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Strong Women, Regional Cinema Wanted by India’s Viacom18 (EXCLUSIVE)

Indian studio, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures has turned 10. Already a success story with Hindi-language Bollywood films, the company is now focusing on a major push into other Indian languages.

Marathi-language “Aapla Manus” was a box office success when it released in February and coming up are two more Marathi films “Cycle” and “Kashinath Ghanekar.” More are in development and Viacom 18 is now expanding into the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali languages.

“In many of these languages, we are present as a broadcaster and have a footprint. There are a lot of synergies in these regions,” Viacom 18 Motion Pictures COO Ajit Andhare told Variety.

Viacom 18 Motion Pictures is a part of Viacom 18, which is a joint venture between Viacom and Reliance Industries’ Network 18 media company. The parent company operates general entertainment channels in several Indian languages.

The company also distributes Paramount titles in India, and works with Lionsgate to distribute films including “La La Land” and “Nerve.” Upcoming releases include “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and “Bumblebee.”

According to recent industry reports by EY and Deloitte, the market for Hollywood in India remains stagnant at around 10% of India’s box office. Andhare attributes the lack of growth to just one bad year when tent poles did not perform. “The long-term profile of Hollywood is very good in India,” said Andhare. “Tent poles will continue to find greater penetration in India. However, the mid-sized, content led films, are yet to find a critical mass. That’s the second leg of Hollywood growth and that’s a few years away.”

In Bollywood, Viacom 18 has differentiated itself with films with unusual subject matter like “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” and several women-centric films including the recent controversial hit “Padmaavat” that has grossed some $90 million worldwide. “Strong women have been at the heart of our films whether you look at “Queen,” “Mary Kom,” “Kahaani,” or “Padmaavat.” It’s a theme that connects very well with Indian society and the resurgence of women,” said Andhare.

Next up for Viacom 18 Motion Pictures is Nandita Das’ “Manto,” which is first expected to debut at an A-list international film festival.

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