Utpal Borpujari

May 25, 2009

Global distribution giant Fortissimo acquires its first-ever Indian feature film

By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes

In the backdrop of a gloomy scenario thanks to the economic recession, there is good news for Indian cinema.

In a first-ever such deal involving Indian films, global film distribution giant Fortissimo Films has acquired Dev Benegal’s under-production Hindi film “Road, Movie”.

This is the first Indian film to be acquired for global distribution by the Netherlands-headquartered company which is known to have played a major role in taking Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Thai cinema to the global levels they stand today.

Earlier, the company had acquired Deepa Mehta’s Canadian production “Bollywood/Hollywood” and had taken the re-sell rights of Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay”, but this is the first time it has taken distribution rights outside the Indian territory.

Adding to the joy is the fact that Fortissimo has also acquired the rights of “The Children of the Pyre”, a much-awarded independent documentary made by Delhi-based Rajesh Jala on children working in cremation grounds in Varanasi.

“This film has universal sensibilities with a unique Indian backdrop, which makes it a very interesting project. With its backdrop of how the magic of cinema works on people, it could be something like the classic ‘Cinema Paradiso’,” Fortissimo Films co-chairman Michael J Werner said here.

The deal between Fortissimo and The Indian Film Company (TIFC)/Studio 18 would be formally announced on Saturday.

“Road, Movie”, by Benegal who has earlier made films like “English, August” and “Split Wide Open”, was part of the L’Atelier programme in Cannes last year where the festival helps interesting scripts find producers.

Starring Abhay Deol, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Satish Kaushik, the film presents a visually-stunning canvas of the Kutch region of Gujarat and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. The story has Deol’s character driving an antique Chevy with two old film projectors showing films in remote areas, and in the process discovering love, life and laughter.

TIFC CEO Sandeep Bhargava is worked up about the deal. “This is a movie that is looking for a global audience, going beyond the usual Bollywood movies that focus on the Diaspora and domestic audiences, and Fortissimo’s taking the film will help it reach its intended destination,” he says.

With this acquisition, says Werner, Fortissimo’s foray into the world of Indian cinema has begun. “But we will need to develop a little more understanding about Indian cinema before we really go ahead in a big way. And yes, we do not rule our even financing Indian films in the future,” he says.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 16-05-2009)

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