Big B relaunches ABCL as AB Corp

MUMBAI: It was a befittingly glitzy affair in the city yesterday as Indian cinema's biggest brand Amitabh Bachchan marked his 61st birthday by relaunching ABCL as AB Corp.

The new corporate identity of the Big B of Bollywood was unveiled with the launch of the Rajkumar Santoshi-directed Ranveer, which has Bachchan playing the pivotal role with son Abhishek and Sanjay Dutt costarring. Ranveer is being jointly produced by AB Corp and DMS Films, producers of Khakee, which has Bachchan and Ajay Devgan playing the lead roles. AB Corp plans to produce three to four films in the first phase, all as joint ventures with other corporate groups.

AB Corp is not just about a name change. It is also an attempt by Bachchan to make a clean break with the troubled past that constituted the Brand Bachchan firm's earlier avatar ABCL, which went into bankruptcy. It was referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) and declared sick in 1999. At one time ABCL had 55 court cases against it. Bachchan has cleared Rs 900 million in debts due primarily to Prasar Bharti, financial institutions, banks and some private parties.

While making his inaugural address, Bachchan said he had three people in particular to thank for helping him through the tough times - politician and regular Page 3 socialite Amar Singh (first), Reliance Industries' Anil Ambani and the Sahara Group's Subrato Roy. To add to the glitz of the affair, Singh presented Bachchan with a Bentley as his birthday gift. While expressing his gratitude to the three, Bachchan was at pains to stress that there was no funding that had come from either of them as far as clearing his debt was concerned.

And keeping with the professionally managed persona that AB Corp is projecting, Leo Entertainment - the specialised arm of advertising agency Leo Burnett - will be promoting its films.

Head of Leo Entertainment Sanjay Bhutiani has been quoted in the Hindu Businessline as saying: "We will be developing brand strategies and advertising for all the forthcoming films produced by AB Corp."

The latest on AB Corp, meanwhile is that it is in advanced talks with with AV Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla's Applause Entertainment for an alliance in feature film production.

According to a report in the Business Standard, the deal, which is expected to be inked in the next few days, will have the brand equity that Bachchan and son Abhishek command valued as equity.

Saturday evening was not the time or place to get any answers to this and any other such questions though (like when Bachchan would start work on the grand Sahara TV project?). It was your regular Bollywood "mahurat" party. On a much grander scale of course as befitted the occasion. And here went thinking there would be a media briefing of some sort. Filmi bashes are not about such things is one lesson we took away from the Big B's big night.

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