India’s Mahindra Group is tying up with the Sundance Institute to launch an annual Screenwriters Lab in India and the Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award.

The move is part of the Mahindra Group’s push to develop independent cinema both in India and overseas. The $7bn multinational, which started out in the 1940s by manufacturing tractors and utility vehicles, has a filmmaking division, Mumbai Mantra, that focuses on specialty product and recently co-produced Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren.

The Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award will be handed out annually to four filmmakers from around the world during the Sundance Film Festival. The award includes a grant, attendance at the Sundance Film Festival for targeted industry meetings, mentoring from Sundance Institute staff and creative advisors, participation in a Feature Film Program Lab and year-round support.

The initiative will extend over three years, benefitting 12 awardees in total. Starting in 2012, one of the four awardees will be an Indian director. Recipients of the 2011 award will be announced on January 25.

Scheduled for Spring 2012, the Mumbai Mantra|Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab will enable six to eight Indian filmmakers to develop their projects with guidance from creative advisors.   

“Our entry into media and entertainment is positioned to create a rich resource for independent filmmakers and to encourage original storytelling from all parts of the world in line with the Mahindra Group’s global foot print,” said Mahindra Group vice chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra.

“The first step in this direction is the collaboration with the Sundance Institute which three decades ago heralded a unique nurturing spirit for independent cinema in America. Our intention is to nurture as well as hone the talents of an exciting new generation of Indian filmmakers. The guidance and knowhow of Sundance shall be extremely valuable to us in our initiatives.”

Sundance president Robert Redford said: “The creativity, ingenuity and corporate responsibility of the Mahindra Group is well known the world over. I want to commend Mahindra’s dedication to innovative corporate citizenship and to express my genuine enthusiasm for the work ahead.”

Mumbai Mantra director Rohit Khattar said: “We have been evaluating various initiatives which shall not merely enable the company to revitalise its strategy in media & entertainment, but in keeping with the group’s values, also help in giving back to the film industry. With the Sundance partnership, we shall be able to recognise, nurture and hone incredible talent in India and across the world.

“We are at an exciting storytelling stage in the history of the film industry in both India and internationally and are constantly evaluating very interesting scripts. This collaboration and exchange of know-how shall raise the bar further.” 

 The Mumbai Mantra Sundance Institute Screenwriting Lab March 2012 is inviting applications on