Vistaar keeps up with 'The Joneses'

Film fund backing Indian, international productions

NEW DELHI--Demi Moore and David Duchovny starrer “The Joneses” is among the upcoming mix of foreign and Indian projects co-financed by Vistaar Religare Film Fund launched last year.

In an interview Thursday VRFF chairman Sheetal Talwar told THR that “Joneses”--currently in post production and eyeing a debut at the Toronto International Film Festival--is budgeted at $10 million and is a co-production with Doug Mankoff's Accolade Productions, whose credits include Deepa Mehta's “Water” and South Africa's 2006 Oscar winner “Tsotsi” by Gavin Hood. Directed by Derrick Borte, “Joneses” sees Moore and Duchovny as the perfect upscale suburban couple who don't exactly come clean with the neighbors.

An equal joint venture between Mumbai-based Vistaar Entertainment Ventures and New Delhi-based financial services company Religare Enterprises Ltd, VRFF was launched with funding of up to 2 billion rupees ($42 million) dedicated to producing both Indian and foreign films. Talwar claims VRFF “is the first Indian film fund to get approval from (financial regulator) the Securities and Exchange Board of India and in our first year we have already lined up six major projects both internationally and in India.” Since launch, VRFF has invested a total of about $ 16.25 million (Rupees 780 million) in its various projects, according to Talwar.

One of VRFF's major Bollywood projects is the in-production “Rann” (“Battle”) starring iconic actor Amitabh Bachchan and directed by Ram Gopal Varma. Budgeted at 300 million rupees and slated for release later this year, Talwar says “Rann” is a co-production with producer Madhu Mantena whose banner Big Bang Media produced last year's blockbuster hit “Ghajini” starring Aamir Khan. Promoted with the tag line “The new(s) battle,” “Rann” revolves around India's news television industry, with Bachchan playing a media baron.

VRFF's other Indian projects include last year's “The Stoneman Murders” and cricket caper “Victory” in which “our financing pertained to prints and advertising with both films entailing a total investment by VRFF of about $1.4 million.” However, VRFF-funded Indian productions include upcoming comedies “Office Office”--based on a popular Hindi TV serial--directed by Rajeev Mehra, and “Happy” directed by Talwar's wife Bhavna.

VRFF’s other international co-productions include the $2 million South African comedy “Finding Lenny,” starring Barry Hilton and directed by Neal Sundstrom.

When VRFF launched last year, among its international projects, the fund announced an equal co-production with Japanese banner ACC (Asia Content Centre) for “A.R.T” which was budgeted at about $20 million. Talwar said that that project “is still in the early stages of development.”
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