Top-level talent including Paul Feig, Gurinder Chadha and Anurag Kashyap are on board as leading Hollywood independent Hyde Park Entertainment makes a major launch into the Indian production scene. The company is headed by Ashok Amritraj, the highest-profile Indian executive based in Los Angeles.
The diversification move is made possible by the growing success of Indian film and TV content which is being propelled to new audiences overseas by global video streamers Netflix and Amazon. Within India, local streaming giants Hotstar, SonyLiv, and others, are similarly using OTT technology and cheap cellular data to reach nationwide audiences, many of which were not previously TV households.
To capitalize on Indian stories — and the exploding Indian series genre — the group is launching a new division Hyde Park Entertainment Asia to be headquartered in Chennai. Parent company Hyde Park will continue to produce and finance U.S. studio and independent films and television from Los Angeles, and it maintains its long-term film financing partnership with Image Nation Abu Dhabi.
Actor-director, Feig (“Ghostbusters”) is developing “Break the Room” through his Diversity Initiative Powderkeg and with ShivHans Pictures. The Indian-American half hour comedy series, with echoes of “Fresh off The Boat,” hails from writers Sameer Gardezi (Modern Family) and Jimy Shah.
Having acquired the screen adaptation rights to the Pulitzer Prize finalist novel “Maximum City” by Suketu Mehta, Hyde Park Entertainment Asia is planning a series of films exploring the interconnected worlds of power, politics, and criminality in Mumbai. Auteur filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (Netflix’s “Sacred Games,” “Gangs Of Wasseypur”) is set as showrunner and co-director. The pictures will be produced with Kashyap’s Good Bad Films and co-produced with Hyde Park.
Zoya Akhtar (Amazon’s “Made in Heaven,” “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”) will direct “Paradise Towers,” a drama series adaptation of bestselling novel about the intertwining lives, forbidden romances, and mounting tensions between neighbors in an exclusive Mumbai apartment complex. The underlying book was written by Shweta Bachchan Nanda, Vogue columnist and daughter of Indian superstars Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan.
Gurinder Chadha (“Bend it Like Beckham”) is directing the previously announced “Pashmina” for Netflix and Hyde Park Entertainment Asia. The large-scale animated musical feature, in the vein of Pixar’s “Coco,” is based on a bestselling graphic novel by Nidhi Chanani.
Other titles on the debut slate include: “The Conch Bearer,” a young adult-oriented fantasy series, produced with Window Seat Films, a joint venture between Reliance Entertainment and director Imtiaz Ali; and “Deb,” an 8-part television thriller series from writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor (“Dhank”).
Amritraj told Variety that Hyde Park will invest strongly in the projects with production budgets for the series averaging at around $1.5 million per episode, and the features starting in the $5-7 million range.
Amritraj is one of the world’s most prolific producers, with over 100 movies to his credit from over 35 years of activity in Hollywood. These include “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “Bringing Down The House,” “99 Homes,” and “Blue Valentine.”
In recent years Amritraj has been increasingly involved in the media and development scenes in his native India. In 2016 he was appointed the first U.N. India Goodwill Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Now more than ever the Hollywood dream needs to be multicultural and all inclusive,” said Amritraj in a prepared statement. “I look forward to collaborating with wonderful Indian and Asian talent long into the future to tell unique and authentic stories that reflect our global world.”