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Regional films on the radar of Bollywood biggies

Big B, Riteish Deshmukh, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham produce content-oriented movies


New Delhi: Realising the huge potential of regional cinema, business-savvy Bollywood actors are extending their vistas and producing films in various languages — to great critical and commercial acclaim.

Bollywood’s creme de la creme are shifting focus. If Amitabh Bachchan’s AB Corp. produced Gujarati hit movie ‘Saptapadii’, Riteish Deshmukh debuted as producer with Marathi movie ‘Balak Palak’. Akshay Kumar and John Abraham are there too, looking at making films in Punjabi, Bengali and Malayalam.

The themes are different, with the films attempting to push the envelope.

AB Corp. also produced the well-made and appreciated Marathi movie ‘Vihir’ and the Hindi film ‘Paa’, which was unusual in its theme, yet successful.

While ‘Saptapadii’ focuses on a couple whose life changes after a child who lost his parents in a terror attack enters their lives, ‘Vihir’ is the story of two cousins and their not-so-conventional views on life and family bonding.

Big B, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, takes pride in saying that ‘Saptapadii’ is not only “running successfully” in Gujarat and Mumbai in its second week but also received the ‘Special Mention for the Green Rose at the Jaipur Film Festival’.

Turning point

“Everyone who has seen the film has enjoyed it much. Being talked of as the ‘turning point’ in Gujarati cinema,” the actor wrote in a post on Facebook. He urged movie buffs to appreciate regional cinema, saying: “Go and see it...!! It will give [a] huge boost to the Gujarati film industry.”

‘Vihir’, directed by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni and starring Mohan Agashe and Sulabha Deshpande, received a warm reception and ran to a full house at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2011. In 2010, it was also screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

“AB Corp. has been actively involved in producing and promoting regional cinema. Our film ‘Vihir’ in Marathi won several awards of recognition across the globe at various festivals,” Bachchan said.

Another popular Bollywood actor, Deshmukh, is also supporting Marathi movies. When he decided to turn producer, his first offering was ‘Balak Palak’, a Marathi film said to be made at a shoestring budget of Rs15 million (Dh1.02 million). It hit bull’s eye by grossing Rs80 million after its release in January this year.

Directed by Ravi Jadhav, the film focuses on sex education and guides parents on how to communicate this to their children.

Deshmukh’s wife and actress Genelia D’Souza is hoping the film opens the doors for Marathi cinema.

“I sometimes wish that we could get all of them to a national audience. I wish Marathi cinema grows and that’s one of the reasons why Riteish is doing a Marathi film next year and we hope to see a lot more Marathi films next year,” she said.

New forays

Akshay Kumar is promoting regional cinema too. He joined hands with Ashvini Yardi to launch a new production house, Grazing Goat, which not only focuses on content-oriented films but also aims to expand its reach in regional cinema. Making Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali films is high on the company’s agenda.

“Regional cinema is really growing. We have already made a Marathi film and it’s in the post-production stage,” Yardi said.

“And we are looking at the Punjabi market as well because Akshay is essentially from Punjab. Since I am from a Maharashtrian background, I think I know that market well. We are also looking to try Bengali films,” she added.

John Abraham, whose unconventional debut production venture ‘Vicky Donor’ turned out to be a gold spinner, is in the field too.

“I am producing a Marathi film. Definitely, I would love to produce a Malayalam film,” said Abraham, whose production house is called John Abraham Entertainment Limited.