Viacom18 Motion Pictures’ 2014 movie slate

MUMBAI: The first studio model based motion picture business in India , Viacom18 Motion Pictures, a part of Viacom18 (a Viacom and Network 18 joint venture) is now treading on unchartered territories by getting into crowd funding.

The studio recently released the trailer of its first crowd funded motion picture - Manjunath - which is to hit theatres on 9 May. The film is inspired by the real-life story of a young IIM graduate, who strived to fight against corruption in Uttar Pradesh and was murdered for sealing a corrupt petrol station in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP.

Speaking on the choice of the story Viacom18 Motion Pictures COO Ajit Andhare says: “The story may be of a common man, but what we look for when scouting for scripts is extraordinary or uncommon stories, and Manjunath fits the bill perfectly. His sacrifice spurred people on to take measures and that’s the kind of stories we support.”

On the aspect of getting crowd funding for the biopic he adds: “It’s a film in one sense where everyone takes responsibility and can play a role in the message coming out from Manjunath’s story. So, the crowd funding idea came to us because we felt that would be best suited to involve people and anyone can voluntarily come and support the film.”

Click here to watch the trailer

With operations that involve acquisition, production, syndication, marketing and worldwide distribution of full-length feature films, the studio’s first movie was Halla Bol in 2008. And ever since, it has forayed into various genres of cinema, right from drama, comedy, romance, action to biopics with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in 2013.

“As a studio we look for content that stands out and that has not been usually told; even an OMG and Gangs of Wasseypur were good prospects. And with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, we have proven that with a strong script and performance any film can cross the Rs 100 crore barrier at the box office. Even Queen has crossed Rs 100 crore (global collections) this year,” quips Andhare.

Manjunath will be the first biopic made on the life of a common man and has been supported by acclaimed actors like Divya Dutta, Seema Biswas and Yashpal Sharma, among others. They have been touched by Manjunath’s story and worked for a nominal fee. The movie has been directed by Sandeep Varma, reputed to be an ad-film maker and the MD of ICOMO. Further to its credit; the music in the film has been composed by the Delhi rock band Parikrama.

“The film is completely to the credit of Sandeep and it has been his journey, along with NFDC and ICOMO to mount this film. We came on board once we saw the journey and witnessed what he has managed to pull-off being a debutant director and we wanted to support this movie and the director with the vision to pull off such a challenging story,” says he.

Viacom18 Motion Pictures will be distributing the film, and is currently focused on building anticipation around the film. “It’s a bit too early to talk about how wide will the release be and decisions around that would be made more closer to the release date after tracking how the market responds to it and likewise the theatres and multiplex chains,” explains Andhare.

With recent films being distributed entirely on digital these days, irrespective of the budget or genre and an increasing trend of tying up with online streaming services like Spuul to release the movie online parallel to the theatrical release. Such a film may look at such avenues for better reach and viewership as well.

Scheduled for a release amidst elections and IPL, are there any concerns? “I feel the time is right when the country is looking for their next leader and government, a story like this will have more traction,” answers Andhare.

The studio believes that if the content is strong and the film has something to offer the audience then the film will make a connect with the viewers. “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag offered inspiration of a different kind to the audience; Queen on the other hand offered the experience of a coming of age to the audience, with travel and transformation. So what we look to do is to offer something extra. Because sitting in a dark room for three hours with only one break, the audience should not feel punished,” he expounds.

The slate for already released films in 2014 include: The Royal Bengal Tiger (Bengali); One by Two; Queen; Nee Enge En Anbe (Tamil); Anamika (Telugu) and Noah (Hollywood). And the rest of the year is packed with a real good mix of movies like: Manjunath (9 May); Margarita with a straw; Transformers 4; Hercules 3D; Turtles; Gabbar; Mary Kom and Dharam Sankat Mein.

“We always aim to have a balanced portfolio for the calendar year, where the risks are well balanced out for the studio. And we believe in reaching out to get all kinds of movies to the audience creatively as well,” expounds Andhare. “We want to serve the best spread that can be served to the audience in the calendar year. Only doing large films will not enable reducing the risk level, and this will lead to either big blockbusters or major flops. Thus, smaller films help in calibrating losses.”

The studio has some major releases in its Hollywood slate for the year as well, and will be pushing and promoting it aggressively when the time is right. “Plans are afoot really drive our Hollywood slate and we have a really powerful line-up for this year. Transformers as a franchise is a highly anticipated film and over the years the English language film entertainment market has also been growing steadily and we have a long term commitment to build this market and continue to do so.”

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