Studio to distribute Hindi pic

Following its success with “Slumdog Millionaire,” Fox Star Studios India is bankrolling and will distrib Hindi pic “My Name Is Khan” next year.

The studio announced Thursday that it would finance and distribute the film from Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh “King” Khan’s Red Chillies production company. Pic reunites Khan with helmer Karan Johar, with whom he had such B.O. smashes as “Kabhi khushi kabhie gham” and “Kal ho naa ho,” as well as Kajol, who co-starred with him in such hits as “Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge” and “Kuch kuch hota hai.”

Fox Star Studios, a joint venture between 20th Century Fox and Star, is making its first foray into Bollywood. Fox Star will distrib pic in India, while Fox Searchlight takes U.S. and Fox Intl. takes other territories.

“For us it was important to find a partner who is like minded, has a similar vision and the capability to take Indian cinema to international markets,” Johar said in a statement. “I am happy that audiences unfamiliar with these films will get a chance to see what Indian cinema has to offer to the world.”

While Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox Star Studios India, was unwilling to discuss the budget of “My Name Is Khan,” some press reports in India have set it as high as 98 million rupees ($20.5 million), which would be a record-breaking amount for a Hindi film. Pic, with dialogue in Hindi and English, centers around a Muslim (Khan) who travels around the U.S. inspiring people. Singh said most of the lensing has taken place in San Francisco, and the studio is looking to release the film in the first quarter of 2010.

Singh, who spearheaded the deal, said he liked Johar’s vision for the film. “Karan and Shah Rukh have been the most successful combination in Bollywood,” he said, adding that he expect this to be a long-term relationship with the pair.

“We are trying to build a relationship with the best of India,” Singh said.

Others with whom the studio has pacted include Hindi director Vipul Shah (“Singh Is Kinng) and Tamil helmer A.R. Murugadoss (“Ghajini”).

Fox Filmed Corp. had previously pacted with producer Ram Gopal Verma but ended that deal after one film, “Ek hasina thi,” in 2004.

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