Bollywood stars explore regional vistas - as producers

New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) 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, the films attempting to push the envelope.

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

While "Saptapadii" revolves round 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 second week but also received "Special Mention for the Green Rose at the Jaipur Film Festival".

"Everyone who has seen the film has enjoyed it much. Being talked of as the 'turning point' in Gujarati cinema," the Hindi movie megastar wrote in a post on Facebook. He urged movie buffs to appreciate regional cinema, saying: "Go and see it...!! It will give huge boost for 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," Amitabh said.

Another popular Hindi movie actor, Riteish, 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 Rs.1.5 crore. It hit bull's eye by grossing Rs.8 crore after its release in January this year.

Directed by Ravi Jadhav, the film focusses on sex education in a fun-filled way and guides parents on how to communicate with their children.

Riteish'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 had said.

Akshay Kumar is promoting regional cinema too. He joined hands with Ashvini Yardi to launch a new production house, Grazing Goat, which not only focusses 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 priority list.

"Regional cinema is really growing. We have already made a Marathi film and it's in the post-production stage," Yardi had told IANS.

"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 as well," she added.

John Abraham, whose unconventional message-oriented debut production venture "Vicky Donor" turned out to be gold spinner, is in the field too.

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

(Priyanka Sharma can be contacted at priyanka.s@ians.in)

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