Sony India boards 'Meerabai'

Comedy marks SPE's 2nd Bollywood outing

NEW DELHI -- Mumbai-based Sony Pictures Entertainment Films India has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the upcoming comedy "Meerabai Not Out," marking its second involvement in the distribution of a Bollywood film.

"This acquisition is precisely the kind of strong material that is the cornerstone of our local language initiative," said Deborah Schindler, SPE International Motion Picture Production Group president in a statement on Wednesday.

"Meerabai," due this summer, is a 50-50 co-production between Mumbai-based Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC) and Hyderabad, South India-based animation company DQ Entertainment, and marks DQE's first foray into live action features.

Last December, SPE India became the first Hollywood studio to take on a Bollywood film with "Saawariya" (Beloved).

"Meerabai," directed by Chandrakant Kulkarni, stars actress Mandira Bedi as a math teacher obsessed with cricket and Anil Kumble, one of India's leading cricketers, playing himself in his first starring role.

The film is the first to be made as a part of a six-film DQE and PNC co-production pact announced in March. A budget has not been announced but the producers said in March they would make animation and live action features for around $45 million-50 million over the next four years.

"This is the first of several movies that we hope to do with PNC", said Uday Singh, SPE Films India's executive vp.

Among its other projects, DQE has also signed co-production deals with Marvel Comics to work on animated series based on "Iron Man."