Sony closes Hindi film distrib biz

Move comes despite SET's success with 'Kashmir,' 'Lagaan'

NEW DELHI — Sony Entertainment Television Pictures is shuttering its Hindi movie distribution biz amid restructuring.

Move comes despite SET’s success with Bollywood movies including “Mission Kashmir” and the blockbuster “Lagaan” — a tale of oppressed farmers, villainous Brits, revolt, romance and cricket that is India’s official submission for the foreign-language Oscar race.

“Lagaan” has grossed more than $1 million in North America since its June 15 release and £1 million ($1.5 million) in the U.K.; pic has also enjoyed successful runs in Europe and South Africa.

Rajesh Pant, SET chief operating officer and Hindi distrib topper, is the latest in a long series of executives to depart from SET’s Indian operations.

Other execs to resign include marketing head Kacon Sethi and programming head Rekha Nigam.

The news follows president of Columbia TriStar Intl. TV Michael Grindon’s recent visit to India to review SET’s performance.

SET has three channels — Hindi entertainment flagship web Sony, events and sports net Set-Max and action channel AXN. In the restructuring Nachiket Pantvidya will head SET’s programming, and Rajat Jain will lead Set-Max.

SET hopes to enlarge its bouquet through pacts with Hindi news web Aaj Tak, and it is also looking for a music net. Company plans to dub its Japanese animation channel into Hindi and launch it as a children’s web in 18 months.