If there is one thing Relativity Media head Ryan Kavanaugh likes, it’s making deals. He’s hammered out a joint venture with Bollywood film and TV network B4U that, the announcement says, will leverage their combined expertise, relationships and resources to create and distribute highly engaging long and short form entertainment and sports content in India, spanning film, television and digital. The plan calls for them to co-finance, co-produce and distribute Indian-language films and television shows and acquire projects in the U.S. and Indian markets; distribute third-party content in India and select Bollywood films in the U.S.; create and launch a new pay television channel in India focused on Hollywood content in both English and Hindi; launch “RelaTV” – a digital streaming technology platform to deliver compelling short- and longform content to Indian consumers; and co-produce a slate of Hollywood films including the Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation The Best Of Me. There is $100 million for co-productions, they said.
Now, the track record for cross-pollination between India and Hollywood has been sketchy so far. Reliance must still be scratching their heads after backing first-look deals with top acting and directing talent and getting nothing to show for it. They’ve fared better with DreamWorks, but that company has an uncertain future, as Steven Spielberg’s partner Stacey Snider negotiates her way to a top exec job at Fox. India’s UTV made forays with stars including Will Smith and Overbrook, and M. Night Shyamalan, but they didn’t lead to much, either.
On paper, the appeal into expansion in India is a no-brainer. There is rapid urbanization, multiplex growth and content is prized. “By 2020, India is set to become the world’s youngest country, and its citizens are adopting new technology platforms – from smartphones to smart TVs – at a dramatic rate,” Kavanaugh said. “This joint venture positions us well to deliver enthralling content across rapidly emerging distribution channels.”
Deal calls for the companies to co-invest and distribute local Bollywood film and television productions, and Relativity product will be distributed in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. That effort begins with The Best Of Me. They will also tailor Relativity productions for Bollywood versions of the same film.
First film that will be redone with a Bollywood director and cast will be Relativity’s untitled armored-car project, which has Zach Galifianakis as a driver who throws in with a band of criminals (including Owen Wilson) and finds himself double-crossed as the bumbling thieves get away with $20 million. Napoleon Dynamite’s Jared Hess is directing a film that is fact-based, as the driver tries to get even.
Said B4U CEO Ishan Saksena: “B4U has always been at the helm for delivering Bollywood content in India and internationally. This joint venture with Relativity is the natural step in our progression to build a creative film studio and unique technology platform. Our joint venture provides a platform to bring the best of Relativity’s intellectual property, production skills, and unique monetizing strategies to India, while also providing Indian talent access to global audiences. Ryan’s vision and leadership, combined with the Relativity management team’s deep industry experience, makes them our ideal partners.”