Disney greenlights south India pic

Telugu-language pic stars Siddharth

Disney has greenlit its first Telugu-language film, targeted at audiences in southern India.

Untitled pic, which will also be dubbed into Tamil, is a fantasy adventure that follows a 9-year-old girl’s quest to save her land from oppression by an evil queen. She is aided by her special healing powers and protected by a blind swordsman. Film is due for a January release.

The pic features child actor Harshita, Siddharth (“Rang de basanti”), singer-songwriter-actor Shruti Hassan (“Luck”) and Lakshmi Manchu (“Dead Air”).

The helmer is Prakash Rao Kovelamudi, whose directorial debut, “A Belly Full of Dreams,” won India’s national award for Telugu film. Project will be produced by his father, K. Raghavendra Rao, who has directed 108 films and produced 25 pics.

This is Disney’s third foray into Indian film. It’s 2008 toon “Roadside Romeo,” a co-production with Bollywood giant Yash Raj Films, was a critical and commercial failure. Live-action boy superhero film “Zokkomon” is due for a May release.

Mahesh Samat, managing director, the Walt Disney Co. India, said: “As we work to build a family entertainment brand in India, we plan to provide Indian audiences with an unparalleled roster of locally relevant stories and engaging characters, and will continue to tap into the local creative ecosystem to develop content that resonates with Indian kids and families.”

Disney operates the Disney Channel, Disney XD and Hungama TV in India.

Fox, Sony and Warner Bros. also are involved in local-language production in India although most are Hindi-lingo Bollywood pics.