DreamWorks financier Reliance Entertainment is partnering with India’s Phantom Films, a leading production outfit formed by four of the country’s brightest indie filmmakers; Anurag Kashyap among them. The 50/50 joint venture is designed to leverage the Phantom talent base while giving the company access to Reliance’s domestic and international infrastructure. That includes LA-based sales powerhouse IM Global and the digital media services/VFX giant created by last year’s hook up of Reliance MediaWorks and Prime Focus.
I hear the deal is still to be 100% finalized, but the plan is for the joint venture to develop and produce five to six films a year. There will also be a distribution component in and outside of India, although I understand the exact route pictures take will be decided on a case-by-case basis. The new entity will also syndicate rights to more than 175 films from the Reliance Entertainment library, including megahits Don 2 and 3 Idiots.
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Phantom Films is known for stepping outside of the Bollywood box with gritty, and thoughtful, indie dramas. It has six films on its slate over the next year including boundary-testing thriller NH10, starring Anushka Sharma, which releases Friday. Also on deck is the highly-anticipated Kashyap-helmed Bombay Velvet, starring Ranbir Kapoor and in partnership with Fox Star Studios.
I’m told the new company will continue to work with various outside studios and that the Reliance arrangement will allow Phantom to quickly increase scale, while providing more depth in terms of development. A deal between Phantom, Blumhouse Productions and Ivanhoe Pictures to produce local-language genre titles in India remains unaffected.
Phantom was founded by Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena in 2011. Kashyap is arguably the best known to audiences outside India and the diaspora. His 2012 new wave crime epic Gangs Of Wasseypur was acclaimed internationally and won India’s Filmfare Award as Best Picture in 2013.
After that film appeared in Directors’ Fortnight in 2012, Kashyap followed it up with another Fortnight selection, Ugly, in 2013. He also produced lauded Indian romance The Lunchbox and is producing Bombay Velvet with his Phantom partners.
Bahl last year won the Best Director Filmfare prize for Queen. He is also the former head of Disney-owned UTV Spot Boy. Director/screenwriter/producer Motwane took myriad prizes with his 2010 helming debut Udaan and was the choreographer on 2005 Oscar nominee, Water, for which Kashyap wrote the dialogue. Prior to Bombay Velvet, Mantena produced Kashyap’s Ugly and 2008 Aamir Khan-starrer Ghajini. He is also involved in CAA’s local partnership, CAA-KWAN.
In a statement, Reliance Group managing director Amitabh Jhunjhunwala said the Phantom partnership is “in line with our evolving strategy in the media and entertainment business, of aligning with like-minded people who are trailblazers in their own field, and we are playing the role of supportive investors.”
Kashyap said in the statement, “This deal opens up our windows to international opportunities and talent. We hope to optimize on this opportunity and take Indian cinema international, and also attract excellent talent into the country.”
Indian films are fantastically successful at home, although Bollywood tends to draw the biggest audiences. Bollywood is also huge in the global diaspora, but indies have been on the rise over the past few years thanks to such filmmakers as Kashyap & Co.