Balaji to scale up film biz with Rs 1.5 bn investment

MUMBAI: For movie production houses, the bet has to be on bigger budgets. Balaji Motion Pictures Limited (BMPL), the film production arm of Balaji Telefilms, is investing Rs 1.5 billion in six movie projects as it attempts to scale up the business after a string of box office successes from small-to-medium budget films.

This marks a significant shift in strategy and signals the company‘s appetite to take bigger risks in a game that is being increasingly dominated by studios who work on a wider slate of productions and releases.

BMPL has lined up a slate of six films for the upcoming year which includes co-production with filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap and Sanjay Gupta, alongside sequels to Balaji’s own successful properties such as Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and Ragini MMS.

The company led by its promoter Ekta Kapoor will release five films in the next fiscal. It had released only one film namely Kya Super Kool Hain Hum in the current fiscal which had net box office collections of approximately Rs 220 million over the first weekend.

Its most recent success at the box office was in the form of biographical drama The Dirty Picture that breached the Rs 1 billion mark. The film that was inspired by the life of Silk Smitha was made on a budget of Rs 180 million.

Similarly, Ragini MMS, built on a meagre budget of Rs 10.3 million, went on to collect Rs 70 million at the box office. Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and Love Sex Aur Dhokha also had successful runs at the box office.

BMPL had posted a net profit of Rs 35.99 million on revenues of Rs 241.2 million during the second quarter of the current fiscal.

BMPL CEO Tanuj Garg said, “We have put together a strong line-up with a lot of variety. The significant ramp-up in our slate demonstrates the seriousness and passion with which we are growing the movie business. We believe that an equal focus on co-productions and acquired properties is not only a financially prudent approach for us but should also accelerate our growth momentum. We’re pleased to be the only entity with market dominance in television and films alike.”

Garg said that all the movies except Ragini MMS is in advanced stage of productions. However, it is yet to close any satellite rights for its films.

The first to release on 18 April is Ek Thi Daayan, a co-production with Vishal Bhardwaj and directed by debutant Kannan Iyer. The super-natural thriller is top-lined by Emraan Hashmi, Huma Qureshi, Kalki Koechlin and Konkona Sen Sharma, and marks the coming together of Vishal Bhardwaj and Emraan Hashmi for the first time.

Releasing on 1 May is the multi-starrer Shootout at Wadala, a co-production with Sanjay Gupta. The industry’s first prequel (to Shootout At Lokhandwala) stars Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Kangana Ranaut, Tusshar, Manoj Bajpai, Sonu Sood, Ronit Roy, and many other big names, to be announced shortly.

To release on 7 June is Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi, a co-production with Bejoy Nambiar. The quirky Delhi-based comedy launching young talents is directed by noted ad film-maker Aman Sachdeva making his film directorial debut.

On 5 July is Lootera, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane of the critically acclaimed Udaan fame. The epic period love story marks the first-time pairing of Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha. Lootera is a co-production with Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl of Phantom Films.

The Milan Luthria-directed Once Upon A Time In Mumbai-2 is the banner’s tentpole Eid release scheduled for 8 August. Starring Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Sonali Bendre, the romantic drama is among the most keenly awaited cinematic features of 2013.

Closing the slate for the year, will be the youth date film, Ragini MMS-2, top-lined by Sunny Leone. Directed by Bhushan Patel, the sequel to the biggest sleeper hit of 2011, Ragini MMS, will be a heady combination of thrill, horror and sensuousness. It releases on 11 October.

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