Reliance adds more names in prod'n push

Joins with Bachchans of Bollywood for films, TV

NEW DELHI -- Reliance Big Entertainment, the film arm of the Indian conglomerate courting Steven Spielberg and other top Hollywood names, strengthened its Bollywood roots Wednesday by forming a pact with India's "first family" of filmmaking.

RBE, a division of Reliance ADA, will launch a production entity with Amitabh Bachchan and his family of actors to produce films and television content, president Rajesh Sawhney saidtold The Hollywood Reporter.

"If we want to engage globally, we have to engage with Hollywood. And that means engaging with talent," Sawhney said.

The Bachchans include Amitabh's wife Jaya, an accomplished actress, their actor son Abhishek and his wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss Universe who has acted in such films as "Bride & Prejudice" and the upcoming "Pink Panther" sequel.

At the Festival de Cannes in May, RBE announced a $1 billion pact with the production banners of some of Hollywood's biggest names, including George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

The new unnamed RBE-Bachchan entity will see RBE handle finance, marketing, distribution and other management issues while "the Bachchans will focus on creative aspects," Sawhney said.

Without providing investment figures, he termed the agreement "long-term and open-ended."

The Times of India speculated that the deal could be worth about $300 million, but Sawhney dismissed the figure as "baseless," adding that the investments "really depend on the nature of projects, which are still to be finalized."

RBE parent Reliance ADA reportedly is in talks to finance DreamWorks’ exit from Paramount for about $550 million. Sawhney declined comment on those talks.

While stressing that relationships with talent are based on creative freedom, Sawhney also pointed out that "this does not mean that we are a hedge fund. The talent involved should also realize that there is an element of responsibility that comes with creative freedom."