No, the next thing to emerge from Shah Rukh Khan’s company Red Chillies Entertainment isn’t a movie starring him. Instead, Red Chillies has picked up the modestly budgeted Kaamyaab, starring Sanjay Mishra as a bit-part actor aiming to achieve a personal milestone by starring in his 500th movie. Kaamyaab marks the directorial debut of Hardik Mehta, who won praise and awards for his short film Amdavad Ma Famous in 2015. The comedy will be released on March 6.

Kaamyaab was originally bankrolled by Manish Mundhra’s Drishyam Films, and Red Chillies came into the picture after the movie was completed, Chief Operating Officer Gaurav Verma told “Manish and I met and we were discussing various opportunities when he brought up Kaamyaab,” Verma said. “It was doing the rounds of international festivals at the time. We watched it and really loved it and felt that it was the right film to step into and take to consumers in the right way.”

Kaamyaab (2020).

In recent months, Red Chillies acquired Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla (2019), an official remake of the Spanish thriller The Invisible Guest (2016), and Abhay Chopra’s Ittefaq (2017), an update on the Rajesh Khanna-Nanda starrer of the same name from 1969. Badla, which was originally produced by Azure Entertainment, did especially well for Red Chillies.

On a parallel track, the company is also producing web series for Netflix. The first one, Bard of Blood, based on Bilal Siddiqi’s novel The Bard of Blood, went up on Netflix in September 2018.

“We have built up a pipeline over the past few years, and we are now in a position where we can pick up good films,” Verma said. “This has been a gradual movement that is picking up force at the right pace.”

Among Red Chillies’ upcoming film projects is Bob Biswas, directed by Diya Ghosh and starring Abhishek Bachchan and Chitrangada Singh. The web series Betaal will be out on Netflix later in the year. Class of 83 is based on the exploits of a group of trigger-happy Mumbai police officers and stars Bobby Deol.

The second season of Bard of Blood is also underway. Directed by Rhibu Dasgupta and led by Emraan Hashmi, Bard of Blood revolves around a former spy who is recalled to lead a mission to rescue four agents from the Taliban in Afghanistan. The series has been criticised for its weak characterisation and mostly underwhelming performances, but Verma claims that there were only “four bad reviews” – he counted. (The one by is presumably among them).

“I am not defending the show,” Verma clarified. “It was one of the most highest consumed shows in India, but that doesn’t mean that everybody liked it. The feedback was mixed. Some character arcs were missing. Sometimes, there can be limitations when you adapt something for the first time.”

Bard of Blood (2019).

Hits and flops are par for the course for film production companies. Red Chillies has two other lucrative revenue streams to help it keep its head above water – a thriving visual effects division and a healthy library of a few hundred titles that are re-distributed through television and streaming platforms and pay-per-view websites such as YouTube Movies. Many of these films star Khan at his peak in the 1990s and 2000s – a smart way to ensure that his older productions continue to be in circulation and reach new audiences.

“This has been happening over the last five years,” Verma said. “The idea was to go out and see if we could acquire every one of Shah Rukh’s back catalogue, and we have succeeded in some cases. We haven’t just bought the rights, but we have also digitised the films and brought them up to a quality that can be enjoyed on today’s streaming platforms.”

If Red Chillies is also quietly working on a movie that marks Khan’s return to the big screen after the Zero debacle in 2018, Verma isn’t telling. There are rumours that Khan will star either in a new Rajkumar Hirani project or a production helmed by Tamil director Atlee, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

“You are asking the right question to the wrong person,” Verma said. “The question is meant for Shah Rukh – let’s wait for him to make the announcement.”

Gaurav Verma.