Indian contingent is strongest ever at Cannes Film Festival

MUMBAI: The Cannes Film Festival kick-starts in the French Riviera tomorrow (14 May) and top Indian companies have rolled up their sleeves in order to make a mark at the festival.

The contingent list remains more or less similar compared to last year, except for Reliance Big Entertainment and NDTV Lumière which are the newest entrants in the league. The number of buyers from India will be more this year. The major companies involved in buying and selling content at the Cannes market place include Eros, Reliance Big Entertainment, UTV, Saregama, Multivision, NDTV Lumière, Alliance Media, PVR, Shemaroo, Palador, Studio 18, Moser Baer, WSG Pictures and Ultra. Of these, six companies will be setting up stalls.

Apart from this, a few top companies are also planning to make key business announcements at Cannes this year, including that of co- productions with International companies and also acquisitions of International companies.

This time round, where corporate presence will be more than ever before, glamour quotient and star presence is the missing factor from India.

On the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, speaks to key industry professionals who will be representing their company at the festival and lists down their agendas.

Reliance Big Entertainment: This year will see the formal launch of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani’s Reliance Big Entertainment at Cannes. As per this, the corporate identity and movie line-up of Big Entertainment will be unveiled before the world press for the first time. Sources inform that multiple Hollywood – Bollywood co-production deals with the likes of Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Will Smith, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise is slated to be announced.

Indian film makers and producers Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Ritesh Sidhwani along with their team too will be present at the launch as a part of their multi film deal with Reliance Big Entertainment.

Reliance Big Entertainment will also set up a stall to showcase and sell some of its ready and under production movies like Gajini, Love story 2050, Shabri, Sab Charitro Kalponik, Kutti Shrank and Autograph 2.

With an eye set on buying content also, a contingent led by Big Music’s Sweta Agnihotri will also be present. Says Agnihotri, "We are keen on buying rights of selective but big English movies and also a few world cinema titles which can be exploited 360 degree across theatrical, home video, satellite, IPTV and other ancillary mediums."

Eros International: Last year at Cannes Eros unveiled its new company logo and celebrated 30 years of practice in the Indian entertainment industry. Sources inform that Eros may also announce a co production deal with a Hollywood company.

The company will set up a stall with their catalog of 1300 movies. They will also unveil the first look of film like Drona and God Tussi Great Ho.

In terms of buying, executive vp corporate & business development Marcus Stuart Vannini says, "We are looking at buying rights of International films for all round exploitation in India. Apart from this we are also interested in buying scripts for Hindi and English movies, which are more crossover in nature."

Moser Baer Entertainment: Moser Baer Entertainment CEO Harish Dayani will give Cannes 2008 a skip. The company will be represented at Cannes by two executives from the company. Last year Moser Baer invested close to $ 2 million in purchasing rights of 100 films for SAARC countries.

This year the company has narrowed its focus and is eying selective content, albeit lesser than last year. "We are looking at limited content which can be monetized well on theatrical, home video and satellite platforms," says Dayani.

NDTV Lumière/ Sunil Doshi: NDTV Lumière director Doshi will represent the world cinema TV channel with a team of 2-3 people. They have short listed 80 -90 movies to watch in the festival in various categories. "We are gearing up to make a sizeable amount of acquisition this time," said Doshi. For NDTV Lumière this is the first time at Cannes Film Festival, but Doshi has been a regular at the festival since many years.

For Alliance Media and Entertainment (company owned by Doshi), which produces films in Hindi language, Doshi is aiming at pre sales and sales of four films- Halla starring Sushant Singh, Rajat Kapoor and Vrijesh Hirjee and three films for which the scripting and casting is underway.

UTV Motion Pictures: From UTV’s catalogue, three movies–Jodhaa Akbar, Race and Taare Zameen Par–will make their debut in market. Last year the first look of Jodhaa Akbar was revealed at Cannes. From UTV’s Motion Picture wing, a team of three people headed by CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur will be present for the festival. UTV too will set up a stall and titles from their past catalog like Life in a Metro, Blue Umbrella Swades, Rang De Basanti, Bluffmaster and Taxi No. 9211 will be the highlights.

UTV’s channel World Movies too will be present at Cannes this year to represent the channel. The channel will shoot event coverage, red carpet and interviews with stars and directors and telecast it on their channel. The channel will also screen some of the movies shown at Cannes.

Studio 18: Studio 18 will unveil the look of Little Zizou and announce the making of a cross over film titled Road Movie, the script of which was official selection at Cannes 2007 as a part of L’Atelier du Festival. The film is being produced by Ross Katz (of Lost in Translation fame) and Susan B Landau. "The screenplay of Road Movie has been penned by Dev Benegal. The film will be directed by Benegal himself. It will be going on floors in August," informs Studio 18 senior VP international operations Hemant Bharadwaj.

Studio 18 will set up a stall to showcase its portfolio of 12-14 movies. They will also give a sneak peak into their co-productions Loot, Dil Kabaddi, Kidnap, Singh in King and Shortcut.

Shemaroo: Shemaroo will be present at Cannes with a contingent of four people lead by company director Hiren Gada. They will showcase their catalog of 400 films at the stall with the key films being Ghatotkach (first look revealed at Cannes 2007) and Guide (being screened in Classics category in Cannes 2008). "Our major concentration will be on selling content and our buys will be more for the world cinema catalog," says Gada.

Multivision Multimedia: Last year Multivision purchased rights of 15 movies for India. "This year we are looking at buying theatrical, home video, TV and ancillary rights of movies which will release post second half of 2009, unless if there is a highly commercial film before that," says Multivision director Ajay Gupta. Some of the companies that Multivision deals with include The Weinstein, Mandate, Summit, Magnetic Media, Arclight, Bob Yari group, I Am global, Focus Feature and QED.

PVR: Last year PVR purchased rights of 10 movies at Cannes. This year too the agenda remains similar for the company–that of acquiring Hollywood movies for theatrical exploitation, to supply content for its multiplex chains in India. A team of four officials headed by PVR director Sanjeev Bijli will represent the company at Cannes.

Saregama: This year Saregama contingent will be present at Cannes with the objective of buying content and no sales. "We will acquire home video rights of niche and special interest English language movies from independent studios," says Saregama International Studios head Parag Kamani.

WSG/ Vistaar Religare Film Fund: Apart from making some key announcements at the Cannes Film Festival, chairman and managing director Sheetal Talwar will be present at Cannes for the sale of Pankaj Kapoor-starrer Avasthi, which is being directed by Bhawna Talwar.

Ultra: A team of three people headed by Ultra managing director Sushilkumar Agarwal will showcase their catalog of 300 old and new movies. "The highlights of our catalog will be movies like Kahaani Gudiya Ki, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Sanam Teri Kasam, Kabhi Socha Na Tha and a few regional language films," informs Agarwal.