Zee curtails motion picture biz; Deepak Sharma resigns

MUMBAI: Zee Group’s motion picture business seems to be jinxed. The company entered film production with Gadar – Ek Prem Katha in 2001, which was very successful and also tried its hand at a 2D animation film Bhagmati in 2005, which failed to create any impact. However, as was first reported by Businessofcinema.com, the company re-entered the film production business last year under two banners namely Zee Limelight and Zee Motion Pictures.

Now it is reliably learnt that in the wake of the current economic scenario, the company has yet again decided to slow down on the movie business. Additionally, Zee Motion Pictures director production Deepak Sharma has also put in his papers at the company and is currently serving his three-month notice period.

Confirming the development to Businessofcinema.com, Sharma says, "Zee is not shutting the motion picture business, it will only curtail it, which will be done within the next month itself."

He also confirmed that he had put in his resignation at the company. However, he refused to share details of the curtailment procedure at the motion picture unit and the status of contracts signed with directors.

Zee Motion Pictures director marketing and sales Sanjeev Lamba remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.

A source informs, "When Zee plunged into the movie business for the second time it signed directors for various movies and it committed approximately Rs 200 million (Rs 20 crores) in just signing talent. However, they are not willing to pay those high prices under current market scenario. Hence they want to slowdown."

A year and a half ago, Zee announced its second innings in the motion picture business with a slate of 23- 24 films and a vision of releasing 10-12 films a year by 2009. However, come 2009 and Zee’s motion picture business plans have kaput.

Zee recently released Anurag Kashyap’s Gulaal and Oh My God under the Zee Limelight banner. The company is currently producing Deepak Tijori’s Fox, which in all probability may be sold to a third party for distribution. Zee also produced few films in the regional space of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and Bengali.

Apart from this, Zee had signed various directors for multiple films including the likes of Anil Sharma (three films), Guddu Dhanoa (three films), Samir Karnik (two films), Tigmanshu Dhulia (two films) and Satish Kaushik and David Dhawan (one film each) and also an animation film by Ashu Trikha. Pritam Khare, (associate of Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Devdas) was signed to direct three films and Onir’s Kill Chabbra starring Sanjay Suri and Gul Panag was also to be produced by Zee. Unfortunately one didn’t see any movement on this front and the status of these deals remained unknown at the time of filing this story.