United Television Motion Pictures, the film distribution division of the Rs 150-crore (Rs 1.5 billion) TV software company UTV, is entering feature film production in a big way. The company has three large co-productions, starring top actors, lined up for the next two years.
UTV Motion Pictures has entered into a joint venture with Shah Rukh Khan's film company, Dreamz & Filmz Ltd, to launch a Rs 20-crore (Rs 200 million) film Chalte Chalte. Directed by Aziz Mirza, the film is due for release in June this year.
The second co-production is the Rs 30-crore (Rs 300 million) Swades. The film is written and directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar of Lagaan fame. Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee will play the lead roles in the film.
The third film, Lakshya, will be co-produced with Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar's Excel Entertainment. A war epic, the film featuring stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta is expected to cost Rs 30-35 crore (Rs 300-350 million).
"UTV Motion Pictures is very focused on getting into the film production business. The strengths that we bring to the table in a co-production is that apart from financing we will also market, promote and distribute these films," says Sanjay Bhattarcharjii, chief operating officer, UTV Motion Pictures.
He feels that the advantage of co-production is that it allows producers to merge resources and is financially beneficial.
The Ashutosh Gowarikar film, Swades, is financed by UTV Motion Pictures. "There is lot of merit in corporate financing of films. It ensures discipline of deadlines and accountability," says Bhattacharjii.
On his part, Gowarikar says he's happy to work with UTV as "the company is passionate about films. We share the same vision and its easy to work with a like-minded team".
While growth via big budget co-productions is the first phase of UTV Motion Pictures' expansion drive, in the second phase, the division plans to produce its own films.
In the next six months, it is expected to launch its own production and is currently in the process of identifying projects with mass appeal.
The division wants to be a one-stop shop for all film related services where it wants to produce, co-produce, market and distribute films.
Talking about distribution, Bhattacharjii says, that the Hindi film industry is still heavily dependent on the pre-sales and table profit model.
"To grow, the industry needs to change. We are going in for direct distribution wherein we have direct contact with the exhibition chain and with the multiplexes coming up in a big way. The direct distribution model will drive growth as there would be greater transparency."
UTV distributes its films in the Mumbai territory as well as in New Delhi and Srinagar. It has a list of award winning films it distributed to its credit.
These include Sarfarosh, Hyderabad Blues, Mission Kashmir, Hera Pheri, Major Saab, Vaastav, Asoka, Lagaan (Oscar nominated in the foreign film category) and Kaante.
It will also distribute J P Dutta's Line Of Control. The division is also eyeing new sources of revenue from overseas distribution. "The overseas market is untapped," he says.
UTV, the parent company, is currently in the process of putting together a film fund with an initial corpus of $25 million.
To be called Film Fund India Ltd, it will make investments in film production. It is understood that, the fund will not have more than 10-15 investors who will have to put in at least $1million each.
UTV Motion Pictures boasts of prior experience in co-productions in international cinema. In the past, it has done an Indo-Canadian co-production, Such a Long Journey.
The film was nominated for 12 Genie awards and won three awards from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. In mainstream Hindi cinema, the division made a debut in co-productions with Dil Ke Jharoke Mein and later on Fiza.