Indian Film Co. builds slate

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NEW DELHI -- The Indian Film Company (IFC) will produce a slate of six films with a budget of about $24 million (£12 million), the Mumbai-based affiliate of Viacom-18 said Saturday (7/21).

Last month, IFC listed on London's Alternative Investment Market where it raised $113 million (£55 million).

IFC is a part of Viacom-18, the joint venture between U.S. media giant Viacom Inc. and diversified Indian media group TV 18 formed in May (HR 5/22),

In an interview Saturday, IFC CEO Sandeep Bhargava said, "Our slate of six new films is in addition to the 14 films we acquired prior to the AIM listing from group company Studio 18."

TV 18 established Studio 18 about a year ago to engage in all aspects of the film business, but following the formation of IFC early this year, Bhargava said that Studio 18 will primarily focus on "creative and distribution services while its forays into production via the 14 projects have been transferred to IFC, which will hold all (intellectual property rights)."

This ramps up IFC's total slate to 20 films, which Bhargava says "will be rolling out over the next two years." The total spent on these films should reflect about 60% of the funds raised on AIM.

Included among the projects is "Little Zizou," the directorial debut of established screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala (credits include Mira Nair's "The Namesake").

Lined up for release in August is "Halla Bol" (Make Some Noise), directed by Bollywood veteran Raj Kumar Santoshi, while included among the six new in-production projects are "Loot," directed by Rajneesh Thakur, "Masquerade," directed by Kundan Shah, and "Fruit N Nut," directed by Kunal Vijayakar.

Studio 18 recently agreed to develop comic book characters with the option of turning them into features and other media offshoots with Richard Branson-promoted Virgin Comics, based in Bangalore, South India (HR 5/21).

"We are currently working on some comics with Virgin, and as the time comes to develop them into features, we will do that under the IFC banner," Bhargava said.

Although the Viacom-18 joint venture is first planning to shortly launch a general entertainment channel, Bhargava says that film content also could be exploited at a later stage, especially from an international perspective.

"Viacom is a co-investor in our parent group and the mandate for IFC is very clear: We are basically producing Indian films for an Indian audience," Bhargava said. "But a project like 'Little Zizou' has potential appeal beyond Indian audiences, so I guess that's where we could explore the Viacom advantage."
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