Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, the new film division of India’s Viacom 18 joint venture, has unveiled its slate for 2011, including Anurag Kashyap’s two-part gangster musical, Gangs Of Wasseypur.
A gangster saga set over three decades, complete with songs and a large ensemble cast, the two-parter is currently shooting in northern India, with the first part tentatively scheduled for release in July.
“It’s a completely commercial and entertaining Hindi film with around eight to nine songs in each part, but the format and language are such that it’s going to do wonders internationally as well,” Vikram Malhotra, head of Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, told Screen.
The film is being made under a new banner launched by Viacom 18 Motion Pictures – Tipping Point Films – which aims to produce edgier content for India’s urban youth.
Also under Tipping Point will be two films produced by Kashyap and directed by newcomers – Bijoy Nambiar’s Shaitan, which touches on the values, beliefs and peer pressures of India’s urban youth, and thriller Michael (working title), directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and starring Nasseruddin Shah.
Shaitan will be released in March/April and Michael in May, around the same time as coming-of-age comedy Pyar Ka Panchnama (working title).
The company’s first release of 2011 is Tanu Weds Manu, a rom-com about young Indians’ attitudes towards arranged marriage, which opens in India on Feb 25. Directed by Ananda Rai, the film stars R Madhavan and Kangana Ranaut.
Also on Viacom 18’s slate is Buddah, starring Amitabh Bachchan and co-produced with the star’s production house, which South Indian director Puri Jagannadh starts shooting later this month, and David Dhawan’s remake of Bollywood comedy classic Chasmee Badoor, which starts shooting in May.
Buddah is scheduled for release in late July/early August and Chasmee Badoor for late 2011/early 2012. The end of the year will also see the release of Players, a remake of Viacom subsidiary Paramount Pictures’ The Italian Job, directed by Abbas-Mustan and starring Abhishek Bachchan, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Bipasha Basu.
Malhotra said the slate represents a range of budgets aimed at different audience segments with Players and Chasmee Badoor at the high end followed by Gangs Of Wasseypur and Buddah.
“We have portfolio approach in terms of selecting our projects and out-putting them – our approach is to identify areas and genres we’d like to move into,” Malhotra explains.
He gives the example of Pyar Ka Panchnama which is in the same space as the American Pie series – a genre that has hasn’t really been attempted in India before. “It’s our attempt at understanding if this is a genre that works in India. The family audience would probably struggle to connect with the language,” Malhotra says.
Viacom 18 is a 50:50 joint venture between US media giant Viacom and Indian broadcaster Network18. It previously operated Studio18, which marketed and distributed films financed by the UK-listed Indian Film Company, including hits Jab We Met, Singh Is King and Welcome.
However both entities were restructured and integrated into Viacom 18 following a string of flops in 2009-2010. Malhotra says the film arm is now moving towards becoming a full service studio, involved in development, production, marketing and distribution, in contrast to the previous business model which was acquisition-led.