Paramount to Release Bollywood Epic 'Padmavati' in U.S., Globally Outside India

'Padmavati' still - H 2017
Courtesy of Viacom18 Motion Pictures/Bhansali Productions

The studio will distribute its first Bollywood film, a historical drama co-produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s banner.

Paramount Pictures will distribute the Bollywood epic Padmavati in the U.S. and all overseas markets outside India day-and-date with the film’s Dec. 1 opening in India.

This is the first time Paramount will distribute a Bollywood film.

Padmavati was co-produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s banner Bhansali Productions. The film stars Deepika Padukone (xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. As one of the most anticipated titles of the year, Padmavati will be released in India by Viacom18 Motion Pictures.

The pic revolves around the titular character of Queen Padmavati (Padukone) from Rajasthan and her husband Maharawal Ratan Singh (Kapoor), who battles the Mughal invader Sultan Alauddin Khilji (Singh).

Bhansali first directed Padmavati as an opera in 2008 for the Theatre Du Chatelet in Paris, which was based on the 1923 opera written by Albert Rousselan. Bhansali’s production traveled to Rome and was also performed at Italy’s Spoleto festival.

As one of India’s most acclaimed directors, Bhansali is known for his signature blockbuster productions, such as 2015’s hit Bajirao Mastani, which was based on historical figures and also starred Padukone and Singh.

"Padmavati has all the makings of a hit film, and we are excited to bring Sanjay’s incredible vision to audiences across the international marketplace,” said Paramount Pictures president worldwide distribution and marketing Megan Colligan.

“This is a first-ever such collaboration with Paramount Pictures releasing a Viacom18 Hindi feature across international markets,” added Viacom18 Motion Pictures COO Ajit Andhare. “With Paramount coming on board, we will take the film to a whole new level globally.” Details about the film's U.S. screen count are still awaited.

Paramount’s association with Viacom18 goes back to 2011, when the companies entered into an alliance for Viacom18 to handle Paramount’s studio releases in India. Over the years, Viacom18 has released such major Paramount titles as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, xXx: Return of Xander Cage and this summer’s Baywatch, among others.

When the alliance was announced, then-Paramount Pictures International president Andrew Cripps in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter talked about the possibility of Paramount distributing Bollywood films, saying: “Bollywood films are gaining popularity in various international territories and the market is only growing. Viacom18 are making some very interesting movies and if there is potential in some of them we'd be happy to look at that opportunity.”

However, this is not the first time a major U.S. studio is releasing a Bollywood film. In 2010, Fox Searchlight handled the release of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name Is Khan for the U.S. while Twentieth Century Fox International handled all territories outside India, where the film was released by Fox Star Studios (the local joint venture with Fox’s Star India network).

Paramount has been facing challenging times at the U.S. box office, with Baywatch being one of the summer’s big flops. According to THR’s annual studio-by-studio profitability ranking, after recording a $25 million profit for 2015, Viacom’s Paramount remained at the bottom of the rankings by posting a loss of $364 million in 2016.