TV conquered; Balaji steps up on film business


    MUMBAI: After conquering the television space, Balaji Telefilms’ Ekta Kapoor is now focussing towards an aggressive strategy in the filmed entertainment business.

    The soap factory is now venturing into distribution of films. Its Rs 1.2 billion (Rs 120 crores) co-production deal with Sanjay Gupta and Sanjay Dutt’s banner White Feather Films will mark Balaji’s entry into the film distribution business. Balaji has also purchased the all India distribution and satellite rights of two T-Series’ films. Going forward, plans are also afoot for distributing films in the overseas territories.

    Confirming the company’s plans to, Balaji Motion Pictures Ltd CEO Ramesh Sippy says, "Production and co-production of films require distribution outlets and hence Balaji is keen on setting up its own network. To begin with, Balaji will distribute Shootout At Lokhandwala, which has also been co-produced by us. We will distribute it in the overseas, Bombay and Mysore territories." Shootout At Lokhandwala is the first film to roll out from the co-production venture between Balaji and White Feather Films.

    Expansion on film distribution has been chalked with T-Series’ films. Balaji has bagged the distribution rights of T-Series’ two home productions – Bhool Bhulaiya and Darling. "We will distribute these films all over India. We have also bought the satellite rights of the films, which in turn will be allocated to Star India," informs Sippy. Darling is slated for release sometime in July, whereas Bhool Bhulaiya will release on 24 August.

    T-Series chairman and managing director Bhushan Kumar adds, "Allocating the distribution of Bhool Bhuliaya and Darling to Balaji is a step towards taking forward our existing relationship. The deal is mutually beneficial and I am being offered a good price by them." In the past T-Series has purchased audio rights of various films produced by Balaji. Balaji also sources various songs from the T-Series repertoire for its TV serials. The audio and home video rights of Shootout At Lokhandwala also lie with T-Series.

    Throwing light on Balaji’s distribution operations Sippy adds, "The Bombay circuit operations will be executed from the Bombay office. For other territories such as overseas we will be footing from Bombay or will venture into sub-distribution with independent buyers or with cinema exhibition chains."

    Going forward Balaji also plans to set shop in New York, Los Angeles and Canada within the next three to six months. The UK office is not on high priority now as a cent per cent transparency system is already into existence there, claims Sippy.

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    Balaji inks three film co-production deal with Suniel Shetty’s Popkorn Entertainment

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    Balaji Telefilms has also inked a three film co-production deal with Suniel Shetty’s production house Popkorn Entertainment. Elaborating on the co-production plans with Popkorn Entertainment Sippy says, "We have signed a three film co-production deal with Popkorn. These films will be directed by Joy Augustine, Vikram Singh and Apoorva Lakhia."

    "Augustine’s film will roll by May end and have newcomers. It is based on the bomb blasts in the trains. Vikram Singh’s film will star Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and John Abraham. The film is titled Raaste and is based on cross country racing that takes place in Mexico. It will go on floors by October. Apoorva Lakhia’s script and casting is still under finalization," Sippy informs.