everything from the ground up – from the initial idea and developing the script, to overseeing production and post-production. We’re hands-on in choosing the team, from the writers to the directors, cast, and even the wardrobe and music. It’s a big responsibility, ensuring the success of a film, and we’re committed to every aspect of it.


 With Congrats My Ex!, tell us about your collaboration with Prime Video and how that came about, and how you managed to sign on the big names in acting, directing, and choreography that you did.

 Rachvin: We funded the production ourselves and worked alongside big names in the industry, like GMM TV and T&B Media. But our collaboration with Prime Video was key to Congrats My Ex!’s success. They spotted the potential in our film and have helped us reach global audiences and supported us with strong promotional backing. And though we are relatively new to producing Thai films, well-known Thai actors Ranee ‘Bella’ Campen and Vachirawit ‘Bright’ Chivaaree trusted our production quality and believed in our vision, drawn from our extensive experience, and were instrumental in bringing this project to life.

 Kulthep: Securing Bella and Bright for Congrats My Ex! was like setting a cornerstone; everything else naturally aligned after that. A key factor in bringing this project to life was the Thai director  Prueksa ‘Tui’ Amruji, who played a crucial role in directing and refining the script to resonate with Thai audiences, which helped us craft the film into the success it became. For the initial script draft, we’d involved Indian writers for an authentic touch to the storyline. An award-winning Indian choreographer, a long-time friend, joined to infuse the film with captivating dance sequences. Moreover, we partnered with a UK cinematographer we’ve worked with before, ensuring the film had a unique visual appeal.

 How do you juggle work and family time?

 Rachvin: Now that my children are grown, it gives me more flexibility to focus on Benetone Films. It’s about spending quality time with family when we can connect; a balance between work and family.

 Kulthep: It’s about striking the right balance every day and with younger kids at home, it’s a juggling act. Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive and understanding family, especially my wife, Anoushka, who has stood by my side since when she first moved here from India as a new bride during the early phase of Benetone Films, when we were still going through the process of understanding the business. 

 With the rave reviews that you’ve received for Congrats My Ex!, are you inspired to write more stories that resonate with both the Thai and Indian communities, and what’s next on the horizon for Benetone Films?

 Our vision at Benetone Films goes beyond any single cultural narrative. The positive response to Congrats My Ex! has been heartening, inspiring us to keep creating impactful stories fostering Thai and Indian collaborations, and while we’re passionate about projects that explore Thai-Indian themes and are currently working on various series and films; we’re also open to various narratives that aren’t limited to this cultural intersection. The main criterion is the story’s overall appeal and potential to bring unique and engaging content to our audiences.

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