Magazine article Screen International

Indian Knight Rises

Magazine article Screen International

Indian Knight Rises

Article excerpt

Mumbai-based DAR Motion Pictures is shaking up the Indian film business with its focus on four strands of production and acquisition of major Hollywood films.

Film investors in India still tend to fall into one of two camps - larger production houses or studios, which usually acquire rather than develop content, or wealthy individuals who finance one-off projects and rarely look beyond the next film.

Stepping into the yawning gap between these two extremes is Mumbai-based DAR Motion Pictures, a private equity player turned producer, with a content-driven strategy that gives it a different spin in India's star-obsessed film industry.

Established three years ago, as the content arm of private equity firm DAR Capital Group, the company has so far invested in seven Indian films and recently formed a syndicate of three investors to bankroll a further nine. It's also waiting for approval from India's financial regulator SEBI to raise an $18m film fund with an investment bank out of Mumbai.

At the same time, DAR is developing a wide-ranging slate of Indian-language features in partnership with high-profile filmmakers including Nikhil Advani, Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra and Siddhartha Jain.

"We're not just a financier - we want to be very clear about that - we are a fully-fledged production house," says DAR Capital Group chairman Arun Rangachari. "At first we asked ourselves whether there is any conflict of interest between being a producer and also a partner [in the fund], but we believe the fund will benefit from the slate of films that DAR brings to the table."

This strategy should also ensure that DAR's fund will not sit idle while waiting for the right investment opportunities to come along. A common pitfall of film funds is that advisors and managers are under pressure to start making investments from the get-go, and as good projects can't be generated overnight, this can sometimes lead to investing in the wrong films. But as Rangachari explains:"We're doing these films with or without the fund, so we thought why not offer the entire slate to the fund, at the time that it's launched post-SEBI approval, so it can hit the ground running and finance other projects too."

Recognising the growing fragmentation of the Indian audience, DAR's slate is being developed in four distinct strands - mainstream Bollywood, genre films, youth-oriented content and international co-productions aimed at global markets.

"In the international category we're investing in smaller films that may have limited appeal in India, but a sizeable audience overseas outside of the Indian diaspora," Rangachari explains. "What we've learnt from our research is quite basic - audiences in the US and Europe don't want to see rehashes of Bollywood or Hollywood movies, but they do want to see good indigenous Indian content."

Investments in this category so far include three films arising from the company's relationship with Anurag Kashyap Films (AKFPL) - Vasan Bala's Peddlers, which screened in Cannes' Critics Week this year, Amit Kumar's upcoming action thriller Monsoon Shootout and Ritesh Batra's Lunchbox, which is currently in production.

The latter two films are both co-produced by AKFPL, DAR and Western partners - Monsoon Shootout with the UK's Yaffle Films and Dutch production house Pardesi Films, and Lunchbox with France's ASAP Films and New York-based Lydia Dean Pilcher. …

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