Fox Star partners with Shah in multi-pic deal

Deal includes at least two pics and first look

NEW DELHI -- In what is turning out to be a weekend when Hollywood is connecting with Bollywood like never before, Fox Star Studios India announced Saturday a foray into Indian cinema with Bollywood producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah via a multiple-film deal.

"I see this collaboration as a great opening for Indian cinema considering what a major global player like Fox can bring to the table," Shah said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.  "There is now the potential for a global Indian success story like 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.' Now is a great time when the Hollywood studios are coming to India and I see this association with FSSI as a mutually beneficial partnership."

The FSSI-Shah deal includes the development and production of a visual effects-driven fantasy action movie and a contemporary romantic comedy, as well as a first look deal on Shah's future projects. The VFX event film will be supported by a team of top visual effects directors from Hollywood and supervised by Fox¹s in-house visual effects team.

"Along with Vipul Shah, FSSI will be involved in all areas including ideation, scripting, production, marketing and distribution, reflecting a genuine co-production," FSSI CEO Vijay Singh told The Hollywood Reporter. Shah has delivered hits like 2007's "Namastey London" ("Hello London") and this year's runaway success "Singh Is Kinng," which had the biggest worldwide opening ever ($16.1 million) for a Hindi film.

FSSI has also acquired multiple format rights such as home video and broadcast rights for the films, which will air on the Star India network. Singh did not give a timeline or a budget but said the romantic comedy will probably be the first to be released sometime next year.

Clarifying that FSSI "is not an investment bank but rather an all-round partner," Singh added, "We would like to introduce a Hollywood studio system in Bollywood by working closely with producers and offer them a one-stop shop. We are not here to buy products without seeing them."

In terms of FSSI¹s planned slate of films, Singh said "we'd like to have at least four or five films per year but there¹s no strict rule on the number of films, as our focus is to go for the right projects."

FSSI will handle both overseas and domestic distribution "as we are setting up our own national theatrical distribution network here by establishing direct relationships with major multiplex chains and select distributors," Singh said of the studio's projects.

Fox International Prods. President Sanford Panitch said, "We went after Vipul as soon as we set up the infrastructure. We are committed to building relationships with like minded Indian producers, and we hope to add value to the creative production, whether it be through bringing Hollywood writers to the process or by bringing the latest VFX and/or animation technology to Indian films."

It's been a busy weekend for Bollywood. On Friday, The Walt Disney Co. India announced the greenlighting of four live-action features. Also, the Times of India reported late Saturday that Steven Spielberg had reached agreement with Reliance Big Entertainment¹s Anil Ambani for the creation of a new, Hollywood-based US$1.5 billion studio, ending Spielberg's affiliation with Dreamworks.