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Disney UTV Chief Targets Indian Diaspora With Brace of Local-Language Pics

International exec you should know: Kapur thinks globally by producing locally

In 2012, when Disney completed its $450 million buyout of Indian conglom UTV, there was concern in Indian filmmaking circles that the company’s motion picture arm would abandon edgy pics like the sex, drugs and alcohol-soaked “Dev. D” in favor of family-friendly fare. Siddharth Roy Kapur, managing director of studios for Disney UTV, put an immediate kibosh to such talk. “We will continue to make the kind of movies we always (have),” he said, noting that UTV product would be branded as such, while a separate slate of films with Mouse branding would cleave to family values.

The combined box office of Disney UTV’s five 2013 releases so far is more than $45 million, including directing duo Abbas-Mustan’s Hindi-language “Race 2,” starring Anil Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, which collected $22 million globally. In 2011-12, its last year of trading before the company delisted from the Bombay Stock Exchange in the wake of the Disney buyout, gross revenues were $78.5 million.

Kapur attributes Disney UTV’s success to a genre-agnostic strategy that focuses on helmers: “There are certain studios that are star-led, but we are director-led,” says the studio m.d., who recently married Bollywood star Vidya Balan. “We decide which director we want to work with and what stories they want to tell, and everything else follows.”

Kapur, 38, grew up loving movies, and always knew he would end up in the biz. (His brothers, Kunaal and Aditya , are an actor-director and actor, respectively.)

After earning his MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Kapur learned marketing and brand management at Proctor & Gamble. In 1999, he joined Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV group as a strategic planner, helping to launch one of the channel’s biggest successes, soap opera “Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi,” before being promoted to head of marketing for Southeast Asia.

In 1994, Kapur met Ronnie Screwvala, co-founder of UTV, a leading TV content producer. When UTV was looking to expand into film distribution in 2004, Screwvala called Kapur to see if he was interested in starting a studio.

Though UTV has co-produced Hollywood films like “The Happening” and “ExTerminators,” its mandate as part of the Disney family is to produce films in the Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam languages for the Indian subcontinent and the 30 millionstrong South Asian diaspora.

There are plans to use the global Disney network to enhance worldwide distribution of Disney UTV films. “There is a massive amount of writing, directing and acting talent out there waiting to be tapped into and it is up to us to go out and tap them.”

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