Shyamalan's 'Happening' connects with India's UTV

Fox also co-funding helmer's latest

Mumbai-based production company UTV Motion Pictures and 20th Century Fox are teaming up for director M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, "The Happening."

UTV and Fox will split the $57 million budget and serve as equal partners in all revenue streams for the film, which starts shooting in August and is slated for a summer 2008 tentpole release, UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala said. Worldwide distribution will be handled by Fox except India, which will be handled by UTV.

Negotiations with Shyamalan started a couple of months ago, Screwvala said, "after we were introduced to him by his agency, CAA, with whom we have also dealt in the past on our other projects with Fox Searchlight. In fact, even before 20th Century Fox came on board for 'The Happening,' UTV had already confirmed its commitment to Shyamalan for the project."

Given Shyamalan's Indian origins — he was born in the southern city of Pondicherry — the director "has always been keen on working with India," Screwvala said. "Of course, he could have raised financing from any other indie producer, but it worked out well that UTV is an Indian production company that is pleased to be involved in a major international project like 'The Happening.' "

Shyamalan said Wednesday in a video conference organized by UTV: "I always had a desire to do something in India and stay connected to India. This collaboration with UTV is a perfect opportunity to stay connected and cultivate a relationship in India."

A leading Bollywood film production company whose credits include India's foreign-language Oscar entry this year, "Rang De Basanti" (Paint It Yellow), UTV made its first foray into international co-productions in August when it came on board for the Chris Rock comedy "I Think I Love My Wife" with Fox Searchlight. The second UTV-Fox Searchlight co-production is Mira Nair's latest, "The Namesake."

"The Happening" revolves around issues related to man and his relationship with the environment. It will be shot around Shyamalan's hometown of Philadelphia and other locations on the East Coast.

UTV has previously inked deals with Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In July, the Walt Disney Co. acquired a 14.9% stake in UTV parent UTV Software Communications for $14 million and paid $30.5 million for a stake in the UTV affiliate, United Home Entertainment Ltd., to fully acquire children's TV channel Hungama TV.
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