Press Release

Fox Star Studios deepens ties with Bollywood, Tamil players

23 December 2013

A still from City Lights, Hansal Mehta’s official remake of the Filipino-British crime drama Metro Manila.

Fox Star Studios, from the looks of it, has had an average year. The collaboration between Twentieth Century Fox and Star India started operations here in 2008 and has focused on releasing a mix of English titles sourced from the mother ship and locally co-produced Hindi films.

The studio is behind such high-profile releases in the past as Avatar, Rio,My Name is Khan and Life of Pi. Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and Bullett Raja created few waves in 2013: Murder 3 was a forgettable entry in a well-worn franchise, and only the low-budget Jolly LLB recovered money and face. Of the handful of Hollywood releases, only The Wolverine was worth taking note of.

The studio has a different spin on the events. The year that is almost behind us was spent on preparing for the next 12 months, said Vijay Singh, CEO at the studio. “2013 has been a year building a pipeline for 2014,” he said. “One of the key changes has been to move away from an acquisition to a development model. It takes between 12 and 18 months to do that. We have got to make films that creatively push the envelope but are also commercially sensible. It’s so easy to lose your shirt in this business.”

Fox Star Studios will increase its output significantly next year, rolling out at least 28 titles, including nine Hindi films, many of them co-productions. This includes Amole Gupte’s Hawaa Hawaai, Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny Fernandez, Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, Sajid Khan’s Humshakals, Mohit Suri’s Hamari Adhuri Kahani and Hansal Mehta’s official remake of the Filipino-British crime drama Metro Manila, titled City Lights.

The company will continue to take the co-production route to deepen its presence in Bollywood—a three-film deal with Vishesh Films, run by the brothers Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt and including the 3D venture Mr X, will contribute to its Hindi crop. Fox Star and Vishesh had previously tied up forRaaz 3 and Murder 3. “We have focused on strengthening relationships that were already in place, and we have also been able to strike some new interesting relationships,” Singh said.

The studio’s association with Tamil filmmakers has proved profitable enough to continue into the coming year. It will co-produce the movies V Chitram, Mundasupatti and Cuckoo as well as back the new venture by Atlee Kumar, who directed the recent Fox Star Studios-A.R. Murugadoss co-production Raja Rani. The company is looking to renew its association with Murugadoss that helped it enter the Tamil film business and get a bunch of modestly budgeted dramas and rom-coms off the ground.
“One of the learnings (from Tamil cinema) is that the kind of narratives coming out there are lot a more original, and there is more willingness to experiment and push the envelope,” Singh said. The relationship with Murugadoss was very useful for the studio, as was the advice of officials at the group’s Tamil language channel, Vijay TV. “The presence of Vijay TV has made our ability to sift information much easier,” Singh said.
The larger game for Fox Star Studios, and its competitors, is to build up a bank of ideas and scripts and to exploit the intellectual property rights of wholly owned films. “The focus remains on scripts, ideas and producers who are known to work within tight budgets,” Singh said. “We have seen that it is stories that are working, and that big names can go only this far.” Until this bank is built, audiences will have to do with remakes of successes in other languages, such as Fox Star’s 1 March release Traffic, originally a Malayalam hit.

“We need to have more storytellers and script writers, and in the interim, the remake is a nice way to fill the gap,” Singh said. Another of the scheduled releases is Bang Bang, Siddharth Anand’s remake of the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz starrer Knight and Day. Bang Bang has been beset by production delays, partly because of lead actor Hrithik Roshan’s physical and emotional ailments, but will release on schedule on 2 October, Singh said.

The Fox part of the company’s name will yield mostly sequels but also the dramas The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Book Thief and The Monuments Men. Hollywood’s market share of the theatrical business in India has been steadily increasing in recent years, observed Singh, from about 5% when his company set up shop to around 9-10%. “Tentpoles and franchises are going up, since 60-70% of Hollywood’s business is coming from outside markets, so the product must travel across diverse markets,” he added. In the Hollywood pipeline are Rio 2, X Men First Class: Days of the Future Past, How to Train your Dragon 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Night At The Museum 3.

Source: Livemint.com

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