Hinduja returns to film production biz

Company to produce up to nine films in 2011

MUMBAI — Veteran Bollywood producers and distributors the Hinduja Group have re-entered the Indian film industry with an investment of Rupees 5 billion ($109 million).

The group’s association with the industry dates from the 50s to the 90s, including successful associations with directors Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and in particular a hugely successful partnership with Manmohan Desai, which yielded hits like “Naseeb,” “Coolie,” “Suhaag” and “Mard,” all starring the iconic Amitabh Bachchan. Desai’s death led to the Hindujas exiting the business until now.

First up for the Hindujas’ IN Entertainment Co. is “Teen Patti,” a thriller set in the world of high-stakes gambling, toplining Bachchan, Ben Kingsley, R. Madhavan and a host of debutants. Pic is directed by Leena Yadav, and produced by Serendipity Films, Ambika Hinduja’s shingle.

IN has also tapped former Reliance Big Pictures chief operating officer Sunir Kheterpal to spearhead the new business as CEO. Kheterpal will look to rejuvenate IN’s existing cable TV business InCable and develop India’s burgeoning digital content market.

He said: “In films, we will look at Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages. The target for 2011 slate is to start with a slate of four to five films in Hindi and three to four films in regional languages.

“The biggest challenge and the underlying opportunity are two faces of the same coin. We are starting the new content creation business in a market that has gone through a consolidation phase, but at the same time very often misprices itself.

“The challenge will be to work in the projects we believe in and with people who are like minded,” Kheterpal added.

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